Was he an animal that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light (Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis)

It becomes apparent after every gig that it is best not to expect anything in particular from a performance. That way the emotions can get to you with more strength and a certain element of surprise.

Following a brief delay in opening the doors, Autumns a.k.a Christian Donaghey, appeared on stage. With two released albums so far entitled ‘Terrible Tuesday‘ (Downwards) and ‘Das Nichts‘ (Clandestine records), the music of Autumns follows noisy, experimental, coldwave paths.

The show had no visuals and the sound did not have enough depth to become enveloping and replicate the darkness that we can listen to on the albums. The distorted sounds were quite thin and the music was not as evocative as it should have been.

There were a few technical problems during his show which were offset by genuine spontaneity and nice attitude from Christian. Autumns, is a project with vocals layered nicely with synth sounds, repetitive noises, elongated whooshing and echoed sounds and often muffled vocals that resemble an animal’s ‘cry’. The overall attitude towards music and Christian’s artistic style, were better revealed when he stepped off the stage and joined the audience before jumping back on stage to hang momentarily from one of the speakers. I think that Christian would better articulate his style with more exposure through gigs and I am looking forward to a next gig where everything will work as it is supposed to and the atmosphere will be so tense that it will not leave any room for my mind to wander elsewhere.

QUAL had already been wandering in space earlier, and now, having changed to his, ‘signature’, outfit, a black working uniform he appeared on stage. The atmosphere changed immediately, lights were dimmed to the absolute minimum level needed to just make out the silhouettes of people around and the air almost whispered…I was of course familiar with QUAL’s music and visuals, but circumstances had made sure that I missed his previous gigs. QUAL’s first album Sable, was already a revelation for me particularly because I admire enveloping darkness wherever and whenever I come across it in art and from that first album, it seemed to me that QUAL had ‘met’ this darkness, is aware of its strength and wants to communicate that through music. The style of his music has further evolved with highly evocative videos that accompanied this year’s release Cupio Dissolvi, but nothing anywhere in those releases, could have prepared me for what I experienced during this live show.

I am aware that the description that will follow might be sort of a spoiler for people who have not yet seen QUAL live but I really hope that what I am about to describe will work more as an incentive.

Perhaps QUAL’s videos offer some glimpses of the ‘worlds’ that he ‘touches’ on, during his performances, but these videos cannot, in any way, grasp the emotional vastness that is unveiled on stage.

The darker tones of darkness

It is one thing to write and perform music that talks about states of being, it’s quite another to personify these states. I have so far seen Diamanda Galas evoking ‘daemons’ and demons of every kind, Lisa Gerrard mesmerizing spirits, Jaz Coleman starring at ‘beasts’ in the eyes, David Tibet spoiling magick with poetic verses and Soap&Skin summoning ‘spirits’ much older than her, but I don’t think that I have ever seen someone approaching ‘demonization’ quite in the way QUAL did during his show. The black uniform that William was wearing, made sense in that context as well. It was this simplicity of the garment(associated with hard work and harsh conditions) that hinted at the emotional duress and decisiveness with which QUAL treated the stage, as a blank canvas for exploring states of the mind and communicating states of being. This was a performance about existential matters that can only be communicated through a show that engages the body as much as possible, something similar to physical theatre.

Bodies are vital elements of theatre production and spectatorship. But the body is not just physical, it is also conceptual… (Marina Abramovich)

QUAL might have exchanged gazes with the audience during the show, but he was actually on character, he might have humbly accepted the applause but when he was performing, he actually looked as if he was battling monsters! His look after each song was that of someone who has revealed a little too much and would never expect people to find this interesting or worthy. Yet, it was actually, extremely powerful! When QUAL let a little smile full with curiosity and a bit of surprise, escape during the applause, it became clearer to me that a few moments before, he was experiencing at its maximum, every concept that provoked every gesture and every gaze. Every hit on the walls or on the floor, of the thick chain he was carrying, was charged with dualities. Towards the end, the atmosphere had become so charged emotionally that it seemed to be approaching a point of saturation, yet the audience was ‘hungry’ for an encore.

The camera captured a few fleeting moments, phases of QUAL’s metamorphosis on stage, but as part of the audience, I often found myself admiring the abundant theatricality and the fact that it was actually hard to say whether this was ‘just a role’ or something philosophically meaningful. The passionate response from the audience after each song left no doubt about the latter. The ‘messages’ that were conveyed through movement and sound, came through in ways that would penetrate the minds and hearts of everyone present and that was the reason for the heartfelt applause. This wasn’t the most ‘easy to digest’ spectacle and yet its strength was admirable!

By definition, experimenting means going to territory where you’ve never been, where failure is very possible. How can you know you’re going to succeed? Having the courage to face the unknown is so important (Marina Abramovich)

I think QUAL has shown that he defies ‘fear’ of any kind when it comes to experimentation on stage. I am not sure if anyone in the audience can ever understand where he draws all that strength from or how long is the spiritual path he creates during a show, but it is certain that the impact will be strong.

The setlist as such, did not matter either, because every single note and every verse was heightened to unimaginable levels during the show. QUAL was singing the lyrics but their meaning was immediately rendered irrelevant as we watched him create such strong ‘images’ through movement and enrich the meaning of the lyrics through agonising vocals, on the otherwise completely empty stage. We listened to unique versions of ‘Rip Thy Scarlet Claws’, ‘Flay’, ‘Desolate Discotheque’, ‘Luxurious Bleeding’, ‘Benevolent Technologies’,  ‘Putrid Perfumes’, ‘The Geometry of Wounds’, ‘Rape Me In The Parthenon’, before the show was over but its echo continued to travel in our minds.

In other words…’forget the albums’ (just kidding) and go see QUAL perform live once the opportunity arises but most importantly leave your souls open…!

Blaue Rosen box


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