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Live Review: Robert Henke

24 November 2015 | 3:05 pm | Guido Farnell

"As the house lights go up, there's the sound of applause but the crowd also releases a collective sigh of complete amazement."

Hitting us over the head with laser beams, Robert Henke simply mesmerises all the old-school techno geeks that have come out tonight to see his show, Lumiere II. While Henke is well known for his ambient and minimal house productions as Monolake, this evening is very much about the laser light show that is seamlessly merged with a soundtrack of deep bass and the robotic whir of electronica. Henke works from the back of the auditorium where the mixing desk would be and essentially just draws coloured shapes onto a screen at the back of the room in time with his music. It is a deceptively simple proposition, but — like a James Turrell installation — Henke handles his lasers with precision, working light and space to achieve spectacular visual effects. An array of eight or nine lasers in a rainbow of colours etches fantastical shapes across the Recital Centre walls, which sears our eyeballs. Simple shapes proliferate in increasingly complex geometry, spinning out of control like a celestial Spirograph, etching alien patterns and throwing down the challenge of decoding these ciphers to get to the core of their meaning. It feels like watching liquid neon rapidly painting itself across the room or a wild spray of iridescent graffiti.

This epic spectacle is created on a minimum of equipment: one laptop from which to stream the audio and another to run the programs that Henke has specifically written to control the lasers. A couple of midi controllers provide hands-on control to what looks like a very minimal and essentially 21st century set-up. Billowing clouds of nightclub smoke machine fog accentuate the laser beams moving overhead, shifting our attention from the shapes being projected to observing the way in which these magnificent lasers seem to fill the entire room. Lumiere II offers up a completely immersive and intense fusion of sound and vision that is intended to completely overwhelm the senses. As the house lights go up, there's the sound of applause but the crowd also releases a collective sigh of complete amazement. This show comes with the warning of intense lasers, smoke machines and quadraphonic sound and Henke certainly delivers on this promise to brilliant effect.