Live Review and Photos: The Haxan Cloak, April 18th, 2013, Birthdays – London

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The Haxan Cloak’s music is made to be listened to in isolation. Not just by yourself, but with as few distractions from the music as possible. In this day and age that’s almost impossible; even if you are lying on your bed, headphones turned up, there’s bound to be some kind of distraction – your phone, a picture on the wall, or even just a nagging feeling coming from another part of your brain. The Haxan Cloak’s live show is, therefore, the most ideal way to ingest his dark and ethereal sounds; Bobby Krlic’s stage presence and show is amongst the most muted you will ever see, but the few elements that he does use to enhance his music entirely engulf you in the dark spirit he’s exorcising. On stage he stands off to the side, looking down at his various tools and rarely elsewhere, moving his head slowly in time with the subtly changing flow and rhythms. Projected beside him are a series of grayscale videos on short loops, and there is no light on him at all; the only light used in the performance is a blinding white strobe light fired straight into the eyes of the audience sometimes randomly and at other times in rapid bursts. In this way, not only is everything you hear pure Haxan Cloak, but so is everything you see and feel.

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Krlic started the performance with an ominous rumble of pitch black droning so thick and dark that it felt like it would stick to the walls and slide down as slow as molasses, shifting and changing hue slightly as it does so. Soon, clipped vocal samples, bass pulses and slightly echoing woodblock clicks were added expertly to create soundscapes familiar to all those in the audience who have taken the journey through his latest album Excavation. I mention the audience, but for the majority of the performance I forgot that I was even in one; the depth of the sound rumbled my body to its core, rooting me to the spot, as I could only stare transfixed at the sinister videos and Krlic’s stoic presence, and each click and scrape came through so loud and clear that it sounded like it was rattling off the inside of my skull. The confrontational strobe light was blinding to the point where for a couple of seconds after it stopped flashing I could stare straight at the spot where I knew Krlic had previously been standing but all I could see was blackness, as if the man had faded into his music. As Krlic orchestrated the final growling lull before building up into the concluding “The Mirroring (Part 2)” the light went bananas, flashing maniacally for an extended period of time, forcing me to close my eyes, where I was only to be greeted by a nauseating kaleidoscope of colours on the inside of my eyelids, reinforcing that there is no escape from The Haxan Cloak when you’re in his presence.

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The clip used at both the beginning and end of the performance was a repeated entry into an uninhabited bedroom, closing in on the bed, before restarting from outside the room and repeating. Coupled with The Haxan Cloak’s music this felt as though I had become a nightmare and was creeping into the bed of an unsuspecting soul, ready to terrify them when they laid their head down to sleep. Such was the transfixing and transformative power of The Haxan Cloak’s performance. Krlic said nothing at any point during his performance; he walked on, played a solid near-hour of nerve shredding, bone-jangling sounds, and left without a look back. Much like a nightmare, he snuck up on us, engaged all our senses, and left us again, leaving us with a tangible and unique feeling in our loins, without any real knowledge of how or why he had done so.

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