Saturday/Sunday, May 21st-22nd @ the Sage, Gateshead, UK
Kicking off the Saturday were freak-out noise stalwarts Vibracathedral Orchestra who quickly reached a raucous humming peak which seemed to just sit going nowhere in particular (much like the penultimate set from similarly noisy Ashtray Navigations collective). With members strolling across the stage looking for something to give a good walloping there was a lack of engagement from several elements. The toy town performance of My Cat is an Alien saw them backing their guitar / electrics mash-up with both the playful primary coloured world of ray guns and lightsabers and a short film of a wire man dragged through greying thinning snow. Fully committed to putting on a show they combined a serious musical show with Day-Glo theatrics. Improvisational guitarist Kazuo Imai split the audience right down the middle with his hyper-frantic attacks and scurrying random note picking along the fretboard. Not satisfied with this he also bent strings with wood and a chain creating sounds not normally associated with stringed instruments. The lack of structure or conventional musicality seemed even too much for those coming to watch experimentation. Taking a simpler almost non-performance path were Nmperign who built a wasteland of space through the mishandling of their trumpet and mini-sax through sheets of metal and dismantled parts of their instruments. Producing distant ambient sounds, cooing and a kind of metallic chirping they managed to create spaces around the distant echoing framework of the improvised piece. Rounding off the Saturday Takehisa Kossugi played in front of two screens of identical rolling oceans to create a swell of sound and the most conventional moments of music of the whole weekend within this sea through his emotionally charged violin playing. Manipulating electronic sound upon swaying sound he built a deep well of circulating noise which he spurred on with sporadic but precise manipulation of his boxes.
Sunday opened with Jandek who, as expected, received a heroes welcome, which I suppose to much of the audience he was. Before he'd even played a note he had begun to creep me out. All in black and pencil thin with his reasonably baggy clothes tied in the middle with a sharp shiny black belt he looked textbook sinister. Topping it all off with an angled fedora covering much of his face and bathed in vein hiding blue light (the blue making his red hair look even brighter in turn making him look even paler) he looked every inch the recluse. From the looks and sounds of the playing the rhythm section were unaware what they were playing along to, taking cues from Jandek's brief nods and stares. His scratching reverbed chords a fuller Blixa Bargeld sound that never changed during the set making many of his depression fuelled murder ballads sound like they descended from cheap vodka as opposed to whiskey aged blues. Any imagined similarities to Nick Cave's narrative style were short-lived as Jandek failed to adequately express himself vocally or lyrically leaving himself sounding either like an emotional cripple or a total wreck depending on your point of view.
Popping back up again to give a brief and very well lit 25 minute laptop set Bhob Rainey and Greg Kelly (performing outside of the possibly self-imposed restrictions of their nmperign moniker) gave their second refreshing performance of the weekend. This time they brought a wave of nostalgia for those early and primitively otherworldly FSOL ambient sets that circled the globe in the mid-1990s. Drafted in at the last minute to replace an ill Luc Ferrari, famed minimalist Charlemagne Palestine stole the weekend away from anyone else's grasp. The insertion of a real character into the weekend was a breath of fresh air from the somewhat po-faced serious which many performers had about their work. He was happy to banter with the audience on bell ringing and cognac managing to be both humorous and informative; actually going so far as to discuss his piece! Seated between the keyboards of two Steinway pianos he played a sometimes rousing sometimes sad minimal piece creating patterns and repeating sounds through the room's reverberations. When these days does anyone get time to get lost for fifty minutes, eyes closed, in pure beautiful music in a room of strangers? After this a brief set by The Goat (a collaboration between James Hindle and James Green) managed to keep things quiet with a showcase of songs from their yet to be released debut showing off a pluckable but awkward folksy charm.
Looking like a member of the Japanese Whitesnake Shuji Inaba (leathers,
shades and bleached long blonde hair) rewarded those who sat through
his early improvised bangings with a set of acoustic impassioned native
tongued folk. Leaving his guitar two strings short after his last
furious ballistic strumming he certainly deserved more than the half
empty hall put off by his appearance. Open minds eh? Local act
Jazzfinger instantly had the crowd in the palm of their jazzhands and
luickly cancelled out fears that the Marshall Speakers and Nirvana
t-shirt were going to lead to a long feared grunge revival. Great black
tobacco breaths of some great drunken ugly thing stormed across the
stage engulfing radio distortion, bowing guitar and someone banging
shit (not literally but there's an idea for next year lads). A short
powerful coherent set.
With their first show outside of Japan the two piece guitar and drums
combo of Kyoaku No Intention looked totally unfazed by the event and
crowd. They proceeded to play very very loud taking an edge of skin off
your inner ear in the opening bars of their colossal sounding set.
Shoji Hano's free drumming expertise let him roam the kit bashing out
seven shades of runny shit, flailing at the edge of control. Munehiro
Narita's guitar was perfectly complemented by this as he left Hendrix
for dead ripping out huge extended solos only to crash back into
bleeding noise and FX pedal fuckery. No structure no future. They left
the crowd ringing, dazed and hoping for this relatively new venue to
organize this event annually.
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