ATOM TM & SEVERED HEADS – Adelaide Festival

atmotm

Suitably dapper in a grey suite, German born Chilean resident Atom TM, a man with more aliases than a mossad agent, appears on stage looking like he’s ready to present at a business conference. Flanked by two large video screens and with his electronic gear on a lectern, he even has the computer commands appearing on one of the screens so we know what he’s doing. But his approach is anything but businesslike. Although it’s very much an audiovisual presentation, he’s using bizarre slightly nonsensical home movies and strange edits of porn, interspersed with the words ‘Get Down,’ amongst other images. In fact he enjoys a bit of wordplay, morphing Atom into tomato, with the next image being a tomato getting sliced and diced. His sounds are painfully loud, sharp, big and bassy, chopped up digitalia strewn together and cutting through the room and making the floor vibrate. It’s a highly percussive set, almost brutal in comparison to his poppier perhaps best-known work as Senor Coconut or even Flanger, with some of the electronic rhythms pulsing through and manipulating the images. There’s some pre recorded material, which Atom emphasises by stepping back and standing motionless in the shadows, returning to tweak his sounds, often ending in a welcome avalanche of bleeping computer funk percussion.

A newly resurrected for this event Severed Heads are much less organised in comparison. “Welcome to the Freddy Krueger experience,” they begin, as narrative slogans appear on screen, phrases like ‘everything is beautiful in a free world,’ and ‘hot with fleas.’ What does this mean? Does it mean anything? Only the Severe Heads know. Their music varies from jaunty electronic pop, to a kind of bleak industrial dirge replete with explosions and obligatory war imagery. In fact their entire set is almost like an electronic music travelogue since 1979. There’s a real diversity of approach and a sense of nostalgia at play here, with many in the audience singing along. Though there’s also a real sense of playfulness from the duo. “This is a really silly song,” they offer, before adding, “because all the rest have been serious,” and launching into a cheeky electro jingle. Clearly having a great time they play requests, mock themselves at every turn and when called back for an encore screech at the braying audience to shut up. It’s loose and carefree, and though it lacks the volume, rigour and audio visual interactivity of the likes of Atom TM’s, to have the opportunity to bear witness to one of Australia’s most iconic electronic ensembles – particularly after they’ve broken up, is worth the price of admission alone.

Bob Baker Fish

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