Digital Hardcore in the Halls of Respectability

Author Иль Гурн
Category Columnists, Culture, Town
Date March 27 2024
Reading Time 2 min.

Digital Hardcore in the Halls of Respectability

From March 20 to March 23, London hosted the first Assembly in four years—a showcase of experimental performances by the residents of Somerset House Studios. The artists presented their projects, each a personal declaration intertwining sound, art, their interpretation, and their roles within society. The highlight was Saturday evening’s schedule, featuring Felicia Chen, artistically known as Dis Fig.

Chen, an American musician rooted in Berlinthe unofficial capital of electronic musiclaunched her debut album Purge in 2019. Just a year later, she joined forces with one of todays most influential dub producers, The Bug (Kevin Martin), a partnership that signals a nod to any musicians talent and contemporary relevance. Dis Figs versatility and musical breadth, along with her reluctance to be confined within a specific genre, are evidenced by her latest project, a collaboration with the metal band The Body, which culminated in the album Orchards of a Futile Heaven. The albums 9 tracks, filledwith emotional euphoria, the instability of electric guitar overtones, and the raw noise of analog instruments, challenge the listeners ear while reflecting artistic bravery and energy. Such experiments that bridge electronic music with heavy rock are exceedingly rare (besides The Body, VMO and BIG|BRAVE are the few thatcome to mind), each pivotal for the evolution of both genres and the cross-pollination of artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Dis Fig took the Somerset House stage, joined by the UKs versatile drummer Sam Jones, whose musical prowess spans from jazz to grime. In a moment of soundcheck, his bass drum throbbed, sending low frequencies that suffused the venue and resonated with its storied past. Chen initiated the performance with dramaticdissonances from a small stringed instrument, then forcefully drew a bow across the strings, a literal sawing motion that spelled a harsh fate for the bow. It was soon replaced by a microphone in Dis Figs grasp. Her voice, altered by a chain of effects, layered over the melodic (and shouted) passages, weaving through them to evoke echoes of dub and psychedelia. Joness percussion, also distorted, provided structure to the vocal crescendos, infusing themstrenuously with focus.

Surrendering to the subconscious (or rather superconscious), Dis Fig traversed the stage, as if exploring areas where her performative essence might resonate stronger. She thenimmersed herself among the audience, whispering into the mic; she meandered through a living aisle, drawing strength from the presence of the spectators.

Its an enigma, the human ability to sense theenergy of others. While it may be visually challenging to discern raw madness from attemptsto reach transcendental, those present at Somerset House on Saturday sensed the latter in Dis Figs act. The intense performance, ending too swiftly after 45 minutes, heightened the sense of expectation for the finale of Dis Figs residency project at the CTM festival in 2025.

For those who view 2025 as a distant horizon, Somerset House has already announced the upcoming Summer Series, spotlighting artists whose formative experiments are shaping the soundscape of tomorrow.