REVIEW: Unnecessary Single Launch @ Analogue Academy

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REVIEW: Unnecessary Single Launch @ Analogue Academy

Analogue Academy, December 22
Reviewed by Thomas Forsyth
Photographed by Patrick Callow

Taking pictures in bathroom mirrors and getting stuck in a cycle of vanity. The attention we give to people who demand it, those who make a scene to provide the platform on which their malproportioned ego will precariously balance.

The amount of time we spend distracted and separated by physical and mental screens. Lost in mindless over-thinking, left wanting of something real and human.

Our extreme self criticism, warped and unfair, biased against ourselves like we are the cruelest person we know. There are many things which are unnecessary. Johanna’s art is not one of those things.

While our cohort ambled along the curvy alleyway in search of Analogue Academy, expectations of the evening surfaced in my imagination. They were cut short however, I had instructed myself beforehand that this was to be an open minded experience. As we came to the entrance guarded by an upright bicycle every curious bone in my body began to ache for what might lie beyond the threshold. The intriguing facade lead down a short corridor, past the friendly door person into a room of wonder. Warmly lit by a canopy of dim fairy lights the environment inside Analogue Academy was fascinating. Antiquated cameras, film, vinyl players, lenses, a super nintendo and many other retro curiosities created a thought provoking, quirky and comfortable social habitat.

Intimate and enchanting, the walls and any spare space wore a patchwork suit of artwork created by a collection of local and international artists who had been inspired by Johanna’s music. Expressed by beautiful paintings, photography, poetry, song and various mediums which escape me as I write this the following morning. The exhibition alone was a good enough reason to attend. And attend people did, the room was full, squishy yet still comfortable. As people nibbled on the plates of dips and took sips of their beer and wine, we all settled into the eclectic array of seats, cushions, couches and benches; some chatting away in anticipation, some waiting in silence and others drawing in the colouring books provided. The first performance of the evening was imminent and I began to feel that tingling sense of occasion.

Pork Belmont took the stage, two men, one acoustic guitar and a stompbox. This recipe is something I had grown tired of in recent months but as I had previously asserted to myself: open mind. This decision was instantly rewarded as the under-prepared two week old act began to play. Their musicianship expressed a high level of emotional integrity, a meaningful communication which caused my eyes to close, envisioning the circumstances and experiences someone might endure to inspire such relatable music. Where it seemed every word was meant and not a breath was wasted. The charming in between song banter provided perfect juxtaposition to the melancholic content of their songs.

Next to take the stage was the lovely and talented Momoko Rose. Clad in a floral dress with a decorative chain through her hair, Momo is always a visually inspiring musician as well as an aurally pleasing one. Having painted a fascinating and stunning portrait of Johanna for the exhibition, Momo was a perfect choice to perform at the event. Her music uses vibrant imagery to paint a vivid picture on the canvas in your mind just like she does in the visual art she creates. Momo’s performance contained her own original music alongside a Lisa Mitchell cover as a tribute to Johanna accompanied by her gentle and expressive guitar playing. As her set came to a close people were encouraged to take some time to socialise and have a break from the sardine-like environment.

During the interlude many of us took advantage of the opportunity to get to know some new and interesting people as well as refill our drinks. Questions were floating around the room, ‘have you heard her before?’, ’is she very good?’. The answers came after 20 minutes of anticipation as we managed to Tetris our way back into the now ‘sardine can’ space. Johanna and her keyboard were sat in the middle of the stage. The room fell silent as she introduced herself. Having greeted everyone as they entered, thanking them for coming and generally being a gracious host, Johanna began to play.

The first few notes rang through the attentive room, every ear drawn in by her softness and encapsulated by the clarity and beauty of her expression. Her music can be described in many ways but emotive and powerful are the two which come straight to mind. Johanna moves with her music, unashamed in feeling what she plays and showing how she feels. Clearly humble and unassuming about the large number of people who came to see her it was a pleasure just to listen without any expectation on behalf of the performer. Often appearing to be timid in between songs there is something magical, charming and even commanding about her presence. Such that when she began to clap softly, everyone began instantaneously to follow her rhythm, we clapped through the whole song.

She also performed a cover of Adele’s “Daydreamer” completely a cappella. Leaving herself in the open for judgement, especially given the artist chosen to interpret. Her full, open and powerful alto seamlessly transitioning into gentle falsetto stood alone so firmly that she needn’t play an instrument to hold up her voice. This vulnerability was also displayed when she picked up her guitar. Admitting that she was not a guitarist she made several quite noticeable mistakes. These mistakes however made no difference as the strength of her voice could carry any song, even if they were accompanied by a bad recorder player.

Then came ‘Unnecessary’, easily her strongest song it stood above the rest, with powerful moments, clever arrangement and exceptional piano playing all providing the context for the strongest performance of the evening so far. As it came to a close Johanna thanked everyone again, expressed her appreciation and began her last song. A playful song, the aptly named ‘December’ had people bopping along in what space they could find.

As Johanna left the stage and glided to the back of the room there was a sense of completion and finality. We had all experienced a beautiful and moving evening of music and art.
Filtering out into the night, it was clear that many weren’t sure what they’d just experienced, some faces displayed starry eyed and disbelieving expressions, others dove straight into conversation and many approached the performers to congratulate and compliment them.

To me it wasn’t just a performance or an exhibition. It was an affirmation and justification of a lesson I learned several years ago. Johanna shows us that vulnerability is necessary for art, it is necessary to grow and it is necessary to be human. By putting herself in the hands of such an audience she showed her flaws and instead of masking them, owned them, made them something not to define her character but to strengthen her resolve moving forward. Something we can all take away from.

Rating such an experience seems unfair and unquantifiable but the feeling and sense that I got from those around me was that the evening was 10/10.

The review is subjective and the opinion is of the reviewer, not of Forte Magazine.