John Foxx, Steve D’Agostino and Karborn:
Evidence of Time Travel/Paul Prudence: Cyclotone II

BFI Southbank, London - 21 November 2014

"It was suggestive of time as a permeable membrane, with events from the future creating seismic ripples that penetrate into our present"

Both these performances were arranged as part of the BFI’s Days of Awe and Wonder science fiction season, and were a bit of an unknown quality as far as I was concerned (which I suppose was apt given the speculative nature of science fiction).

I had never heard of Paul Prudence, and indeed it was the UK debut of this material. Consisting mainly of minimalist electronic pulses with occasional flurries of drum sounds, it had a nice menacing sub-bass quality, but palled after a few minutes. The visuals, although undoubtedly very pretty and pin sharp (and as far as I could tell controlled by a program that reacted to the sound) were again not that exciting, looking like nothing more than a computer generated schematic of the Death Star. The music (and visuals) got a bit more involved towards the end, but by that point it was too late to recapture my interest.

[Paul Prudence live]
[John Foxx, Steve D'Agostino, Karborn: Evidence Of Time Travel]

Photos [L-R]: Paul Prudence - Cyclotone II, Evidence Of Time Travel

The whole thing struck me as something that would have made a very good title/opening credits sequence (and soundtrack) for a dystopian science fiction film, and would have been much better at that kind of length. Not for me I’m afraid.

After a short intermission, John Foxx walked onto the stage to deliver the live world premiere of Evidence of Time Travel. Although this was a collaboration with Steve D’Agostino (music) and Karborn (visuals), it was clear that Foxx was the performer most people had come to see, with the audience mainly made up of geeky middle-aged men with a smattering of bemused/ bored girlfriends and a smaller sprinkling of ladies of a certain age who had obviously never got over that mid '80s crush.

My own interest in John Foxx is based almost entirely on the first three Ultravox! albums and the first solo LP. Since then, I’ve only picked up occasional compilations, and the last time I saw him play live was a 'greatest hits' show at the Astoria (which to be fair was great). So I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I was also unfamiliar with the work of either D’Agostino or Karborn.
The visuals were pleasingly grainy and analogue, clearly originating from old VHS images (although obviously digitised), and I took a nerdish pleasure in recognising some footage as being from National Geographic tape that I own.
It’s hard to describe the music; bass tones rumbled, static crackled, voice samples dropped in and out, in short it was ‘soundtrack-y’, reminding me of the early scenes of Alien where the landing party cross the planet’s surface to investigate the ruined space ship and the nightmares suffered by the protagonist in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

[John Foxx, Steve D'Agostino, Karborn: Evidence Of Time Travel]
[John Foxx, Steve D'Agostino, Karborn: Evidence Of Time Travel]
[John Foxx, Steve D'Agostino, Karborn: Evidence Of Time Travel]

Photos: Evidence Of Time Travel

I was hoping for something more song-based with keyboard sweeps and big squelchy bass, but this obviously wasn’t what the performance was about. For a second, when the line "I was only trying to reach you through the noise" appeared on the screen, I thought we were going to get a version of The Noise one of my favourite later Foxx tracks, but I was to be disappointed. I can’t say I enjoyed it particularly, but I didn’t dislike it particularly either; it just failed to hold my attention for any length of time. The snippets of text kept you guessing as to what exactly it was that the performance was attempting to communicate, and the whole thing had an almost impressionistic quality.

At its best, it was suggestive of time as a permeable membrane, with events from the future creating seismic ripples that penetrate into our present, an idea that (logically enough) also appears in several science fiction/horror works such as Nigel Kneale’s The Road and the aforementioned Prince of Darkness.

Partly, I think the fact that the cinema setting requiring the volume to be quite low didn’t help my concentration, but I was also irritated/bemused by the amount of people who chose to film the whole thing on their phones, experiencing a performance of digital projections via the medium of digital recording device. I’d like to think of it as some kind of Meta commentary on communication in the post-digital age, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. So, not really what I was wanting it to be, but that’s more to do with my expectations than any failing of the concept or execution of the piece. 6/10

Nick Hydra