IB Expo Live

Now in its 10th year, the premise behind the annual IB Expo is simple.

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A bunch of musicians from different disciplines and backgrounds relocate to a rehearsal space to live, work and play together, and at the end of a week, stage the results in public at a special one-off, sold-out concert.

Tonight, an ecstatic crowd roars their approval after a startling reworking of Hide The Trees, a number by King Crimson side-project Stick Men. Led from the back of the stage by drummer Pat Mastelotto and originally scored for a trio, here it gets a widescreen makeover with stabs of accented violins, snaking muted trumpet, vibraphone and ominous swells of gong.

Mastelotto, enjoying his fifth appearance at IB Expo, grins as they traverse ascending lines and cross-cutting time signatures that transform the spirit and tone of the original into something with the grandeur of a Mahavishnu Orchestra epic. It’s typical of the inventive arrangements of material by Brand X, King Crimson, Japan and the other bands represented that pepper the evening’s two sets.

With every number played, the amount of musicians on stage fluctuates. Anything from one – a short but phenomenal solo classical guitar recital by Italian virtuoso Christian Saggese – right up to the entire cast of 16. With the precision of a well-drilled classical ensemble orchestra, their sound is meticulous with arrangements that produce powerful combinations and rich contrasts.

When Lisen Rylander Löve (electronics & sax), Katrine Amsler (keyboards) and Qarin Wikström (electronics and voice) are left alone on stage, they conjure a dense cloud of dissonant frequencies, shards of menacing autoharp strings and, after a while, a metronomic beat built from numerous buzzes and glitches. With disconsolate lines from Löve’s tenor sax biting through the haze of distortion, it ends with thousands of detuned radios washed up along a desolate white-noise shore.

Richard Barbieri, at his second Expo, revisits his 2008 solo album, Stranger Inside and the spellbinding All Fall Down, wherein Barbieri’s miasma of haunted electronics merge with Samuel Hällkvist’s chiming guitar. Percy Jones’ trademark elastic bass gets under the skin. Mel Collins, who earlier in the evening had expressed his admiration for the IB Expo team, pounces upon the implicit and explicit harmonies within the shifting swirl of sound, hitting upon a deep seam of melodic gold.

A remarkable international event, IB Expo exemplifies what can be achieved when people co-operate. Rest of the world, please take note!

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.