Those with a passing familiarity with me might know that I am a fan of the Melbourne group The Twoks, who have a tendency to do a show or two at the last few Fringes. But I also have to admit to being slightly conflicted about them.
You see the very first music of The Twoks was very avant-garde, consisting on layers and layers of Xani's violin (with percussion on the soundbox, beating the strings, and plucking them in addition to the more traditional bowing), resulting in an incredibly complicated and rich soundscape in which she played. They were so large you couldn't take them in in one gulp, but you had to enter them and chase the music as it swirled around inside them. Sort of like a big majestic building. You can build up the sense of the building by exploring it until finally you know the whole building despite being unable to see it entire. Which I admit I found extremely tantalizing, being able to explore the structure of these incredible creative pieces, that you could hear being built for you a piece at a time. What would you find around the next corner?
Creating these older soundscapes required lots of foot pedals to control the equipment required to capture and play the loops at the appropriate time, which often forced Xani to sit and use her feet very dextrously. (I sometimes joked that she played her violin with her feet.)
Anyway over the last few years the music has changed. Become less complex and involved and easier to perceive immediately as a whole. Less avant-garde and more popular. More refined and purer. Sublimated.* There are however two great benefits to the new form. First Xani has added her vocals to the mix. She has a good voice and it adds a thematic component to the music which allows people to follow her through the piece (no more exploring on your own). Secondly, with fewer layers there is less need for her to be tied to a chair in the performance and she is free to dance as she plays, and this just adds incredible energy to the pieces. [It also made the simple slow acoustic piece she did in the middle of the tent very poignant.]
Now I like both versions. A lot. But it's different parts of me that like each of them. So sometimes I mourn for the loss of the original music. But not for long, for the new music has an excellent advantage that outweighs the past. As Rufus** said "And it's great to dance to."
And I should also mention Mark, who is also as much a reason for the current sound of The Twoks as Xani. His percussion gives great form to the music. The chemistry between these two musicians is excellent (and it shows). It also has to be, because many of the pieces are quite susceptible to spur of the moment improvisation. Both Xani and Mark are The Twoks.
Anyway, this year's performance was great. I'm still bouncing eight hours later as pieces of the show are still streaming through my head.
Apparently the Melbournians don't believe that The Twoks can have attracted such a large audience to their shows here with playing just the occasional gig. The obvious solution to that is to get them to come back for more gigs. They have a full CD release coming up in September so I hope they will journey back to do a CD launch here. Failing that, just come over and play a Sunday gig at the Wheatie.
The Twoks consist of violinist Xani Kolac and Mark Leahy on drums. Xani generally makes extensive use of looping to build up a wild and exhuberant soundscape, which is given exacting focus by Mark’s laser sharp percussion.
The music of this band has changed since they first appeared at the Fringe a few years ago. The soundscapes aren’t quite as complex as they once were, but that lack is more than made up for by the sheer energy of the performance and the addition of Xani’s vocals. Plus, the new music is great to dance to if you are so inclined, as well as great to just listen to.
The best way to describe the show (and Xani for that matter), is wild and uplifting. Almost fey. You’ll definitely still be hearing their music in your head hours after the gig.
Again, a one-off show. But definitely keep them in mind for next Fringe.
[* In the traditional sense rather than the scientific sense. As something is sublimated it gives off the impurities and dross and becomes more sublime.]
[** Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.]