Sound of tha Police

Here’s what Arika say – Music is always about more then just music. Don’t get them wrong there’s no sort of pretentious sentiment here, just an honest to god admission that any tune you hear has more behind it then the commercial interests imbedded in it. This isn’t too hard to understand, all the influences that define your life have an impact on any sort of creative endeavor you undertake. For a while, Arika have been keen to trace those influences, running internationally renowned festivals such as Kill Your Timid Notion, and this weekend, Instal Festival in Tramway.

There’s a few things going on tonight, but what stands out for me is Chris de Laurenti’s performance, entitled N30: Live from the WTO 1999. I’m wondering into Tramway theatre One, sit myself down on the floor, and after a much needed welcome from Laurenti himself, the lights get dimmed. What follows is a heady mix of field recordings from the infamous counter-action directed at the Seattle World Trade Organization conferences of 1999. Above us, across what feels like a stereophonic stratosphere, is a collection of time-indexed police radio-chatter, both censored and uncensored samples that Laurenti had issued to him by way of what we would call freedom of information, and illegally garnered recordings.

Over the course of the hour you hear a lot of things. A prominent feature of the field recordings are the drums. Amid the throng of Laurenti’s recordings are samba percussion bands, marching bands, blazing house music, and more spiritual offerings in the form of bells, gongs, and harmonies. It’s a entirely unsettling experience when the drums cut out, the radio chatter growls menacingly, and violence breaks out. Rumours of rubber bullets being fired fly through the crowds, people appeal to the police and each other for peace, and anger erupts in response.

Here’s what the performance makes me think; Imagine you’re involved in something so activated as a protest, or a demonstration. At the time, all you are really concerned with are two things; Firstly, whether or not you are having any kind of effect. Secondly, and in some courses of action more importantly, whether or not you are going to get arrested. What Laurenti’s performance primarily highlights is the circle of information and events that you rarely consider. Whilst a collective of hippies beat their drums and chant tired slogans, a whole network of terribly oppressive, under-paid cops scheme away at the fringes, containing and exposing the protestors.

Laurenti’s superbly executed sound piece is an exploration of how we are informed and ultimately controlled, falling right in line with Arika’s quest for the bigger frame behind radical music. Emotive, brave, and fully prepared to engage in some serious civil disobedience.


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