Live Review: Author & Punisher – Deaf Institute, Manchester
21st February 2023
Support: Zetra, Tayne
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Jacob Schwar (London)
The Victorian splendour of the Deaf Institute’s architecture is very much at odds with the cold, functional noise machines being constructed on the stage. Author & Punisher is the brainchild of sound artist and mechanical engineer, Tristan Stone, who eschews off the peg instruments in favour of custom-designed and fabricated drone and dub machines.
Seven albums and a couple of extended plays into a near twenty-year career and Mr Stone has remained true to the concept of dissonant walls of sound, first explored on 2005’s The Painted Army. Last year’s Krüller album saw Tristan spreading his musical wings and embracing a host of influences, such as Alternative Rock, Shoegaze and even the Gothic.
Tonight’s set is fashioned principally around that album, with about half of the compositions getting an airing.
More a recital than a conventional concert, from the opening stages of Drone Carrying Dread Manchester is pummelled by massive slabs of discordant noise. Simultaneously futuristic and primal, but equally as bleak, there is little respite to the nihilistic soundscapes being painted.
Uncompromisingly hypnotic, even in the more mellow moments of a Portishead cover, Author & Punisher’s rhythms are apocalyptically heavy enough to be rearranging the internal organs of all in attendance.
Even when Tristan bestows a less catastrophic intent to his music, like the ever-so jaunty beats on Maiden Star, it still comes complete with a creeping intensity and downright unsettling nature worthy of a Ligeti score.
Every musical moment from Author & Punisher is a moment of deep reflection. They’re like an immersion in a vat of pure noise, a cauldron of audio blitzkrieg, akin to witnessing a SunnO))) show in which you are swept up in a tsunami of sound.
It’s the Drone-Lords and, perhaps Godflesh too, that I would draw the closest comparisons. This is musical composition pushed to its breaking point, filtered through unnatural machines. Vast cosmic soundscapes overload the senses as dirty urban decay is wrought note by note.
Yet, there is a stark beauty to the music, stripped of the need to be palatable for a mainstream audience, Author & Punisher’s compositions are remarkably astute accompaniments to the clearly approaching End Times. Monolithic slabs of unrelenting noise will usher in the Final Days, masking the screams of countless tortured souls.
After seeing Tristan playing tonight I felt I needed to listen to Streetcleaner on the way home, just for a bit of light relief. Mesmerising and hypnotic, I wonder when he’ll be at Damnation? Because A&P unique brand of musical dissension would be a perfect fit.
All photo credits: Jacob Schwar