REVIEW: Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked, Usher Hall


It’s all about the layers.

The two screens between which the musicians are sandwiched, used to project images which interact and play with dimensions.

The slices of Joy Division’s songs, deconstructed and reassembled into new sonic shapes.

And the complementary and frequently mesmerising interplay between the music and the visuals, which seamlessly slip together to make something unique, something greater than the sum of their already impressive parts.

The Heritage Orchestra are renowned for their creative reinterpretations of modern music. Tonight they play, sparsely lit, whilst electronic musician Scanner creates soundscapes out of recognisable riffs and refrains from Joy Division’s catalogue. Matt Watkin’s abstract images hypnotise with an almost narcotic quality as these three elements combine to create an atmosphere which is emotional, beguiling and powerful.

Some of the pieces, like opener Transmission, are immediately recognisable, performed as live orchestral remixes of the original. And when fragments of Curtis’ vocals punch through and fast-cut imagery strobes on the projection screens, the impact is explosive.

Others, like She’s Lost Control, are like ghosts. Merest echoes of chords and melodies taken and reformed into something completely new, but which never lose sight of their source. These pieces are, despite their lack of immediate familiarity, even more arresting — particularly when accompanied by one of Watkins’ most powerful visual motifs: a frenetic abstract figure jerking and snapping with motions inspired by Curtis’ unmistakable onstage movements.

Things end with a brave and unsettling reinterpretation of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Almost entirely orchestral, strings and horns wrap round the chords of Joy Division’s most well-known song, whilst the isolated and disembodied voice of Curtis sings on top. The impact is both jarring and spellbinding, and — for a performance which has magically resurrected the spirit of this most revered of bands — results in a suitably haunting finale.

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