A romantic dusk light settled outside Dalston's Oto Cafe, and an equally romantic one, created by the numerous candles, settled inside.
A new Kammer Klang evening was planned this month at Oto, the 3rd of the 4th series (they come back periodically, with new and interesting contemporary classical, electronic and improvised recommendations), starting with the first duo on the bill.
Soft as a spring breeze were cellist Lucy Railton and pianist comp
poser Leo Chadburn - only, before they got too suave, they stopped, just to start again. They brought together little pieces from John Cage's 44 Harmonies from Apartment House 1776 (the entire work lasts 103:26 start to finish), performed beautifully. Which only makes you think of how difficult it must be to perform such a fragmented piece, in need of technical skill, but also discipline and psychological restraint. Personally, I would find it hard enough to control my emotion, to which I'd put a barrier before it even began to flow.
Irish artist Jennifer Walshe went on next. Setting aside her established compositional skills for a fearless vocal piece entitled All The Many Peoples, she gave a vibrant performance. It didn't always work for me, but when it did it was smart, and it was good. The "...Peoples" incorporated "All the single ladies" and awkward internet snippets on how Twilight heroes Edward and Bella get pregnant - and the even more poignant question, how does vampire Edward get an erection? -, along with Strindberg and Beckett-inspired monologues.
Walshe sometimes overdoes it on mannerism, which could potentially work, as a novelty, but I felt like I had witnessed those spastic, idiosyncratic stutters a million times, and they almost always looked as inadequate (not that this inadequacy refers to Walshe's ability, rather than her choices). She had much more original, dynamic and funny moments, followed by expressive movement. Her more stirring verses echoed Laurie Anderson in Born, Never Asked in my head.
Sol Lewitt's wall drawing
On to the final performer for the night: Parisian composer Sebastien Roux asked the audience on the sides of the cafe to move opposite a line of 9 speakers, which he had placed at the back of the stage, in order to get Inevitable Music the way it was initially designed.
Inspired by Sol Lewitt's wall drawings, which, in Roux's eyes, appeared highly musical, he created pieces that translated Lewitt's visual instructions into sound - each lasting from ten seconds to ten minutes. To make the listener's experience more immersive, a pre-recorded voice announced before each piece its title, as well as the means used - the "instruments". Some pieces had more purpose than others, which gave a light impression of space-fillers - Inevitably the last piece, I remember, ended the evening inadequately...
Before that, though, there were uplifting electronic beats (the best part, hands down), alternated with a Bach cantata and oscillating wordplays, such as "Enough to be smart" and "Our soul is Spinoza". Which was all pretty good.
Text and Images by Danai Molocha, except Sol Lewitt's drawing by Kammer Klang.
The Chewers are Travis Caffrey and Michael Sadler. They each take turns on various instruments, testing how much they can twist, turn and mess up the result.
Quite a lot, truth be told.
Creepy, unstable and sinister, as much as it was rhythmically stimulating and uplifting, their debut Every Drop Disorganizedfulfilled its promise: It was purposefully disorganized at all the right places, leaving room enough for both technical ability and constructive chaos. That said, the duo has a knack for sonic autism, their repetitive anthems eventually threatened by alarming vocals and guitar fluctuations.
Back to the present, album number two Chuckle Change And Also lives up to the baffling Chewers standards. While the perpetually nutter art collective from Louisiana, commonly known as The Residents, are out touring their 40th anniversary show, a far newer ensemble from West Virginia (via Nashville) is ready to cause dexterous havoc.
Through the repetitious surrealism and (consistently) nightmarish vocals of tracks like Funnel Head and Techno-Slaves, blues quirks a la Tom Waits give a more earthy touch and, occasionally, guitars get as accessible as the electric sensuality of The Black Keys.
Variety and surprise here work both to uproot and bring back the feeling of comfort, which is what establishes the band's individual identity. To pretend to perpetually break new ground after all the above veteran music maniacs have said and done would be too much. The Chewers honor them no doubt, but they also can't help to disengage themselves from them, bringing in a current sense of humour mixed with disappointment in the apathetic world they live in - the radical sounds of old masters echoing in the background.
Tip: Can't tell if the duo has already spotted politically incorrect-as-it-gets movie Freaks (1932), but the Techno-Slaves's video assemblage sure bares a resemblance!...
Text by Danai Molocha, artwork courtesy of The Chewers.
Well, I haven't quite checked out all of the upcoming gigs yet (who dares? This music summer is
looking brutal for the poor), but here's where I'll be going - for now.
Mudhoney (8/6, The Forum)
I'm not actually going there, just cause I'll be out of town.
I surely wish I did.
I have yet to listen to their 9th studio release Vanishing Point in its entirety, but parts of it - I know - they rock.
Chelsea Light Moving (14/6, Village
The newly single Mr Moore got a new cool female bassist, and a couple of fellow crazy men following his current dream of wandering London, purposefully walking up and down Stoke Newington High Street to meet friends in his new favourite hangouts.
Pissed Jeans (5/7)
I hear PJ have already released four records.
And I just found out about them, accidentally looking through All Tomorrow's Parties events - highly, highly beneficial, once more..
Their latest, Honeys, on Sub Pop is more "refined", according to their label; for their standards, I presume. Check out the video on the left - and I'm taking bets on how refined you think Pissed Jeans can really get..
John Zorn (12/7, Barbican Hall). The avant garde's JZ is not just noisy. He's, officially, "experimental". And apart from his Kristallnacht and Morricone (don't you dare ignore The Big Gundown), he knows how to split your ears. For Zorn@60, Mike Patton and Marc Ribot (who I missed when he last played London, now, here's a splendid opportunity to catch up!) join him on stage - hopefully to share, apart from their insatiable eclecticism, a few mean shrieks and guitars.