Play On (Thea Rossen, The Ad Lib Collective & Sleep D): Review

Play On (Thea Rossen, The Ad Lib Collective & Sleep D): Review

Photos: Alan Weedon

Photos: Alan Weedon


A subterranean lair in Collingwood houses the performance space for Play On, a local event series that is dedicated to showcasing the most exciting classical musicians alongside some of Melbourne’s best purveyors of electronic music – each recontextualised outside of their traditional performance spaces. The meticulously curated series of concerts encourages a new relationship between audience and performer, performer and space, and space and sound. For the second instalment of their sixth series, Play On welcomed an audience for a special performance from Thea Rossen and the Ad Lib Collective, who were joined later in the evening for an improvised collaboration with Butter Sessions head honchos Sleep D. The initial forty-five minute showing saw Rossen and her compadrés perform a number of contemporary compositions from the likes of Elliot Cole, Andy Akiho and Melbournian composer Liza Lim, all carefully chosen to harness the rich concrete resonance in the car park. Across their performance Thea Rossen and the Ad Lib Collective made use of a variety of unconventional instrumentation including flower pots and bowed vibraphone, which was tastefully accompanied by an oboe and saxophone. The resulting sonic pallet was rich, bathing the audience in a variety of unusual sounds that juxtaposed beautifully with the brutalist nature of the performance space. A brief intermission bookended the Ad Lib Collective’s performance, and soon Rossen’s ensemble was joined by Corey Kikos and Maryos Syawish of Sleep D.

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The collaboration between the live instrumentation Thea Rossen and the Ad Lib Collective and Sleep D was advertised as a 15-minute affair, but in a very pleasant surprise it was announced that the entire ensemble would be joining the Butter Sessions dons for the entirety of their 90-minute slot. This resulted in a performance with many more layers than would usually be possible for a live electronic act to implement on their own, and with far more freedom than they would be able to muster confined solely to their electronics. The Ad Lib Collective’s offerings were mostly percussive which added an interesting jazzy/tribal nature to Sleep D’s synthesis, reminiscent of the sounds of Kuniyuki Takahashi or something on Joe Claussell’s Sacred Rhythm imprint – two storied inspirations behind the Butter Sessions’ sound. The concrete reverberation in the room sometimes meant that the sheer volume of instrumentation became a bit discordant, but these moments were few and far between in an otherwise fascinating performance. By the time the music came to a finish, the entire audience was on their feet moving enthusiastically.

The final concert in Play On’s sixth series takes place this Friday (March 22) featuring performances from Mindy Meng Wang (joined by Carolyn Schofield and Peter Knight) and long time friend of Finding Figaro, PBS presenter and deejay extraordinaire Adrianna. You can purchase tickets on the Play On Facebook event, through their website, or right here.

Words: Brenton Lowes

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