Last night’s concert then. I know I bang on a lot about the sense of community and mutual support amongst musicians around London right now, but last night was a great example. Not only were 90% of the audience other musicians that had come out in support in the icy weather when any other audience was staying home away from the snow and ice, but when the concert’s organiser Sebastian Lexer became unexpectedly snowbound in Germany and unable to fly in for the event, other musicians just stepped up and took over running the concert. Eddie Prevost drove down on icy, dangerous roads from Essex even though it was clear there would be little to no money to be earned from the performance, and an all round sense of camaraderie prevailed. The music was good as well.
The evning began with the trio of Paul Abbott, (electronics) Seymour Wright, (sax) and Daichi Yoshikawa (electronics). I have seen all three of these musicians play multiple times over the past year or so, but not in this trio formation before. Abbott added a snare drum to his set-up, which he strummed with his fingers as well as attaching all kinds of contact mics to. Yoshikawa’s table again centred around a single speaker sat upturned under an angle poised lamp, from which swinging and static microphones hung. Wright played only by blowing normally through his saxophone on this occasion, leaving the more percussive, less traditional sounds to his colleagues. The music they made was surprisingly more linear than I might have imagined, with Abbott in particular still introducing sudden blasts of feedback every so often, but for much of the time the music centred around streams of overlaid sounds from each musician, Yoshikawa worked almost entirely with feedback tones, sometimes rhythmic, pulsing ones as live mics would rock back and forth over the speaker. Abbott mixed up stark, abrasive electronics with other vibrating and grainy sounds conjured somehow from cymbals and the drumhead. As these two intertwined their hums, wails and squeals, so Wright, who was suffering from a nasty cold, generally played simple tonal notes between them. Although the music was a million miles from anything ambient or restful there was a little less of a spike than usual, perhaps a reaction to the relaxed mood in the room, or the icy weather outside, but it was still a good listen, great to shut your eyes and fall into, taking a place inside the music and letting it move around you.
There followed a nice, intimate little performance from Ross Lambert. Though I have seen Lambert play many times down the years I never seen him solo before, so I was curious as to what he would do. He began with his acoustic guitar still in its case, working with an array of little items scattered about on the floor in front of him. He set a little machine running that created a ticking click track, (these things have a name but for some reason right now I can’t think of it!) and then used a series of tiny radios and walkmen to let a very quiet array of wisps of static and bits and pieces of spoken voices and assorted music come together in a simple improvised collage. He then began to use (or maybe rather abuse) one of the walkmen by half depressing various buttons so the tape inside would stretch and warp and play at the wrong speeds. After a while he picked up the guitar, initially just resting a motorised fan against the body, but then picking out an angular, bluesy refrain with it, as the other objects still purred away around him. He played for twenty minutes or so and I enjoyed it a lot, a mixture of delicate sensitivity, the uncertainty involved with using found sounds and a strong sense of direct musicality. In front of a bigger audience, with more distance between Lambert and those listening I suspect this wouldn’t have worked half as well, but the feeling of sharing in this intimate little discovery of events as it happened was a real joy.
There then followed the duo of Jean-Luc Guionnet, who had manfully struggled to make the journey down from the north of the country despite the bad weather and transport chaos, and Eddie Prevost, who selected his stripped down tam tam and percussion set-up for the performance. This set had been intended to be a trio with Sebastian Lexer at the piano, but it went ahead without a replacement third musician. It goes without saying that these are two wonderful musicians. Watching them as they set up after Lambert’s set was a great pleasure. Prevost merely moved his tam tam frame into position and set about tightening bolts and positioning items near to him, just as you might expect. There was an air of the workman about him, going through the daily motions before beginning work, something he had done a thousand times before, Â all part of the ritual, but somehow great to sit and watch. Guionnet waited a while, then took his sax and the pair shared a brief. amusing conversation about where he should stand before nodding to the audience and just beginning. I’m not certain, but I don’t think the pair had played together before, but when they began you would never have known. Guionnet began with wonderfully soft tones as Prevost scraped and rattled at a handheld cymbal, but within seconds their sounds were completely interconnected, and watching the faces of the musicians as they felt their way around each other’s contributions, their own responses flowing naturally from their hands, was wonderful. The music the duo made was simple, cast from the most basic of tools, just two fine, sensitive musicians working together to form music together in the moment. In places the pair took the sounds into little crescendoes, pushing each other, pulling each other along, the sounds meeting and embracing each other at one moment, pushing each other off of musical cliffs the next. There were no great surprises, just two musicians playing their instruments and listening intently to one another, shaping and folding their sounds into one uniform whole that twisted and writhed its way along. They apparently played for the best part of forty-five minutes, but it seemed much less, such was the absorbing nature of the music. This was improvised music at its best, and I enjoyed it immensely. A great start to a new decade of concert-going.