Earth Machine Music / Pohjonen, Manor Farm, Cocking
Tuesday 27 May 2008
Four English farms were the venues and inspiration for Kimmo Pohjonen's UK tour. The oddball Finnish accordionist visited them earlier to sample sounds of animals and, particularly, machinery. Having settled on performing spaces, he retreated to turn the sounds into musical ideas, then returned with a sound crew and four site-specific mixtures of composition, improvisation, collage and live transformation, which he described as "environmental art" pieces.
On this second leg of the tour, set in a farmyard beneath the South Downs, the local aspect was reinforced with a hog roast and Earth Machine Beer, both integrated into the show. A pair of the farm's Oxford Sandy & Black pigs greeted us, while another turned on the spit, and as the recorded sounds emerged, it became clear that we'd eaten one of the performers.
This was not the occasion's only first: the beer bottles carried an Arts Council England logo yet still sold out and several attempts at Finnish humour actually made people laugh. Pohjonen made his grand entrance swigging from a bottle on the scoop of a tractor, which dropped him on to an upturned metal tank. This became the first of several "found" percussion instruments as he stomped on it and looped the beats into riffs. In an apparent skit on his nation's fondness for beer, he addressed chants to his bottle, gargled, and made more loops from sips and slurps. The accordion contributed a chorale, accompanied by a tractor engine's steady whirr, rotating round the loudspeakers.
Next, a sheep-shearer with a flair for balletic gestures worked while the sound system amplified his clippers and punctuated them with the occasional rhythmic bleat. An interlude featured what sounded like a misfiring motorbike engine, which Pohjonen developed into another pulsing accompaniment to his melody, before venturing a conversation with pigs in their own language.
The pig riffs continued to alternate with human grunts as the farm's human residents stepped up to prepare an ancient potato riddler for the grand climax. As the machine moved vegetables up a conveyor belt, the farmers made as if to sort them. To this essay in agricultural archaeology, Pohjonen addressed a short accordion elegy before letting his falsetto soar over a belting house-style finale.
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