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Carrier - Steve King

This weekend just past, something a little bit unexpected took place inside a dimly-lit back entrance on Lowe Street. Until this Saturday night just past, this particular building had been sitting dormant for nine or so years.. cold and crumbling, silent and sleeping.

On Saturday night, Steven King literally rattled the old girl awake from her slumber with his new Carrier show, ‘Patterns’. The old girl probably hadn’t ever really paid much attention to her floor before Saturday night, when it was shuddered alive by many pairs of feet, themselves awakened by what went on that evening, rendering the humble, stained and ripped carpet floor a dance floor for one exciting, atmospheric and rather energetic night.

‘Patterns’ was conceived by Steve during Lockdown in collaboration with his three machines; his Roland TR8 Drum Machine, Yamaha QY100 Sequencer and Roland SH 01a mono synth. Steve recognised the time was ripe for creating and, experiencing a certain kind of symbiosis between him and his machinery, he formed his initial concept for the piece within a day.

When I first started talking to Steve about putting on a live performance here in Gisborne, he spoke of his desire to bring together an exploration of minimal composition, repetitive beats and spaciousness with a contemplative visual backdrop to create an experience that went beyond entertainment [1] and encouraged the immersion of the audience into the experience.

For Steve, this first outing of ‘Patterns’ provided the opportunity to test drive his concept. It also gave him the chance to curate an entire experience in which every aspect was carefully considered and entirely intentional, from Campbell Ngata’s opening DJ set, whose choice of tunes lent a gentle familiarity and therefore some sense of normalcy to the sparce unknown space, to the choice of the space itself..

Steve talks of growing up partying in spaces like the Lowe Street one. But he also refers to the space as an acknowledgment of the origins of the music he makes, an homage if you like, to the grimy groundbreaking beginnings of electronic music; the reclamation of those disused spaces so closely intertwined with the sense of freedom expressed by the new, interesting and exciting forms of music coming alive inside them at the time.

Using a vacant building was also important to Steve because “there are so many of these empty decaying buildings in Gisborne right now - we need to take back some that real estate and give it life, make it vibrant and do interesting things that stimulate people and get them excited”.

For those of us lucky enough to experience this first outing of ‘Patterns’, the atmospheric location certainly added another layer to the visual package delivered alongside the audio, with its themes of decay and patterns; namely the particular pattern that we as humanity have been running the past hundred years or so, which is revealing itself to have been not such a great one. The visual compilation which was played in reverse, delivered a strong message of the need for us to undo what we have done.

For an audience who has become well-used to their electronic music experiences involving a DJ and a laptop, getting to dance to a guy who’s making the music in real time just a few metres away, (and pulling in wonderful additions such as the cassette tape loop technique he’s recently been playing around with), it was no wonder that Saturday night’s audience showed their appreciation for the Carrier show in a big way.

So while Steve had his own ideas about how this piece that he’s been plugging away from the safety of his headphones these past few months might be received, he wasn’t at all prepared the the outcome, which he describes as “a crazy thing”.

He suggests that it was some kind of perfect storm in which the heightened excitement of a group of people brought together in a new space to experience something largely unknown, in combination with his material translated through an incredible sound system, created a lot more energy than he’d expected.

“Art is designed to evoke a response, but you cannot control what that response is” Steve soliloquised, “and in this case the response was overwhelmingly crazy”.

The last 20 plus years has seen Steven King move through many aspects of the electronic music scene. He has worked alongside many NZ artists including Pitch Black and the Nomad, audio genius Chris Chetland from Kog, and has shared compilations with household names like Trinity Roots and Fat Freddy’s Drop. King has released music in the U.S, Europe and the U.K and his music continues to be selected by DJs on European sound systems. He has been the opening act for international artists like Mad Professor and David Harrow - The James Hardway Quartet and has played to huge audiences like those that attended the One Love Festival’s and the Cuba St and Newtown Carnival’s in Wellington [2].

We are lucky to have Steven King and his musical talents in our midst, and we hope to see him sharing them with us again one day.. eh Steve!

Story by Sarah Cleave. Photographs X Scott Austin

[1] & [2] Excerpts from the Patterns event description written by Jo Pepuere.


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