In a cosy space above the Haines & Co. rum-bar, the ‘Captain’s Quarters’ are festooned with the technological flotsam of eras bygone, decked out to depict a broadly anachronistic last-century home-office come lounge with an array of analogue treasures dredged up from the deep-conscious and set alongside amps, an app-happy iPad and some actual digital decks.
And that’s essentially a summary of what to expect from Old Tech New Decks, the symphonic creation of virtuoso composer-performers Vanessa Nimmo and Matt Rankin. Bolstered by contemporary equipment, good lighting, and a touch of the theatric, the pair draw from their mix-bag of forgotten material artifacts to produce a nostalgic audio-visual time-warp based on the both inherently acoustic and programmed sounds and sense of a discarded past.
Pseudo-pretentiously self-described as an "electronic phantasmagoric polystylistic soundscape", Old Tech New Decks is cool. With caveats. Not perfect, but perfectly what a Fringe production should be. Yet, I don’t wish to wander much further into the visual and interactive spoilers, other than to make note of the clever and creative metafictive intro and joyfully repeat Nimmo’s at one stage amusing disclaimer, "Don’t worry, dying makes an excellent sound."
The composition is roughly delineated into four or five suites, each section I felt a little too long for the relatively short show. But then, this is a more classically-structured piece as to its peaks and troughs than the expected build-ups and drops of a modern DJ’s public address. And that’s where the small pinch of disappointment resides, in the balance of elements old and new, with the show’s technically-intriguing live-loop creation largely obscured from view; a leaning here toward music with performance over music as performance.
As to the incorporated theatrical elements, again a slight re-adjustment of the metaphorical equaliser might perhaps serve to better tease out and fulfil the concept’s promise. The brief, stylistic moments of synchronised type-writing were highly enjoyable, yet you wouldn’t want this straying too far into Tap Dogs territory either, as the unsettling moments of relative stillness act as a powerful mental provocateur.
Rather, an increased narrative focus on the broader underlying questions the skilful production provokes – the malaise of a disposable consumer society, the strange saudade conjured by gadgets gone, our generally indifferent acceptance of technology’s noisy encroachment on the everyday – and you’d have something like an atmospheric reproduction and live companion to Delillo’s White Noise. Other than that, some 80s executive clackety-balls would be fun.
Three and a half stars, with those that do shine blitzing like boost-ups from the Mario-Kart kit-bag of wanton destruction.