Review: Plaid & Felix’s Machines, Norwich Arts Centre, music meets machines

Ed Handley and Andy Turner, aka Plaid, whose collaboration with artist Felix Thorn came to Norwich.

Ed Handley and Andy Turner, aka Plaid, whose collaboration with artist Felix Thorn came to Norwich. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

The machines might be taking over, but at least they play good music as artist Felix Thorn's audio-visual sculptures bring to life elaborate compositions in his collaboration with electronic music duo Plaid.

Artist Felix Thorn musical sculpture that played music composed with Plaid. Photo: Patrick Widdess

Artist Felix Thorn musical sculpture that played music composed with Plaid. Photo: Patrick Widdess - Credit: Patrick Widdess

Welcome to 2018 where even live music has been taken over by machines.

Felix Thorn builds audio-visual sculptures which have grown more and more sophisticated since he teamed up with electronic duo Plaid in 2009. None of these individuals were onstage at this performance of music produced by Plaid on the machine's latest incarnation at Norwich Arts Centre.

In fact the stage had been removed to accommodate Thorn's marvellous contraption – a Christmas tree of xylophones, dismantled drum kits, sticks, beaters, tin cans, cogs, strings and other unidentifiable bits and bobs.

There was a flicker of lights as the performance began and a xylophone started playing a sweet refrain by itself. It was joined by drums and other clunking and whirring instruments.


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As the performance continued over a series of distinct pieces more parts came into play. The intricately constructed and finely tuned instruments could combine to create an almost infinite range of sounds.

The music moved from the mechanical to more graceful and sophisticated melodies.

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Elaborate compositions took in avant-garde jazz, ambient electronica, classical, techno and deep house. Sometimes it sounded almost human.

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For about an hour the packed auditorium was held spellbound by a rich recital from this versatile automaton and accompanying light show.

Following the performance the machine was surrounded by spectators angling for a closer look at this unique and colossal feat of art and engineering. Then people drifted back to the bar to take in what they had just witnessed while a DJ played more experimental electronic music. The machines might be taking over, but at least they play good music!

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