My reaction to Delirio Tiránico Atómico Español was perfectly summed up by the nice-looking woman sitting in front of me – who after ten minutes of radiating polite interest, gave up and attempted to stuff her scarf into her ears. If wilful discordance offends your musical sensibilities, then this is a show to stay clear of. It’s an auditory assault of incomprehensible proportions. And I say that as a man who quite enjoys the bagpipes.
Spanish artist Hyperpotamus is the master of the loop pedal: that now-ubiquitous bit of digital kit, which lets you build complex melodies by recording and repeating fragments of a tune. And he uses his loop pedal more creatively than most, constructing heavy multi-layered soundscapes before suddenly cutting them right down to the basics again. But alas, all this wizardry counts for nothing unless the noises going into the technology are ones which bear repeating.
What Hyperpotamus feeds into his black box is a cacophony of yelling, occasionally punctuated by phrases drawn from a vast mix of musical styles. There are echoes of Wimoweh, a smidgeon of Crazy Frog, and (sacrilege!) an extended chunk of Strawberry Fields. There’s a rap number, complete with gang signs and a bandy-legged approximation at dance; there’s a pretty good impersonation of a bored British accent. Mainly though, there’s just a whole load of bellowing.
The frustration is that when Hyperpotamus does allow himself to actually sing a few bars, he reveals a rich and soulful gospel voice – which, surely, he could put to breathtakingly creative use in combination with his loop pedal. It’s such a shame, then, that he chooses instead to throw his head back and howl through cupped hands, over and over again.
In fairness, there are a couple of things I should say. The first is that the programme blurb suggests there’s some irony at work – though if that's the intent, I didn’t think it came through in the performance. And the second is that it felt like one of those out-there shows which you watch with utter bemusement, before something clicks and you decide it’s really rather wonderful. That moment never came for me, but perhaps on a different day it would have done.
If nothing else, Hyperpotamus is a welcoming performer, and Delirio Tiránico Atómico Español at least provoked a reaction. If you do go to see it, maybe you’ll understand it in a way that I simply didn’t. But take a scarf just in case.