Cross-Genre: Generation rave grows up and chills out

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The Independent Culture



IN SOME creative circles there's a passionate and hotly debated conviction best expressed by the mantra "single artforms bad, combined arts good". And, of course, it's in that confusing, ill-defined world where separate disciplines mix and match that the most interesting work is being attempted. The Big Chill, which aims to be a "ground-breaker in multimedia collaboration" pushed all the correct buttons: music, film, spoken word, radio art, dance and electronic stuff filling all Sunday evening's "Words in Motion" event.

Yet after several hours of hybrid work, the DJ mixes, poetry, video, readings, dancing and so on, I couldn't help feeling a thrill of excitement as the six string players of Instrumental walked on, put their written parts on the music stands and began to perform. It was a relief to sit back and hear a real band - albeit a bunch of classically trained musicians playing smart arrangements of well-worn club tracks. Sure, there was a blue oscilloscope trace flickering, and a video of white clouds to accompany their version of the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds", but the performance was essentially a musical one.

The Big Chill organisation takes its name from the idea of chill-out rooms - not the Laurence Kasdan movie with the Motown soundtrack - and has mounted several events in a variety of venues since 1994. This summer they host a three-day open-air festival near Salisbury that will include a "night time site-specific art trail" and a "body & soul area". Is this the rave generation growing up? There's a good dose of adult imagination at work in the programming, which on Sunday included the documentary Drum'n'Space about Talvin Singh in India, rope-trick gymnast John Paul Zaccarini and dancer Claire Massingham.

Since the night was part of The Word (London's literature festival), there was also plenty of spoken text. David Toop gave a rather Eeyore- ish reading from his book Exotica, accompanied by a tape of fluttering improv and a flickering green oscilloscope trace on the huge screen. Actors Louise Bangay and Victor Gardner gave a funny, 15-minute performance of Peter Handke's Self Accusation and Galliano's Earl Zinger accompanied Massingham with poetry: from beatnik-style cut-ups to a funny, expertly executed tale of an obsessive record-buyer.

The Big Chill's co-founder Pete Lawrence screened a sequence of recorded spoken word and music in conjunction with inventive video images and film collages by Hexstatic, an offshoot of Coldcut. Their brilliant electroacoustic short Deadly Media, was a highlight, and spoken links from Ken Nordine's Colours album provided light relief.

From time to time it felt more like a cinema festival, but then Instrumental's closing half-hour reminded us that theatres are made for performers as their young, committed players made live music in Sadler's Wells' state- of-the-art auditorium.