Live London #10 : Helios / Goldmund / Rameses III
The Union Chapel, an arena of tall ceilings and mahogany, stood in reception for a trio of blissfully chilled acts courtesy of John Twells’ (Xela) Type Records. The event had been staged by a collective, who go by the name of ‘Arctic Circle’, that ran a spellbinding evening. The crowd gathered slowly, filling the lengthy pews that crossed the central expanse. The stage was low and hovered ever-so-slightly above the facing worshipers. Various drone and minimal electro sounds sizzled from the large speakers that appeared monolithic and modern against the antique furnishings. Three men, to with beards, one without (not ZZ Top), entered the stage to a large round of applause encouraged by a red haired promoter of an enthusiastic disposition.
Three performs arched over their various instruments. A pre-recorded drone hissed from the speakers. The far right guitarist laid down some waves of quiet drone with an e-bow paced near the neck of the guitar. The middle member slid a horse-hair bow over the strings of his horizontal guitar adding deep bass and mid-tones to the mist. The left was supported by shimmering synths as the second bearded figure poured over his keyboard. The sounds droned with the symphonic resonance of ‘Stars of the Lid’, with the addition of twanging guitar. The ambience was coloured with glass notes that issued via plastic keys. Some analogue hiss lulled behind the clean, tranquil electronics. ‘Blade Runner’ inspired horns wheezed above the guitar to make way for some steel plucking evoking flat plains in the mid west. Metal tipped fingers glistened on the right of the stage. A violin was drawn in lengthy single notes, which swarmed over the sweet plucking. As faster rhythms were driven via the stringed instruments the drone swelled to a din that shook the church. This eventually dissipated leaving pre-recorded vocal loops that interacted with the various musicians. More acoustic instruments arrived to drift in intoxicating melodies until silence slowly beckoned. The performance was quite magical but a little hindered by the odd loss of sound and some imbalance between the three performers audible output. At times beautiful melodies were lost and reduced to almost live acoustic volume, which by the look on the performers faces, wasn’t exactly aimed for. Other than that mild criticism (more a problem with sound I think) – the outcome was terrific and the visuals, projected behind the performers, were enchanting.
Keith Kenniff took to the stage for his first performance of the evening. He took the guise of ‘Goldmund’ to perform various solo piano pieces. Those of you familiar with Goldmund’s recorded works will no that he has an incredible knack of bringing slowcore, minimal beauty to the simplest of arrangements. He sat astride a chair, a laptop to his left and an upright piano closer to the audience. Low long tones begun to form and disappear as he stooped over his laptop. Increasingly restrained piano trickled neatly over the orchestral din. The melody became clear as if one had drawn close to an intriguing object; its intricacies coming slowly to focus. The second piece took a lighter turn in the form of ‘Ba’ (the opener from his first LP). Further pieces from the first LP got a welcome airing and appeared like shadows barely visible in the gathering darkness of approaching night. The music moved with the pace of the waning glow, only moonlight left fading with a sea of tranquillity. Blurry wedding video loops moved above his head, projected onto a large screen. The haunting images blurred with live images of Kenniff’s stretched fingers as they roamed for notes. A few tracks from the last LP took a brighter tone for an uplifting mood. Low wooden boughs creaked and sighed, accompanied by soft keys. Choral ghosts began to sing and the sparsity of piano dripped like melting ice. It was great to here ‘Door of Our home’, probably the most recognisable piece of music from the Goldmund catalogue. This was lapped up by an eager crowd who, by the end of his set, gave a warm and appreciative response. It was quite flawless.
Keith Kenniff’s other alter ego, and final performance, came under the name ‘Helios’. He sat upon the stage next to his wife. He had a drum-kit, guitar, keyboard and a few other oddities. She had a laptop and various technical looking contraptions. Helios specialises in gathering a set of distinct sounds, in conjunction with field recordings and various experimental percussion loops. The sound is very much like the minimal electronica one might find on the Moteer or Morr labels. He began his performance with a laptop generated field recording and fuzzed beat. He began to search his guitar finding a perfect loop. The keyboard then came into play, which shimmered amongst the rhythmic gathering. Bird song led the crowd into a new motion. Plucked cello loops and stones rumbled in an organic break. The guitar glided into action, as all was slightly off-balance. The beat faded then a cleaner snare was added. Various tones returned and new ones entered. Kenniff then took to the live drums and laid down a killer climax that pulled everything together perfectly. Through various motions Kenniff impressed with his agility and ingenuity, generating complex compositions alone, only aided by his partner who seemingly kept some control over the sound. His performance benefited from the wonderfully nostalgic and blurred film that played above his head. The playing was tight, and even as he expressed his concern about the more complicated numbers, one never felt ill at ease. He finished with a heavily layered movement that moved the crowd, and filled the space with a lulling resonance. Helios is set to play a number of dates and I can see, as he relaxes with time, his performance, as Helios will be something to keep your eye on.
Photo’s of Keith Kenniff by Rosie Reed Gold
-- Peter Taylor (20 August, 2009)