The Flaming Lips Boombox Experiment No. 13, The Forum London

There's something liberating about seeing an assortment of alternative musical talents, sitting like a school music assembly, looking expectantly towards the orchestrators of what can only be described as one of the most simultaneously frightening and beautiful musical experiences of the 1990s. The Flaming Lips have taken some brave steps to do something new and exciting with the performance of live music, all the while managing to sidestep pretension and create an astounding show that involves music which comes only from tapes.

The necessary tests provide some small amusement, as the musos try to get their tape starting technique in synchronisation with the grand scheme, but this is very much an ice breaker as Wayne Coyne stalks the walkway in his ubitiquous yellow raincoat and all present wonder 'Just exactly what is going to happen?'

The answer is almost humbling: the first song proper "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now" takes on a new form compared to its appearance on the 4cd "Zaireeka" album. Tonight, once Wayne's captivating story is told, the Disney feel is gone and the room is filled with a somehow exhilarating rumble that crawls around beneath a myriad of voices calling the refrain of the title. It's so LOUD and yet ambient, like a religious cult singing a welcome to an earth destroying earthquake---an effect no doubt aided by the ever assured Michael Ivins' manipulation of the multiple PA system arranged around the spacious Forum hall. When the aurally assaulting finale of several dogs barking from each of the 40 tape decks arrives, it feels like this could well end up being a harrowing evening.

At this point, pretty much everyone present is then in new water as we move to the five compositions in the set tonight which are played only at the Boombox Experiments. For most of us this is the only time we will ever hear this music---and witness three people controlling and manipulating the constituent sounds of that music in such an adept way.

The animated figures of Wayne and (the almost manic) Steven Drozd seem to be compulsive viewing for the 'orchestra' as the pair direct the control the volume of each of the forty 'Boomboxes' operated by the participants. What they do is to play each half of the orchestra both against and with each other---at some times it's like a decibel face-off, at others like a swelling body of water lapping from one side of the stage to the other.

As we go further through the set, the orchestra is used more and increasingly specifically, to create an incredible effect such as during "Realizing the Speed Of Life" when Wayne and then Steven bring in waves of Boombox sound featuring a baby crying. Laid against the dark melodies woven into the sound, this creates an incredibly real impact. Then Michael calls out the numbers of each Boombox in order to build a huge chorus of trumpets that begins "Heralding In A Better Ego." Before those eight minutes are over, we see random choices of Boomboxes to put in so many drums that go against the prevailing beat yet serve only to augment a buffeting sound that could almost make you fall over. The sheer abandon that creeps into the set by the time of "Schizophrenic Sunrise" means we have insects, birds, and breathing on one side of the stage---facing twenty harps plucking different chords that manifest in turn into lawnmowers. The result is an intense and incredibly dense sound that seems to fill not only the room but also your consciousness.

The perfect finale of "Altrusim" features the sample of Meg Ryan's faked orgasm (from "When Harry Met Sally") set against music that embodies the conflicting beauty and oppression of sex and lust. As Wayne and Steven wheel in different quarters of the orchestra to provide real emphasis to the sexual tension of the sequence, a pulsating bass makes the whole thing seem somehow sleazy and bad. The incredible thing here is the gravity of feeling provoked by this apparently simple five and a half minute composition. To see how Wayne and Steven become immersed in wielding that huge sound, to the point of almost falling over each other, only adds to the intensity of the whole thing.

The confused emotions provide a bookend to the set, as if to say "Well, here we are..." The feeling is that we all just got to see three people's total unadulterated vision. For the audience and the participants, a one time shot at witnessing something quite hyper-real and perhaps revelatory. It's a triumph for Wayne's stated intention of creating a new, involved and entertaining live musical experience. The final question really is, from the point of view of both the songwriter and the listener, where do you go from here? (Drew)

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