by Marie Brakelmann
Art is known to divide opinions. This is particularly the case the more experimental an art form is. You’re either a fan, or you’re not; you either get it, or you don’t.
By stating their intention to deconstruct the normal music scheme with their art, Jomi Massage and Norman Westberg seem to be inviting in mixed reactions to their performance at a small, pillow-decked space at Dokk1 last Wednesday.
Both have had a long music career, Jomi with the indie rock band Murmer and Norman with experimental rock band Swans. But now they are exploring their solo careers, performing together as a duo for the first time.
The performance is preceded by an hour long talk with both of the artists. The conversation ranges from their musical inspirations (where Norman mentioned West Side Story) to whether music should be made with the audience in mind; Norman only plays for himself, whereas Jomi likes to see if she can manipulate the audience’s emotions.
The talk sets high expectations for the performance to come. When Norman describes his music as aggressive, but explains that he is neither an angry nor a scary person, and Jomi explains that she sees her music as soothing yet demanding, the audience is left to wonder how these seemingly contrasting concepts can fit together.
There is a break after the talk when everyone can stretch their legs. When the audience comes back, Jomi is lying motionless on a blanket on the floor, in front of her microphone and instruments. The performance has already started.
The music is partly improvised; the duo has only met once before to piece together the beginning and the end. Jomi is using her voice as an instrument, using a mixture of breathing sounds and singing, while Norman plays guitar, both of them looping their sounds to create a layered composition.
Accompanying the performance are visuals created by Danish visual arts duo Natural.Psycho.Bitches. Projected onto three screens, they mirror the mood of the music perfectly, with videos of normal life distorted by various, overlaying material. Together, the music and the visuals give a slightly surreal overall impression, balancing the line between peaceful and unsettling and sometimes shifting more towards one or the other, demonstrating the seemingly contractionary elements mentioned in the talk.
At one point, the audience started to lie down on the pillows, making themselves comfortable for the rest of the show and leaving no distraction from the music and visuals.
After the performance had come to a close, the reactions of the audiences revealed that it had indeed been one of those art forms that clearly divided people. Some had slightly disappointed looks on their faces, somehow expecting more after the promises of the talk. Others seemed to belong to the group that got it, talking about how moving the experience was.
Either way, Norman, Jomi and the Natural.Psycho.Bitches delivered a performance that was certainly not within the normal music scheme. At the very least, we got to lie down on some very comfortable pillows for an hour.
Aarhus Psych Fest went on this past weekend at Radar, Godsbanen.
Psych Fest define themselves as a ’boutique’ festival, gathering a wide range of underground artists who intend to bend with the music genre and can therefore be located under this ‘Psych umbrella’ they want to create. It is a festival for music lovers, for those who feel like exploring this intimate experience with alternative music. Together with music there was an art programme to fully experience the Aarhus Psych scene. This year’s theme was Construction, how we build things piece by piece to get an exotic result.