This is my first introduction to the ‘viola d’amore’. What a beautiful looking and sounding instrument it is.
Emma Lloyd seems to have no problem wrestling with its fourteen strings indeed during the first piece she plays with some strange electronic mitten on her fingering hand and is wired up her sleeve through to what we in the know refer to as a box of tricks. It’s unclear to me whether the subsequent skronks and squeals are being manipulated /generated by colleague Matthew or if it’s purely her own handiwork (Boom, Boom!)
After ‘Solo for Viola d’amore and Electronics‘ is finished, she removes this cybertronic oven glove and reverts to ‘normal practice’ with yer man at the desk throwing his all into treating the sound and how it arrives at our ears.
She is very, very good and indeed so is he.
After the interval we hear
Do You Remember the Planets?
and finally Prologue from Les Espaces Acoustiques
The duo are launching a new album tonight and while I am engrossed, if not engorged, with this sonic dish……. I am unsure whether I would splash out on their platter. This is all about being in the moment and watching her exertions and her peching and panting, for it is a strenuous, or appears to be, performance to be sure, I’m not sure sitting down with the Sunday papers and a cup of coffee would make me feel the same. Nevertheless I would cheerfully fork out my hard earned readies to experience this again ‘in the flesh’. Bravo!
It’s always a sign of a good gig when you wish your pals were there too and so it was with tonight’s soundlab featuring Jim McKenna.
Within two minutes of him beginning his latest composition entitled Fata Morgana (a modest 45 minutes long) I was really regretting not insisting that Spanner, and to a lesser extent Shields, had accompanied me to The Recital Rooms tonight.
Commanding a conglomeration of analogue synths, sequencers, and (I think) an echo facility all arranged in a somewhat abstract eccentric fashion, that to me resembled a recently ram raided Cash Converters, the music that emanated was absolutely sublime. Imagine a Popul Vuh/Tangerine Dream soundclash and you might begin to get a flavour of the feast that was laid out before us. I was absolutely mesmerised and will be watching out for further performances.
A cliché, I know, but the tunes tonight are soundtracks to movies that have yet to be filmed. As I slowly drift off on a flight of fancy I can almost see Gordon Brown, ragged trousered and completely alone, riding a horse along an unknown beach. He stops and we zoom in close to his widening eyes and sweated brow
“Oh my God… I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [falls to his knees screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! AH, DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Kelpies sticking out of the sand)
What a perfect night to go see someone attack a piano with horsehair.
“It’s rock and roll, Jim but not as we know it”
Dressed in blue dustcoats, and looking like a pair of pantomime mad scientists, our protagonists, Graeme and Sven, stood pushing and pulling some absolutely heavenly sounds from their distressed piano. Due to the nature of the instrument, the finite length of the equine tailfeathers and the required proximity of the players, it was difficult occasionally to see what they were up to. Milking a cow? An impromptu game of Wiff Waff?
Regardless. At all time, the sound, which is what I was there for after all, was wonderful and superb. A sawing polyphonic multi-timbred racket ricocheting around the rafters of the sonically ‘bright’ Recital Rooms.
The sort of thing you could imagine a short trousered Phillip Glass whistling on his milk round.
Type John Cavanagh’s name into Google and, nearby, you’ll nearly always see references to Syd and The Piper at The Gates of Dawn.
However, this evening, that isn’t the album that’s holding a lit Zippo to the feet of my synapses, and making me applaud, as Mr Cavanagh, in his occasional guise of ‘Phosphene’, accompanies an edited version of Roger Corman’s movie, The Raven.
No,instead, it’s flashes of my favourite pieces of musical mayhem from that second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, that keep flashing past the inside of my eyelids………….…and that’s no bad thing at all!
Like some modern day silent film pianist (the soundtrack and dialogue had been muted) he beavered away be-headphoned, twiddling, twerning and cajoling all sorts of synchronised accompanying squeals & sounds from his VCS3 (or Putney as we in ‘the know’ like to call them)
The first half, meanwhile was a tad gentler with John reading a short fairy-tale, The King That Would See Paradise, from Andrew Lang’s ‘Orange’ Fairy Tale Book (1906) This piece came in at just around half an hour long and featured a pleasant burbling analogue synth, reminiscent of Tim Blake’s early work. I could also hear many percussive delay sounds that recalled Dave McRae’s intro to Matching Mole’s ‘Gloria Gloom’.
When not reading the text, and indeed what a sonorous timbre he has, John also made good use of chimes, some Ganesh style singing bowls and heavily processed/delayed/choral vocals.
As the story ascended to its inevitably bleak denouement we were treated to a Cavanagh clarinet solo so shrill, deranged and unexpected, it would have sounded quite at home snuggling up to Flash Gordon’s Ape. I was annoyed to hear that this was the penultimate soundlab show as I would have liked to have experienced more.
To paraphrase Janice Nicholls, “I’d give it foive!”