Posts Tagged ‘Cafe Oto’

Panurus Productions – 2nd April 2021

Sometimes, an understanding of process helps in shaping the appreciation of a musical work. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When presented with Only Then by Left Hand Cuts Off The Right, I can’t decide either way. The album contains two longform tracks – the twenty-five minute ‘2 – 6 – 17’ and the thirty-five minute ’23 – 6 -19’. Both were recorded live, and showcase a blend of improvisation and composition. The track titles do, unsurprisingly, mark the dates of the performances, both f which took place at the legendary Café Oto in 2017 and 2019.

On the former piece, a scraping drone hovers somewhere in the distance, relentless, nagging, always in the background but always within the reals of awareness: you simply cannot tune it out. Atop of this, there are crackles, scrapes, flickers, scratches and microcosmic, microtonal glitches, and gently tinkling picked notes casting sparse scales and oriental motifs, with the zither providing a unique, and, to western ears, exotic flavour. Over time, the details dissolve and blur into a metallic scrape that gnaws at the senses as allow, slow, undulation persists long after any trace of melody had dissipated, swallowed by currents of dissonant sound.

Slow-hammered xylophone notes emerge and steer toward the end of the first piece, and then stop: cue a cascade of applause which reminds us that this isn’t a studio work and that this happened. Not just that live performances used to be a thing, but, quite simply, that the audio contained here is not a studio-controlled contrivance, but an event that happened in real-time. Something about that realisation is strangely affecting.

Coughs and splutters and a general clamour of voices preface the fall to silence and the first echoing sounds on side two. Audience behaviour is so telling: the respect (or lack of) given to a artists whose performances are on the quiet aside can make or decimate the enjoyment for may of those present. Here, Left Hand Cuts Off The Right command over half an hour of hush. From clattering drips and clangs, the track builds from sparse sound echoing into emptiness, slow-dropping notes decaying into a soft ambience.

As to the technique and the technical aspects, the press release informs that ‘both sets were created with zither, melodica, synthesizer, bent electronics, field recordings, mbira, tape loops, percussion and effects. Side A comprises of 6 improvised sections each with specific performance, composition and sonic parameters. Side B is centred on 2 pre-recorded compositions which are mixed and performed live and interspersed with improvised sections for set sound sources.’

It’s actually quite difficult to unravel precisely what this means, beyond the fact that often the composing, improvising and performing processes overlap – informing one another as new works are created. And while the live performance of prerecorded pieces interspersed with improvisation and improvisation within predetermined parameters are clearly different disciplines, ultimately both methods combine a certain element of random with planning. Moreover, while delivered as works in the ,ids of an eternal evolution due to the nature of their form, these pieces as performed and as recorded are not works in progress, but works in their own right.

Only Then captures a moment – one I suspect many of us wish we could return to right now.

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LP/DL Rekem Records REKEM12/Fragment Factory FRAG45

Christopher Nosnibor

The music this album contains causes as much of a sense of overload as the cover art, with its perpendicular textual tessellations. Chessex has long pushed the tenor sax beyond the realms of conventional jazz or even overt compositional forms, and Subjectivation, a collection of live actions (a term also used by the notorious noisemakers Whitehouse). Side 1 takes pieces recorded in San Francisco, Berlin, and Zurich between 2010 and 2014, while Side 2 documents a performance at London’s Café Oto in 2015.

It’s all about the low frequencies at the front-end: the album begins with earth-moving, bowel churning bass tones that grind and snarl maliciously, and this, coupled with the conveyance of extreme volume places this in Sunn O))) territory, the atmosphere of creeping doom delivered at a pace and volume that punish slowly. And gradually – although not nearly so gradually – things intensify as additional layers of volume and frequency are added. The accompanying text describes it as a ‘field of distortion’, but it doesn’t come close. It seems unfeasible that such a raging sonic force could be sustained for any time, let alone increase, but increase it does, until there is nothing but a dense wall of obliterative noise. It’s impossible to discern there being any saxophone – or indeed any music instrument – in this vast, screaming whorl. I’m staring at the speakers in awe, wondering just how much sound they can actually carry, and moreover, how much sound could be created in pure physical terms. Seven minutes into the fourteen-minute sonic barrage – something akin to standing next to an RAF Vulcan preparing for take-off without earplugs or protective clothing, I’m wondering if my skull might not implode and my brain before the end. It’s a perverse pleasure the pain of this sonic assault provides.

The London side is less full-on, although it would surely be difficult to be more full-on. Nevertheless, it matches Side 1 in terms of intensity. It builds quickly from an irritated hornet buzz into an infinite echo, a thousand horns, honking in unison to create a rippling reverberation of sound. Some time around themed-point, the sustained crescendo fades, leaving eardrum-fluttering feedback notes, shrilly quivering on and on, before the air is rent with shards of scraping industrial noise, the grinding of metal on metal on a fast, rotational plane. It’s as if with each shift, Chessex introduces a pitch and tone more unbearable than the one before. The tiny sound that hangs where there should be silence mimics tinnitus, creating one final torture in the album’s closing seconds. There’s something cruel – and unquestionably uncompromising – about the way Chessex executes his sonic blitzkriegs, and for that, I admire him enormously.

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Chessex

Holotype Editions – HOLO7 – 25th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s hard to reconcile the sounds emanating from the speakers with this being a document of a live performance. And yet Schulevy Maker, which comprises two long-form tracks in the form of ‘Schulevy Maker’ Parts 1 and 2, was recorded live at Cafe Oto in London in December 2013, and captures two outré sonic experimenters coming together to forge something that’s weird and wonderful in equal measure. It’s credit, then, to the artists and all involved in the creation of this album that the sounds are so rich, layered, and detailed so as to sound as if they were meticulously ordered, edited, polished and mixed with great labour in the studio. There is a lot going on, and none of it is remotely obvious or predictable.

The set begins with a nagging motif, repeated end on end and resembling a demo of The Fall circa ‘79, over which electronic screaches and wibbles and irregular, occasional clatters of percussion weave and flit in an out. And over all of this, Tazartès and Dunietz grunt and ululate, quaver and trill. At times, rather less a walrus of love and more like a walrus slain, Tazartès explores the lower registers of the larynx, while Dunietz offers a soaring, semi-operatic counterpoint.

Amidst grating industrial drones and scrapes, weird samples and chiming finger cymbals, the pair challenge accepted notions of melody with their often deviant vocalisations which stray from the roots of key and tempo. And yet as much as they often run contra to one another, every instant is a moment of perfect connection and compliment, and there’s a synchronisation of their idiosyncrasies which renders the performance utterly compelling.

It’s strange and disorientating, and it’s not always easy to find a foot or handhold amidst the ever-shifting soundscapes which rapidly transition from accessible to strange, and often appear to originate from another world entirely.

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Ghedalia Tazartes   Maya Dunietz