REVIEW: Xani makes magic

By Andra Jackson

Xani Kolac‘s latest performance provided her audience with an imaginative experience that was both aural and visual. In her concert in the Melbourne Recital Center’s salon on Saturday 23 September, the violinist invited her audience to leave behind their expectations of what constitutes the “normal” boundaries of a concert. What she created was a bold new world of quadraphonic sound meets improvisation and high-tech sounds.

For the performance titled Xani Makes, the audience was surrounded by a wall of sounds emanating from four speakers in each corner of the room. Each speaker projected a different sound or phrase. This created a layered effect and the sounds, some more musical than others, changed between each segment of the concert.

The barefoot violinist took the stage in a dramatic black velvet catsuit with a decorative gold trim at the front. The square-shaped stage allowed her to move around to face the audience, seated on each side of the stage. For much of the concert, she was inside a curtain of lights beamed down cone-shaped like from above the stage. She constantly nimbly worked an array of electronic devices laid out on the floor.

Xani opened the concert with an improvising bracket on the violin against the backdrop of sounds coming forth from around the room. The music she produced was coloured by the use of sustains and electronic pedals and looping. Some were just glorious sweeping long notes that rang out in the room but she also created bursts of attractive and interesting little phrases of melody and rhythms as well as the ‘wah-wah’ effects of a guitar. She did it seamlessly and in harmony with the quadraphonic sounds.

In what was more like performance art, the violinist then took listeners into the realm of outer space, a subject she enthused that she avidly pursues. It was here that the stage lighting was most effective. The Underground Physics laboratory at Stawell in Victoria which researches dark matter was the inspiration for one set. Her improvisation against a sound that was like heavy footsteps evoked the image of plunging into this underground world.

Another conjured the eerie and strange feeling of what it might be like to approach a dark hole. As Xani joked, if you put your foot in, you would have your foot in the future and your head in the past.

There is no doubting Xani, a former member of the Indie group Twoks is a virtuoso musician who sees no boundaries in music. At times her improvisations drew on the exhilaration of Irish jigs. In her Black hole Dance, she emulated the repetitive feel of disco and techno music. At times during the concert, she tapped a rhythm on her violin; other times, used her fingers along the strings to find the exact effect she wanted.

During the concert, Xani invited audience members to walk around the salon and experience the different sounds from each corner. She also most unusually, said people were welcome to photograph and video the show.

Musically, this was a concert that never sagged. Every moment was enthralling and engaging. It was also rhythmically compelling throughout. Xani finished the night by singing in a warm enveloping voice, a beautiful song she wrote about the Galaxy. There was no doubting the audience’s appreciation.