Surgeon and Jo Johnson in London

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  • There was such promise: a pair of improvisatory audio-visual experiments, including Surgeon's public debut on the Buchla Music Easel, set to psychedelic custom footage in the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room. The Bleep43 AV show formed part of the Web We Want Festival, a four-day event celebrating the past, present and future of the internet. Regrettably, while these promises were delivered to an extent, the results were disappointingly mediocre. Facing a large projection screen, the artists were situated behind the audience's tiered seating, which created an unnerving feeling of detachment from the outset. Both the sonic and visual elements of the three-hour set were apparently performed and improvised live, but the set-up did little to unify the music and visuals (the audience were uncomfortably compelled to focus on the unremarkable visuals for the duration). It's also worth noting that the screen had a lot of creases in it—you'd think that at an AV show a smooth screen would be top priority. Opening the evening was an hour-long performance of minimally-textured arpeggiator ambience from Jo Johnson, including tracks from her 2014 album Weaving, accompanied by Plant43's 2D visuals. The simplicity of the line-based designs was stunning at times, though they were generally out of sync with Johnson's drawn-out sonics. Rather than provide an environment for the audience to bask in, the performance felt stagnant and left the crowd craving further stimulation. After an interval, the restless audience returned to their seats for Anthony Child's first live outing using the Buchla. Far from the crafted techno of his Surgeon alias, and more akin to his 2013 experimental work The Space Between People And Things, his 90-minute set presented a range of musical styles. But again the music suffered as a result of the basic visuals, arriving this time courtesy of Ali Wade. Arbitrary images of owls, Leonardo Da Vinci paintings, car park attendants and ants played out one after another, all accompanied by a layer of erratic FX. One enjoyable sequence consisted of some wonderful moiré patterns, presenting a rare congruity between sound and visuals. The beat-driven climax was another highlight, but was slightly let down by the irrelevant images on screen. Fans of audio-visual production have been spoilt for choice in the last decade, thanks to the constant innovations in technology. While it's not necessary for all AV shows to be right at the cutting-edge, by presenting something more straightforward you run the risk of becoming banal. Bleep43 ran this risk, and though a lot of preparation had clearly gone into the project, the results were disappointing. For followers and fans of Child's work, and for any audio-visual heads, this felt like a missed opportunity.