C ÷ M: From Where? to Here

The Empty Space, Salford; Saturday 18th September, 2021

Craig Winstanley and Jon Ogara are the C and the M, respectively. There is no obvious explanation of why C has been divided by M in the way that it mysteriously has; no thought has been given to the havoc wreaked by use of the ‘÷’ symbol in this, the austere age of fussy File Managers and URL parsers.

But it’s not just the title that’s a little bit ~out there~. “From Where? to Here” is, as a whole, an undefined theatrical concept. It floats somewhere around the hazy centre of mass that lies between:

  • Art installation
  • Gig
  • Film

That makes it ripe for consideration as a Fringe proposition, and it certainly does a fine job of exploiting this unusual and mysterious locationing where few would fear to venture.

C and M are mostly preoccupied with the music. It takes just seconds to recognise that they’re both clearly very, very, very good musicians. On stage they’re hauling an impressive arsenal: guitars, saxophones, a flute, trombone, a couple of computers, they’ve even turned their monitor round so we can see the sequencer on screen.

It mostly appears to be a gig. The track titles are slightly more revealing than the show’s title:

  • Echo Chamber; 
  • Reflections; 
  • Sunrises; 
  • Birth

– this is instrumental indie folk and it’s all very good. It’s also very unique, deftly cruising around the more mainstream indie / folk landscape which might perhaps contain the likes of (British) Sea Power, Sigur Rós, Mt. Wolf, Sin Fang, Agnes Obel – it’s that kind of mystery mood music.

But then there’s a big screen too. And despite the centre-stage antics of C and M, the projected videos on the back wall have a strangely alluring pull, despite the fact that they mostly seem to be enunciating mundane banality – a patch of grass blowing in the wind; some vegetables boiling in a pan. Fear not: it looks a lot better than it sounds.

When these two art forms are allowed to invade the imagination together what results is a relaxing, art-installation-like experience. Something Daniel Avery-like perhaps, certainly when the full multimedia audio and visual effects combine to go on a deliciously naughty cerebral rampage.

Having got over the initial C, M and ÷ of it all, when you get a chance to kick back, relax and just let your mind flow you start noticing and feeling things – such as the sensation that there appears to be a ~five-minute-long periodicity / oscillatory flow as the performance sways between the sequenced songs and the much more free-jamming minutes of transition between each piece. The show almost certainly hasn’t been engineered that way, yet that’s what gets felt.

There is no formula or script being followed, there doesn’t need to be. Even the occasional mistake becomes irrelevant because it soon just evaporates into the fog of dexterous improvisation.

The powerful synth bases shake right through the body, the piercing high-pitches dance around the ears, the videos serve to induce a gentle trance. Given time, it all becomes more than just look and sound, it becomes a feeling. There’s something to be felt, to be drawn out from within.

From Where? to Here” cleverly pulls levers and twists knobs in the fertile mind that allows it to. C and M are two incredibly talented musicians just letting content flow. They deliver an improvisation piece that becomes immediately personal given that this exact output can never be recreated again.

This is a long, long way from theatre which is scripted, conventional, plotted, understood. But if you enjoy the idea of letting your abstract imagination run wild for an hour then C ÷ M is no longer a mystery question – it’s the answer.

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