Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Amal Gamal Ensemble and Grok - at the Cube Bristol - 18th March 2005

The Cube is one of the best kept secrets in the South West - it is constantly able to serve up an alterative to the standard pulp that passes as gigs nowadays and the quality and extent of its radar is just outstanding! In recent years, as well as mad avant-garde local talent they’ve pulled in the big names like Devendra Banhart, Sunburned Hand of Man, Jackie 0, Hood, Richard H Kirk, Cranes and what’s more amazing each show costs under a tenner and tonight was no exception.

First up for the evening was GROK, the duo presented us with a decent stab of 'Kraut' inspired electronic modulations. Their set though somewhat clichéd in places was off set by a film by the great Warner Herzog. Images were distorted in desert heat as floating drones intersected rippling psychedelics, Personally , I felt the sound could have benefited from more dynamics especially when the sun baked corpses of animals filled the screen, but overall they supplied an excellent taster of things to come.

The main attraction that night was the Amal Gamal Ensemble who's members included Stephen Thrower - occasional member of Coil and full time member of Cyclobe, and Dave Knight of Arkkon / Shockheaded Peters plus two other unfamiliar faces.

Dave Knight had an array of effects boxes daisy-chained before him and Mr Thrower had an intriguing collection of audio technology grafted to his keyboards which when combined with the other Korg user and Guitarist/electronic mixer guys gave a full on sound.

Another Herzog film was projected behind them, this time his visual testimony to the Kuwait Gulf War of 1990 and its brutal aftermath on the landscape; this was just jaw-droppingly spectacular with the majority of the footage shot from the air. The familiar became alien washed in dust and the oil's reflective light, collapsed refineries became like draped cloth, and the horizon became a great lake of crude oil broken by white transit routes and sinister shapes of ruin. The whole scale was huge and the sky as the camera reached the flaming wellheads was filled with choking black cloud.

The Ensemble proceeded with two short bursts of audio alchemy but was well into the swing of things by the third piece of their set, which eclipsed the previous two in both duration and intensity. The film diverted into a queasy trip through an abandoned torture chamber at one point – as the camera panned across the torture apparatus it was reflected in the clank of the ensemble, drill like murmurs and bursts of electronics that flowed around us. Crisp and ephemeral notes enfolded as a burnt out manual of instruction eerily flaked in the breeze, the absence of victims, making the traces of blood on the implements all the more profound.

The sculptural quality of the onscreen images added to the amorphous cacophony, long Godflesh like chords could be heard underneath the electronics, programmed beats descended into the heavy drones and vo-corded transmissions broke into beads of static. The scenes of man-made disaster were as unrelenting as the sound, as the camera traversed the scarred landscape of Kuwait plumbs of smoke and flame spouted from the musicians' silhouettes - this was a truly a soundtrack to the apocalypse.

As Fire-fighters grappled with the abnormality of their task on screen the musicians were locked over their individual instruments prising out the squealing tones and concentrating on keeping the sound from collapse their busy hands all over the keyboards but collapse it did in slow motion , Knight’s guitar work ceased and the droning keyboards faded slowly to enraptured applause.

Most electronic music is dull in comparison.

1 comment:

chowda said...

saw this on psilocybe cubensis , blew my head.