Live London #8
Birds of Delay + Pain Jerk + Emeralds
Luminaire 8pm Saturday 24th January
I was excited about this event, most notably because I felt the need to exorcise some demons that dwelled deep in my drums thanks to being dragged to see a Guns ‘n’ Roses tribute band the night before – don’t ask. After an arduous journey (due to the closure of the Jubilee line) I arrived just in time at the dimly lit haven that glistened with the now famous stage glitter-ball. As I take perch, a cool beer to wash the sooty air from my throat, I notice two paramedics carrying a groaning man from the pit before the stage. This bizarre occurrence set the tone for a evening of polar events.
First up is London/Berlin duo Birds of Delay. The stage and crowd are in utter darkness save a bright lamp set on an old wooden school desk. Two microphones are pitched at mouth height in conjunction with two empty chairs, which were yet to be filled with the musicians. Fierce drones puked forth with deep tones that encased the odd strumming sound. The crowd stared in anticipation waiting for the performers to arrive. The sound was beautifully penetrating and similar to the layered performance from Helm (Luke from BoD) I was lucky enough to witness at the Colour Out of Space festival last year. The absence of performers brought to mind seeing Haswell & Hacker perform at the Frieze Festival a few years ago. They put on a light show and never appeared – allowing the audience to experience the music without a focal point. It was an ingenious idea that worked very well. I was beginning to think a similar technique was being employed. I hypothesised that the duo had constructed the piece via intimate concentration, and that to perform live would be a mere distraction of the sound itself. However I was proved wrong as the pair emerged and took opposing seats.
A pack of cards was produced and both sat in concentration not acknowledging the audience. Some metal scraping bounded with violence as the cards were shuffled. Suddenly the tempo and sound changed as heavily looped and fluctuating repeats were projected, of the duo saying the word “Snap”. And you’ve guessed it – they were playing a game of Snap. The microphones gazed down at the performers and held our attention as we waited for live intervention over the pre-recorded ramblings. Even after a few altercations by the performers of the microphones’ position, nothing was produced live. I began to chuckle as the ridiculous nature of the performance reminded me of Chris Morris’s “Jam “. The gag went on for an age and I felt as if they were antagonising us to intervene, to raise our voices and demand “Change the record!” or words to that affect. Sadly no one stepped up and for what seemed like eternity the repeated words of Snap were shouted, spluttered and vomited. Many hands were dealt and they appeared unwavered by a baffled audience. When finally it ended a member of the crowd shouted “Encore!” which received hearty laughs from most. Was this ill-mannered outburst part of the show? If so the gag worked – the question is; was anyone really bothered?
The long black hair of Kohei Gomi lays restfully forward on his black metal t-shirt. The lights are back on in force and he appears distorted via a live television feed on a skewed plasma. Disintegrated noise blasts with a covert damaged snare beat. He begins to stoop over his machinery as he twists and turns its parts to generate walls of noise. His nightmare sounds have much in common with Merzbow and his animated performance nods ever-so-slightly to the gymnastics of Carlos Giffoni. Helicopter rhythms are propelled with the force of a thousand drummers all fighting to outdo each other. Fuck-off violent menace is driven into your psyche as the angry tones wreak havoc with your nervous system. I was completely spellbound and caught up in what was one of the most terrifying raves of my life. Sadly the venue seemed too cosy and comfortable – I shut my eyes and imagined I was in a huge industrial warehouse, walls crumbing as the sound beat the fuck out of all it made contact with. I imagined being surrounded by aggressive people moving in epileptic circles, a spasm of sheer chaos. Infinite looping, hisses and decayed analogue fort against clear electronic vibrations and sine mayhem. 30 minutes of the performance felt like a hundred year war played back at great speed. Certain light melodies appeared late in the performance and disappeared with an ephemeral grace like salt in warm water. By the end I was exhausted and grinning like that feeling you get after sport. Pain Jerk is abandonment with blissful tectonic shifts that sound like your favourite punk/metal performers playing in one very small and private bubble.
The buzz around this Ohio based trio is steadily increasing, and was helped along by many-a-rave review from across the musical press. People were out in force and the band appeared to a densely populated crowd. Last years “Solar Bridge” CD took many fans by storm and generated a new sea of pilgrims. An excitement could be felt after the crowd regained consciousness amidst the aftermath of Pain Jerk. The quiet guitar of McGuire gave a tender resonance, beginning the evolving group flux of dissolving arch tones. Deeper groans moved beneath the breeze and tonic created by Hauschildt’s shimmering keyboard. I sat back and felt like star-gazing as reflected lights danced via the glitter-ball ahead. These moving and hypnotic tones issued with a stark, yet welcome contrast to the brain mashing power electronics of Pain Jerk. The tidal bliss seemed to build on richer plains that the artists seem to improvise according to lost or found pathways. Elliott’s synths trickled and sizzled with some darker elements that carved a richness from what could have slip into new age abandonment. The obvious comparisons to Klaus Schulze and Vangelis are warranted, but there’s always something new and surprising with this prolific collective. Limited effects were used to add depth to the guitar, and heavy motions dissipated into quiet whispering at unexpected junctures. Sadly the performance was tarred by an inconsiderate, noisy audience; who appeared to maintain the volume of conversation they performed during the previous set. The PA was a little off and some of the sounds were too whispered and this mixed with the chatty arseholes (you know who you are!) led to an often frustrating listen. This was by no means a reflection on the band, who executed a tight set winning me over completely. Emeralds produced thoroughly engulfing and awesome sounds that will linger in my ears for many nights to come.
-- Peter Taylor (12 February, 2009)