Thursday, 14 June 2012

Far Out

There's been a lot of noise around this week, most of it bizarre and most of it high quality. What you can see here is a photo of a man called Robert Curgenven noodling around at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, and coaxing a series of atmospheric pops and drones from five decks on which various (presumably related) discs were spinning. He was second on the bill at the 'We Can Elude Control' festival of experimental electronica which ran last weekend, and which is the sort of crowd-dividing venture that often evokes quite violently strong positive or negative reactions in the listener.

As I was completely in the mood for a bit of barmy old postmodernism, I was more than happy to stand there and look serious to what others might have described as the amplified hum of a dozen domestic appliances overlaid with a rhythm track from an electricity transformer station sited on a busy roundabout. Less successful was the woman whose soundscape comprised a 'live broadcast' from a microphone placed at the top of Beachy Head five miles away; the sound of crashing waves and shrieking gulls, whilst possibly a technical marvel to obtain, really just sounded like exactly what we could all see going on outside the window - ie, crashing waves and shrieking gulls. The Sussex coastline just doesn't change that radically in five miles, I'm afraid. The second session in the middle gallery below was far more mellow and hypnotic, with the 'artists' twiddling their bits in front of a largely supine audience lolling among the huge Cerith Wyn Evans SUPERSTRUCTURE light and heat installation. The radiating warmth and mesmerising illumination of the artworks infused the crowd with a kind of collective atrophy, and four big jolly pensioner ladies who had wandered unaware into the De La Warr simply couldn't understand (or bear) what they were seeing or hearing. "They're all just lying there nodding like they're in a bloody trance!" one of them bellowed, heading for the exit with her hands over her ears. I've tried to add a sound file from a section I recorded on my phone but I can't do it, so you'll just have to trust me that she was wrong. Partly.

We had something else on in the evening back in Brighton so had to leave before the high point, which was to be Cosi Fanni Tutti from Throbbing Gristle in a rare live appearance, but my guess is it would have been more of the same, which is to say I haven't a clue what it would have been like. Still, what we saw was great fun if you're in the mood, or the worst excesses of self-indulgent art wankery if you're not. I had a great time (and how nice it was to see old punk war veteran Kirk Brandon among the audience, looking quite meltingly handsome. I was a bit hurt that he didn't recognise me from that time he danced with me at the Zap Club, but I guess it was eleven years ago.). And all for free!

More upbeat but just as bizarre were San Francisco's Moon Duo who entertained me hugely on Tuesday night at Brighton's Green Door Store. Immensely hairy dude Ripley Johnson is Chief Head with the absolutely far-out drone combo Wooden Shjips, and lissom keyboard minx Sanae Yamada is his lady (he's done well, I'm telling you.). Together they grab you and smash your ear against their wall of cosmic sound, all deep fuzz guitar and repetitive driven riffs, with Mr Hairy's sinister vocals buried helplessly a long way down in the mix. She puts on a bit of a show from behind her bank of effects boxes, a bit like she's  the little sister of Stacia from Hawkwind but without the massive distracting knockers (Stacia without the massive distracting knockers, I hear you cry, what would be the point of that?). Anyway, it's a bit like Suicide getting together with Neu! and coming up with a rock operetta about Jeffrey Dahmer. All very dark, all very unsettling, and all making for a fine night's entertainment. The crowd - mostly over 35s but with a pleasant sprinkling of well-pleased twentysomethings - were very happy indeed, if a little tinnitused, by the end.

If you'd like a little taste of the gig, turn all the lights off and turn this up as loud as you can. But I won't be hurt if you hate it. This stuff is not for everyone...


  1. That was so the Monks on codeine.

  2. Replies
    1. Every once and a while I hear something that makes me think...IF I was the kind of person that used to buy small quantities of dope from Waffle House waitresses, and smoke that dope til I was cross eyed, then put headphones on...I wish I hadn't stopped. If, of course, I was the kind of person that used to do a thing like that.

  3. That's a big 'if', naturally...

  4. You know, I thought that was ok, actually! Sitting here with the lights up (sorry) and the sound at a tolerable volume so as not to upset the neighbours I'd probably have preferred it condensed into three minutes... But I know that if I was there to see them, or even more so if I actually WAS Mr Hairy or Ms Stacia-without-the-massive-distracting-knockers, I would have been as hooked as they were.

  5. That's exactly it, C. Once there, you are mesmerised...

  6. Hmmm... not over keen on the music but I see what you mean about teh keyboardist!

  7. Had no idea there was a Wooden Shjips off-shoot, so this is new to me...and great! Thanks for the intro. A hugely entertaining post.

  8. My pleasure! Seeing Wooden Shjips next weekend in Hamburg!!