On Friday 11 August Perth space-rock band, Usurper of Modern Medicine put on a gig and exhibition at Little Wing Corner Gallery in Subiaco to launch an interactive augmented reality app they’ve put out to accompany their recently released Everything is Nothing LP.
Usurper themselves didn’t play, having launched the album at The Bird last month. Instead, live entertainment was provided by a selection of local experimental acts including Tactile AF (Matt Bairstow from Usurper), Doublethink Prism, Lana and Feels. The sonic futurist theme of this line-up was well-suited to accompany the demonstration of the band’s new software in the other room.
A record player was set up on a table with Everything is Nothing playing and a tablet mounted above. Attendees had been encouraged to download the app to their devices in advance but could also test it out on the tablet provided. The display from the tablet was also projected onto a nearby wall.
For those game to try on their phones, there was a little difficulty in getting it to work as shadows cast by others gathered around trying to do the same confused the app’s visual-tracking function that allows it to register to the top of the spinning record. Trying it from the mounted tablet, however, the experience was seamless.
Essentially the app works as an interactive visualiser controlled via a series of on-screen buttons. Each of the nineteen buttons is a character spelling out the album’s title and has a cryptic effect on the virtual display when highlighted. As a spectral skull hovers above the centre of the record, highlighting ‘E’, ‘T’ and ‘I’ on the right might allow you to drag fluorescent aquamarine particles into orbit around it that can be joined, for example, by a stream of bright orange spearhead shapes, a flourish of pastel rings and a deep purple comet tail, if you highlight the ‘G’ and the other ‘T’, before releasing the ’E’.
The fact that the way the controls work is so obscure adds a layer of mystery that holds your attention and produces unexpected results through a process of trial and error. While I couldn’t quite get the hang of it, others who spent more time playing around were able to build up densely layered kinetic patterns like those in this promo video.
Also on display, underscoring the high-tech theme of the evening, were 3D-printed objects from the app; the skull encircled by pixelated blocks.
Helping to demo the app were the software designer and Usurper frontman Steven Aaron Hughes, coder Steve Berrick and painter Liam Dee – whose fragmented and dreamlike figures inspired the dynamic in-app visualisations.
Overall, this event was unlike any other I’d been to in Perth. Each act was impressive and the excitement of a unique and stylish new media collaboration between local artists and musicians made for a great vibe. Special mention goes to Splodge’s 15-minute ad hoc spoken word interlude and Feels’ jumpsuits.
For those interested in purchasing a copy of Everything is Nothing, you can find it on Usurper’s Bandcamp page.
Images: Amber Bateup Photography