Arts: Extreme noise terror

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The Independent Culture
"THE AIM of these sessions is to make you think, `What the hell was that?'," explained the inimitable John Peel at the end of his second session at the South Bank. That was indeed the question on all our lips at the conclusion of the Japanese noise terrorist Masonna's seven-minute performance. A gawky man with waist-length hair staggered on to the stage and fell on to a pedal that sent a whoosh of feedback crackling through the auditorium. Lying prostrate on the floor, he began tugging at a series of gadgets that were secreted all over his body like a terrorist's armoury, and emitted deafening noises that made your ears itch in protest. He lay twitching and pulsing about like livestock on the abattoir block, and shrieked into a microphone as if the apocalypse had arrived. He leapt up and whirled around in circles, wrapping himself up in electrical leads until he could no longer stay standing, and again resumed his position on the floor.

The imagination ran amok amid the chaos of Masonna's sound - marching soldiers, firing guns, screaming children, collapsing buildings - while the urge to abandon the show was ever-pressing. His philosophy seemed to be: why have the guitar when you can go straight to the distortion pedal? Who needs instruments if you've got feedback, and why bother singing when you can turn your lungs to a pitchless yell? This was heavy without metal, punk without posturing. If anyone embodied Peel's mandate, it was Masonna.

Coldcut provided a sensory overload of a gentler variety as they paraded their V-Jamming prowess. To the uninitiated, the VJ - or video jockey - is able simultaneously to mix audio and visual signals with a video- sequencing computer. As a result, the sampling, cutting and scratching of film and music becomes one and the same thing.

Film has long been an evil of dance culture, presented alongside laser shows and lollipops to tickle the senses of loved-up clubbers. But under the watchful eye of Matt Black and Jonathon More, film and music are presented in exquisite synchronicity. Watching a blue whale rising up from the sea and slapping the surface, we were practically drowned by the ensuing tidal wave. Their music drew on sources as diverse as Dr Who, Tomorrow's World, Jello Biafra and Jhelisa, but their orchestration of film was the last piece in the electronic puzzle. Coldcut have come a long way since their days with Yazz and the Plastic Population.

Fiona Sturges