Live Review: Monolake, Electric Indigo @ Melbourne Recital Centre

27 March 2023 | 2:09 pm | Guido Farnell

These days electronic music is practically ubiquitous. It's people like Henke and Kirchmayr at the forefront of their craft who really deserve our attention.

More Monolake More Monolake

Melbourne’s techno and electronic music cognoscenti descended on the Recital Centre to take in a couple of sets from two of the idioms best. An old-school crowd that dates back to the heady rave days of the nineties rubbed shoulders with enthusiastic younger punters ahead of the show. Monolake and Electric Indigo kickstarted their careers in the nineties. They remain relevant and lead the pack by continuously evolving and trying out new ideas on each of their releases. These days the general availability of the technology required to produce electronic music, whether you are a laptop producer or prefer the wild array of affordable Behringer clones of classic analogue gear, has spawned so many aspiring producers such that it now takes a whole lot of creativity to deliver music that feels fresh and innovative.

Electric Indigo’s Susanne Kirchmayr takes to a darkened stage and starts her set with quirky dripping sounds that soon fold in on themselves and like a Mandelbrot Set seemingly reaches for infinity. It’s a fascinating start to a set that journeys through a soundscape that moves through a variety of moods and aural environments. It is too easy to close your eyes and dream to this music but for those intent on watching her every move, Kirchmayr provides simple video graphics that set colours and shapes in motion in the audience’s eyes. Kirchmayr’s palette of sound is lush and uniquely organic. The percussive elements that weave their way in and out of the set have an earthy and almost tribal feel. At times it feels like Kirchmayr is playing a kind of futuristic folk music. While Electric Indigo’s twelves typically grind to a tech beat, tonight she works on a slightly more experimental tip to deliver an engaging listening experience that’s quiet, reflective, and somewhat introspective.

This sets the scene for Robert Henke’s much-awaited Monolake set. Henke has previously treated us to his Lumière shows which were a wild explosion of highly kinetic audio and video. Performing as Monolake allows Henke to showcase the more pensive and experimental side of his music. Right from when Hongkong was released on Chain Reaction, Monolake attracted obsessed fans in love with the outfit's take on impossibly deep electronic listening music. Playing a selection of what sounds like unreleased tunes his set immerses listeners in a subtly nuanced soundscape that feels meditative. Perhaps less organic than his wife’s set earlier, at times Henke populates the mix with sounds that bring to mind robotic birds chirping and even frogs croaking. It’s so easy to get lost in these dreamy but highly synthesised sounds. There is also a beautiful dimensionality to the overall sound that Henke achieves. As sounds move in and out of the mix it feels as though they originate from different parts of the room. Although Henke’s approach is experimental it is also highly accessible. The swoon-worthy sweeping glimmer of synthesised strings as they are manipulated into impossible shapes is dreamy but Henke doesn’t let us drift too far into outer space by punctuating the set with repeating melodies and motifs that kind of earth us to what is unfolding on the stage. Unassumingly dressed in black, Henke maintains a shadowy presence under a single red spot and a bit of smoke machine haze. There is a strange sense of foreboding and even the supernatural to this performance. Thinking of Tangerine Dreams soundtrack to The Keep, it sometimes feels like Henke is conjuring an alternative soundtrack to this old eighties celluloid dream. 

The set concludes with a particularly compelling track that features cut-up voices and sounds like it's being played off a record being sped up and slowed down. These days electronic music is practically ubiquitous. It's people like Henke and Kirchmayr at the forefront of their craft who really deserve our attention.