Monday, April 06, 2009

Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Matt Eliott, Gary Smith, Nat Baldwin, Silver Stairs of Ketchikan and Silver Pyre

The Arnolfini, Bristol handcrafted by qujunktions

Arrived just in time for the frustratingly early performance, ditching the car on the outskirts of Beddy and walking the rest… the heat of the day lingering nicely with the birdsong and the rattly exhausts of homebound traffic…

Last time I was at the Arnolfini my kids got told off for attempting to play with the exhibits, they’re still struggling with the concept of conceptualism … but all the artwork seemed safely tucked away for the night… never realised the place had venue possibilities, always seemed a bit too clean and studious… but behind those stage doors the factory modernity tended to melt away…

The Darkroom was just that, floor, walls, ceiling all sucking the light out, the performance spot lit…throwing out séance like double shadows… Charlie’s show was pure magic, and gleamed with a pearlescent finish… the low ceiling transforming that biscuit tin rasp of previous into a rusted metallic ache, growing immense and powerful, rattling out a dangerously loose rub of train axels, the speakers full of rivets n gravel sheeting, smoothed out on a gradual violin drone… bells, a bowl ring and a voice that curls in your head like a plume of opiate smoke…







Yiddish, middle eastern flavours poured out of the violin then transformed to a Nico ‘Valley of the kings’ harmonium, phasing out slowly into guitar lines that bit along their fading shadows. Coloured treads caught on an incoming tide, full of bass chasms and exquisite chord recovery, those vocals falling between the gaps… the chords forcing the emotion open then closing it with coffin nails…or trying to get the feeling right and suffering the mistakes…all ending in expelled breath like a sudden gust of wind cut dead.

The auditorium was more stadium like, heaving with bodies for the next act Silver Pyre – a fairly new outfit (well to me at least) featuring G. Fawle on guitar /vox and Bristol’s Tom Bugs swapping his usual electronics for a drum kit and Tibetan finery… a yummy ethnic crumble awash in evocative percussion, particularly liking those tribal beats that fell like paddled water.





A multitude of brassware textures, blended with the drone of the E-bowed guitar, the vocals squeezed out like toothpaste…a tangle of folksy qualms. The screen, washed in shifting masks, colours and grainy coastal distortions… the music bleeding out after-images as that squeeze box and quaking digital pad combo lit the way towards more danceable territories…

For Wildbirds and Peacedrums, I was up in the gods on a nice comfy seat so excuse the shitty long distance snap…



they were all over the place but in a good way…
one minute gospel tinges of Nina Simone, next Bat for Lashes breathy expressions, then Voodoo washboard blues, the words full of snakes and blackened wings… Super charging the place, their energies spreading like a virus… the drums were fantastic, like Budgie on those early ‘Creatures’ albums and at other times, pure full tilted trauma, even the singers legs or feet seemed to be mic(ed) up, adding to the percussive overload… her vocals ‘taken over’, oozing with enthusiasm, the words resonating meanings, connecting… Sarah would have absolutely loved this lot…






Back in the darkroom, Nat Baldwin was one voice and a double bass. Starting from abstract flutterings, he created a rub of rhythm, a semi-apparent glue to that heartache of vocals falling from his mouth. It was incredible hearing so much flowing out of so little… I thought the double bass was a bit redundant in the avant equation, but this chap was a certainly a master of resuscitation.

Gary Smith – Astounding guitar playing, pure originality melting from his hands …crumpled, scraped textures, broken bones…a lot of crap is said about guitarists that make their instruments speak but this man’s literally did, in a never ending stream of alien tongues, magnified insects, bird chirps and others, sounding like over wound clock workings skipping, clicking and whirring through serrated cogs. There was a hell of a lot more in there which certainly conflicted with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution… suddenly a ring tone goes off… ‘Ah, fuck off’ snaps Gary, breaking concentration… The structure all loose but accommodating, sometimes exploding in ear piercing volume..





the sound wascrystal clean, very little effects in there apart from a volume pedal, the glory of lite steel bouncing along your inner ear like a malfunctioning fairground attraction opening up fresh channels of inquiry, leaving me with the stupidest of grins.

Squeezing in mid-set, Matt Elliot was a real Cocteauesque moment, ghostly white hands guiding me across the darkened room… Oh this was another jewel in the night’s events… loop-o-matic … ‘abyss black’ screaming…



a melancholic delight and a superb guitar player, his plucking hand a crumbling swastika of activity… I’ve been loving this ‘jaded mistral’ direction his music has been taking lately… his ‘Drinking Songs’(2005) was a sepia saturated downer of the highest order, aching like the creaking spine … a library of infinite sadness…. I was overjoyed that a few tunes from that album crept in to the set, suitably tear soaked, and full of angsty energies…





the ending was killer, a Third Eye Foundation click of beats and warped tempos… an over saturated beast that transformed to a sloth dub before dying to muted abstraction.



A night of lovely people, and great music… I left before the Dirty Projectors, still feeling the burn of the time change…the river possessed an eerie shiver that night… the trickling sounds prickling the skin with it psycho-plasmic ways , traffic blissfully absent… the buds on the trees, looking like speared snow in the pissy yellow lights.

2 comments:

Bagpuss said...

Great review, wish I could of been there, so gutted I had to sell my ticket..

Cloudboy said...

it was a fab night for sure, seems to be the season for shows to sell out... would have been great to meet up, i was too distracted by gonga the last time...