Cubic revolutions: Apparatjik live


It’s not that we don’t like Josh Homme or Dave Grohl, we honestly do, but it’s a still refreshingly appealing idea to us to see a modern supergroup (a band formed by members of other already known and /or successful bands) without one of the rock heroes. Fortunately we have the chance to see such an act, when Apparatjik, a common project by musicians Jonas Bjerre (Mew), Guy Berryman (Coldplay), Magne Furuholmen (a-ha) and Martin Terefe with some audiovisual artists, the Eye On Committee, arrive in Berlin to perform for their very first time live on stage at CTM.10 aiming to overthrow the classic conception of a gig, what leads into one of the most remarkable nights in a long time.

While Damon Albarn’s pop identity Gorillaz are hiding behind computer generated projections or shadow plays of themselves and Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant’s cubic mania makes him sing with a transparent one on his head, Apparatjik take the next step by locking themselves in a big cube with an edge length of about 10 ft and dissipating the traditional stage-audience constellation by placing their came-to-life Rubik dream in the hall’s center.

There it stands alone and silent on the second floor of the WMF when the public is allowed to step inside the room. On the plane strained over the cube’s side complex, black-and-white scientific diagrams, which were already shown on the bands website, are gleaming and the speakers are transmitting a strange sound like wind blowing through a cave grot. Fascinated and with high expectations people are grouping around the strange object in their middle, which seems to have put them under its spell.

The scene reminds of a cult moment or the landing of a spaceship until it, and with it the room, turns suddenly blue and light parallelograms and triangles appear and disappear on the screen. Within the moment of realization and mentally adapting the cube again gets enlightened by a white flashing light inside of it synchronized to a heart, cutting synth beat and percussions, which just started to play. The concert begins. But where’s the band?

The light becomes steady and one can hear Jonas Bjerres voice resoundingly and softly laying itself above the rising and then falling music. On the screen wildly jumblede shadows of playing musicians get recognizable. Apparatjik are inside the cube! Then chain gears are screened – an apt metaphor for the band’s name, an alteration of the almost silent working, conflict avoiding ideal Soviet bureaucrat, the apparatchik.

Most of the animations were already shown online, for instance the cut out heads flaring over colourful landscapes. Later the giant faces merge into each other until they are puppet-like disfigured and alienated. In between one gets a lot of more eye candy, sometimes with the shadows of the artists standing inside the prison prism looming on them, sometimes without them, so one can hardly tell, how many people are really inside and what’s their current position. In addition the trapped-ins are constantly changing their hats and walk around in a circuit.

Thereby Apparatjik reduce the omnipresent idea of the pop star as a white screen or projection surface for the ideals, dreams and wishes of his / her / their fans to absurdity. Tonight it’s the artist and star itself, who becomes a literally a projection. And with the same meticulousness and effort, with which normally the perfect image of the star gets established, it gets  desconstructed tonight falling apart into hundreds of different single perspectives, each owned by one person in the audience placed in the 3D constellation. On top of it, it’s Bjerre (if he’s indeed behind the plane), who sings the following to it: “Is that what you wanted? Did you choose?” (Supersonic Sound)

But apparently the commercial mass phenomena  called pop star is well known to Berryman, Furuholmen and – with lowered sights – Bjerre – from their daily band life at Coldplay, a-ha or Mew. And after all it’s their skillful sense for pop as a musical concept, which they obtained and which made them able to not only realize this project, but reach their first-bands’ level of success.

Mainly they are playing pleasing up tempo pop rock songs with key synthesizer additions and Bjerre using the more higher realms of his voice. It sounds a bit like German band Polarkreis 18 in the end and is surely not half as visionary as their visual ideas but it leads to a bunch of both catchy and sophisticated songs “Snow Falls”, “Arrow And Bow” or “Antlers”, which wouldn’t just only be great singles, but do unfold some impressive forces beyond radio airplay.

In Berlin the whole extravaganza ends after a bit more than half an hour with breaking with Watzlawick‘s first axiom of communication by proclaim the “End of Communication“. Afterwards all spectators have to leave the room and the cube again so it’s still disputable whether Apparatjik challenged one to get involved in the project or to perform a final iconoclasm when Bjerre sings, “You can’t hide in the shadows!” (Arrow And Bow)

Visit the Youtube channels of The Mewing Kitten and RW23102009 for further and additional, filmed impressions of the gig. Apparatjik’s album We Are Here is available through their webseite, put you’ll have to find the link there first. Have fun!

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WORDS & PHOTOS: Thomas Vorreyer

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