Assembly Operation @ Space Theatre, Adelaide 28/10/2018

The show begins with Speak Percussion Director Eugene Ughetti, along with his fellow performers Matthias Schack-Arnott and Kaylie Melville kneeling motionless behind the front of three rows of three tables. Like an industrial assembly-line (hence the title of the show), they commence sliding paper rolled around each of their tables like a belt driven system in synchronised mechanical movements. The sound of these movements evokes running water or rustling and as they vary their movements and include other paper props into the hypnotic changing performance other descriptive adjectives come to mind (bubbling, crackling, popping, clicking) and they are produce sounds representative of the elements earth, air, fire and water. Although these sound are welcome they are the types of sounds that under other, ordinary situations could be distracting or annoying.

At the conclusion of the first section, the performers move to the second row of tables to commence working with bows, wooden boxes and adhesive tape. During this portion of the show there is a back projection triptych of an underwater structure of indeterminable size crumbling like an effervescing tablet while the sounds heard range from those of crunching and twisting to sliding and suction. They appear to be working at a craft table with every movement mic’d up and amplified.

The back projection becomes a single image of oil swirling on the surface of liquid and the performance takes on a sinister form with knitting needles scratching across porcelain transforming to produce a harsh, spine tingling sound equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. Scrubbing brushes are used to build to a maelstrom-like sound before quickly withdrawing into a crackling by employing the edge of the brushes on porcelain. There is polystyrene percussion on bowls sounding like clock chimes and rattling chains are utilised altering the sound into that of the roar of airplanes taking off, a fluctuating, calculated cacophony. By this time the back projection is noted to be an image in flux evoking an island, Arabic lettering and some kind of animalistic form all at once. To bring this middle section to a close, the performers ritually stack some of their “found” instruments into stylised replica pagodas which they then “play” with bows, producing a machine-like repetitive droning.

The last row of tables that the performers move to are the barest, only containing small keyboard instruments via which they produce something akin to 80’s computer game sound effects as they simultaneous seemingly play a game while performing the soundtrack to that game. The back projection is rows of magnified LEDs, the colours changing interdependently. What is played is an almost familiar nursery rhyme theme with Eugene Ughetti at the middle table sometimes conducting. If only “traditional” lap top gigs could be this entertaining. A little girl in the front row is now dancing in her seat whereas earlier she had been visibly frightened during the middle section and was then holding onto her parents terrified at the sounds produced. The element of kitsch that began this final section of the show is contrasted by the music gradually moving into a sinister A Clockwork Orange theme-like soundtrack before becoming booming and space-like before the lights dim and  the bass drone fades to silence.

The three performers walk to the front centre stage to bow to an audience that has been given a voyeuristic audio visual experience of sound, light and darkness, peering into a surreal rhythmic, repetitious factory-like world during which there has been an evolution of sound in three distinct stages within the previous hour. Eugene Ughetti, Matthias Schack-Arnott, and Kaylie Melville with the other background contributors to Assembly Operation have crafted an impressive, beautiful work of three interlinking percussive pieces that encompasses a progression of sound unexpected by the completion of the show.

OzAsia Live Review by Jason Leigh

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