Felix Thorn is an artist who creates music using audio-visual sculptures designed and constructed by himself. The project ‘Felix’s Machines’ was originally built as an acoustic set of machines intended for gallery exhibitions, installations and intimate performances. Ed Handley and Andy Turner are the electronic music duo Plaid. They have been writing music together for the past 25 years, mostly for the British independent label Warp Records. Their open approach to composition has led to many collaborative projects with groups such as The London Sinfonietta and the Southbank Gamelan Players, blending modern synthesis seamlessly with real world instrumentation.
In 2009, Ed and Andy worked with Felix to create an original show with music written specifically for the machines. Since then, the collaboration has grown alongside Felix’s solo development of the machines, helping guide the physical configuration towards a more immersive live show experience. The Plaid and Felix’s Machines show brings together a unique mixture of natural amplification and audio processing synchronised with hypnotic patterns of light and movement.
The first performance took place in 2009 at the Arts and Architecture Biennale in Bordeaux. The setup involved experimenting with methods of amplifying the machines’ many intricate sounds. Transparent perspex tubes were used to help isolate individual instrument groups and reduce unwanted microphone feedback. In 2011, the show was upgraded for a live performance at Village Underground in London which included a one-off showcase of Felix’s automated harmonium.
A residency followed in 2014 at Workshop Infiné, in Normandoux, France, where the shows incorporated software sampler instruments, enabling Plaid and Felix to prepare compositions virtually. Recently, the collaboration developed during a residency at The Attenborough Centre of Creative Arts in Brighton.
A taller configuration was built for the machines and the performance now includes a midi responsive projection mapping system to overlay both on top of the mechanisms and their surroundings. This latest augmentation has inspired new compositions which continue to be refined and adapted in each space the machines perform in.