Bohren und der Club of Gore @ Saint John-at-Hackney

Religious listening


Saint John-at-Hackney is hardly the most atmospheric of holy music spots (especially in competition with the likes of the Union Chapel). But Stephen O'Malley (Sun O)))) was in place (quite late) with his guitar, ready to inject the ambiance with hypokinetic electric waves. His lingering dooming drones aptly accompanied the frustrated church-goers who, after a long wait in the delightful London drizzling, rushed in on a hunt for a couple of beers and a good viewpoint. While O'Malley expanded on our sense of menacing melancholia, those on the upper floor discovered that they were slightly cheated on the acoustics - luckily profiting, instead, on the moody rain projections dancing to the sound on the opposite wall... The tad monotonous soundscapes and projections lost their magic after a while and once everybody had rested in their places, a few of us agreeing that the set was ideal only as accompaniment music for the unsettling crowd.

Bohren und der Club of Gore later took the guitarist's spot on a colourful minimalist stage dotted with saturated lights (as opposed to O'Malley playing in the complete dark) for an evening of slow, soulful immersion, under the sounds of their characteristic saxophone, keys, bass and drums. Their highly contained moves, flawless timing and precision on their instruments instantly set the rhythm, splitting the audience between the laid back dreamers diving in with closed eyes, and the deserters quietly slipping out for a fag.

Stephen O'Malley
In such a slow-burning, low key sonic context, there is a fine line between inspired broodiness and sheer boredom. Unlike past attempts, their latest album Piano Nights falls under the same theory but follows a very different practice, the band rather shifting towards the latter. Painfully uneventful a lot of the time, their set was lacking the quietly building, mysterious sexual tension of 1995's Midnight Radio, sending nuances of false maturity. Clearest of all sounds was the band's well-executed control - and sobriety in slow motion can hardly ever be that exciting, or reach that far inside.

Based on the resounding enthusiastic cheers, part of the crowd apparently read a lot between the lines. But, to a lot of us, Bohren failed to give much heat to the menacing theatre of the subconscious, which could have truly made the night shoot into the sphere of a freaky slo-mo Lynchian drama.
As it was, let's just say it was more lazy dinner party, less shady jazz club.

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