Saturday 18th February

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Today I made a visit to London, for the first time in what feels like ages but probably isn’t, and went to a concert at Café Oto tonight, which is something I certainly haven’t done in a while. The idiotic railway systems in this country being as useless as they are, I wasn’t able to stay for all three sets on tonight’s bill, but heard the first two, a solo performance by Juan Matos Capote, a Spanish circuit bending electronician, and a trio made up of Capote’s Astero duo with Alfredo Costa Monteiro joined here by Jason Kahn. I’m not going to write a lengthy review, as I am tired, but I enjoyed both sets. Capote knows his way of making music very well, his hands doing things to various open electronics and bland looking home made boxes covered in dials that I won’t pretend to understand, but his solo set was tightly controlled, full of a wide range of raw electronic sounds but used well. He mixed that familiar squelchy, searing circuit bending sound with other warmer oscillator tones and fizzing white noise to create a set that, while maybe a little over familiar in style and shape was quite acutely played, with some nice definition to every sound and a sense of confidence to how and where they were placed.

The trio played together for as long time, slightly more than an hour I think, and their set went through a series of segments and changes as it progressed so it could almost be divided easily into three or four movements with drops into near silence between each of them. Costa Monteiro played an electroacoustic set up here, focussing a lot on a few long, extended metal springs he had miked up and some kind of motor against wood arrangement that created a really nice warm sound. Capote worked with his electronics and was nicely matched by Jason Kahn, who worked with the analogue synth and magnetic coils set up I have seen him use a few times of late on his UK tour. The trio’s sound worked really well together, blending nicely to create an often thickly layered mesh of buzzing and rubbing and squeaking, often quite droney but with plenty of variety and detail and plenty of areas where one of the three would add sudden attacks to the dynamic. The three played so long that the music would occasionally plateaux and have to reinvent itself, but it always came out of any less inventive sections quickly and go off in some other direction. My favourite section of the piece was the very final one, when one of several false endings brought everything very quiet except for a dry, circular texture coming from Costa Monteiro. Rather than let this sound die away and end the performance though, Kahn, who had been playing quite spikily and loudly throughout suddenly took to running this hands through the mass of cables attached to his synth, creating a quiet ruffling sound which he augmented by stroking the metal plug from one cable back and forth over the thin wooden uprights that made up the back of the chair on which he had placed his mixer. This lovely little acoustic interlude was picked up on by Capote and the trio pulled out of this quiet, faintly percussive lull with a tight, fiery response that brought the set to an end. I enjoy watching these three play a great deal. Quite often just involving yourself with talented musicians working through various musical problems can be beautifully distracting, and as the set ended I was surprised by the time and barely had time to say goodbyes to one or two people before having to run for the bus.

A good evening then, nice to be back at Oto, where a number of juicy little gigs seem lined up for later this Spring, and some thoroughly enjoyable music. A CD review tomorrow.

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