There was a collective sense of anticipation in the air before New Assembly's opening concert on Friday. Held at SuperDeluxe, a sparse basement in Roppongi, the atmosphere felt far removed from the sleek commercial hub bubbling above. After-work businessmen sat alone, reading on Kindles, while smatterings of locals and tourists milled at the bar.
Osaka duo Synth Sisters (AKA Rie Lambdoll and Mayuko) started the program. Dressed in white and doused in a blue glow, the pair's improvised set was a swirling affair of aquatic synth melodies and arpeggios recalling Tangerine Dream. Now and then, Rie Lambdoll, trancelike, threw her head back in angelic ululation.
If Synth Sisters evoked a meditative New Age ambience then noise artist Puce Mary thrust the audience into darkness. On occasion, she dragged a bow across her violin like a saw, using it less like an instrument and more as a means of proclaiming an entire history of female anger. Strobe lights flashed across a red-lit stage, with blares of feedback, white noise and smothered mutters of an emotional purge. It was demonic, cathartic and the most memorable act of the night.
After a necessary intermission, Nine Inch Nails collaborator Alessandro Cortini took the stage for the Japanese premiere of his audio-visual work, AVANTI. The project was conceived as a nostalgic requiem for a forgotten familial life, relived again through spliced together Super 8 footage from his grandfather. Fuzzy synths and melancholic drone textures accompanied the images, projected across three screens over the entire back wall: a young Cortini playing with a wheelbarrow, the rollicking Italian countryside, excursions to the seaside, a wedding. Although these scenes were fixated on years gone by, the performance created the beginnings of a narrative that pointed towards a brighter future. It was an apt way to end the first day of a festival that has consistently looked forward. All three artists stretched the emotional possibilities of sound, from Synth Sister's spectral laments and the anarchic anger of Puce Mary to Cortini's cautious hope for tomorrow.
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