Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Smells Like Improvisation (fifth letter to Lowri)

I like the fact that almost every time I go to Chorlton I bump into someone I know. In Stretford the only people I tend to meet who I know are David Birchall and his partner in love Helen Brealey who live quite close to where I live. On Saturday I bumped into audio-visual artist Andrea Pazos on the till of Unicorn Grocery and improvising drummer Richard Harrison outside Chorlton Bookshop just as it was closing.  Richard told me he was going to see Sam and the Plants at St Margarets Church in Whalley Range that evening. I had a plan to go to see Real Terms at Aatma, but I was so tired from the heatwave I slipped into a late siesta slumber and didn’t make it out of the flat again that day.
I made it back to Soup Kitchen on Sunday for that rare thing, a very well attended improv gig, put on by Emer Emer of Fat Out. It was also the first time I’d seen chairs set out in Soup Kitchen, although my friend Martyn Walker had been to another seated gig. Not everyone got a seat as there were probably more than twice as many people as chairs. I suppose half the people could have sat on someone else’s knee, but that would have probably proved impractical for three hours. There were probably more people I know at this gig than any other I’ve been to for quite some time. Britanny Hoie was on the door and told me she’d cut all her trousers into shorts because of the heatwave. It was nice to see a few people I hadn’t seen around for a while. Alex Macarte of Gnod opened his solo set under the name Ahrkh by lighting a couple of joss sticks which was a good idea as Soup Kitchen was even smellier than Friday. It smells of cleaning fluid mostly. Alex sat cross legged in front of the stage like some yogic noise guru with a suitcase of gadgets to mutate his vocals and found sounds. He started out with quiet countryside ambience and birdsong that soon rose to a textured roaring, almost like a plane taking off. It made me think of Sale Water Park where you can hear the sounds of nature but always with the cars on the motorway in the background. It would have been easy to believe he was using multiple speakers but it was a stereo mix. The roar receded to reveal some gentle radiophonic beeping, like a rainbow over a river. More vocals transformed into layered drones, but these were not as engulfing as the initial roar. It was beautiful and violent, like nature. After he’d cleared away his gadgets the duo Mếsange appeared in front of the stage both wearing dresses, guitarist Luke Mawdsley wearing red lipstick and yellow eyebrow glitter and violin player Agathe Max with a painted on black moustache that made her look strangely like Salvador Dali. I just tried to tag Salvador Dali but I think he’s been deleted. Their music was not improvised, as Luke Mawdsley said one tune “The Cake” was from their album. Agathe mostly bowed but also plucked the violin and looped it, playing over the loop. Luke was funny to watch, pulling daft poses. Their music was elegant, intense and beautiful, and made me forget I was in a dingy smelly basement, suggesting vast mountainous landscapes. The stage had been set up with two drum kits facing each other at either end. These were played by Susie Ibarra on the left and YoshimiO of Boredoms and OOIOO on the right. YoshimiO also sang through a headset microphone and played a small synthesiser. Standing between them behind an open suitcase was Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. In the suitcase were the magical gizmos that transformed his vocalisations into strange new shapes whilst Yoshimi and Susie interacted with each other’s scattery clatter. Behind them was a slowly shifting projection of coloured lines. It was a unique performance that had me in a trance state for a while. Martyn had also seen them at Supersonic and said they were even better tonight. I’ve heard their recording of their first performance “Flower of Sulphur” and it’s a mere shadow of how they played tonight. Improvised music is always best heard live and documentation in the form of recordings rarely gives more than an impression of the impact of actually being there and experiencing it in the moment. They’ve also had longer to interact and get to know each other now, so consequently their playing has become more sensitive, nuanced and interesting. My friends Miriam Ma Ve and Sam told me they’d walked eighteen miles that day and they still made it to the gig! Lucky for them they arrived early enough to sit on chairs. When they left I asked them if they were going home to die. I doubt I’d make it out to a gig after walking eighteen miles in a heatwave.

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