Review by Kate Gaul
Klanghaus are art-rock maverick’s “The Neutrinos” (Karen Reilly vocals, Jon Baker bass and vocals, Mark Howe guitars and vocals, Jeron Gundersen, drums and percussion) and visual artist and filmmaker Sal Pittman. “Darkroom” was originally conceived working with climate themes in collaboration with the Scottish community of climate experts at The Barn, Aberdeenshire, and scientists at University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre. It was originally presented at Glasgow’s COP26 International Climate Change Conference. “Darkroom” is a solo audience performance presented in complete darkness with a duration of approximately 10 minutes with an additional 5 minutes debrief with the artists.
Individual patrons are scheduled at intervals across the day. We are met by a Klanghaus artist and ushered downstairs into an ante room. A single chair facing a wall and speaker sits amongst retro bits and pieces. A pre-recording from the ancient speaker tells us we will be taken into a room, and it will be very dark, there will be loud noises. There is advice on what to do if the sound becomes too overwhelming and that there is a safety switch if you need to get rid of the dark. Be not afraid. It is completely safe.
I am gestured to remove my glowing watch and directed to what is about to become the darkened room. The room is decked out with all kinds of musical paraphernalia, retro styling stuff, a huge fan, a glass house shaped box, projectors. I sit in a large soft chair and the safety switch is indicated to me. It gets very dark.
An incredible soundtrack begins to play. Waves, a cacophony of voices, a helicopter flies overhead, there is angelic music. When the helicopter flies overhead the large fan provides the accompanying induced airflow. I swear a droplet of water hits my face. At one point the light in the glass house ignites and a lady’s face is seen singing at me.
So, what’s it all about? The company say this is “An important and arresting sound and senses show to connect us with the climate crisis… that uses a range of speakers, sound sources and sensory equipment positioned around a room. The soundtrack is curated from a wide range of musical genres, sound effects and natural sounds ranging from intense sea to contemporary choral music and from footsteps to rock guitar, spatialised live in real time. The presentation of “Darkroom” … using the soundtrack, the pitch dark and solitude, could facilitate deep personal and emotional reflection, potentially enabling attitudinal shifts in relation to the climate crisis.”
Once the darkness is over, I am ushered to another part of the room in partial light. I am handed a clipboard and pen and asked to record my experience. There are a couple of questions to prompt a response. Both artists then come and begin a conversation. I felt an overwhelming experience of space, universal space. Death loomed in my imagination, but it wasn’t gloomy. Time seemed to slow down. Knowing that the intention of the event is around climate crisis is useful. I certainly created a strong narrative in my head to the sound design.
I predict this is one of the most sophisticated events I will participate in at Edinburgh Fringe this year and also, the most profound. The company also play a genre defying late night gig in the same space. I’m there! Oh, and there is no droplet of water – that was my imagination value adding to the sensations and sounds.
If you can get a ticket to “Darkroom” – GO!!