Live London #11 (Part One): Colour Ride All-dayer. Rose & Nichols Duo/Cam Deas/The A Band
The Windmill is situated in the lanes of a quiet micro-suburb betwixt the thronging trade and bustling bar-lined streets of this infamous south London region. It appeared as a youth club; faded and cracked paint upon wooden slats, as one might attribute to the common aesthetics of UK city social centres. Upon my early entry I received a warm welcome and a free CDR containing a selection of the evening’s performers. The line up promised much, fusing noise, improvisation, ensembles and solo artists a-plenty. I had heard wind of the event through Pascal Nichols, whose, then to be forthcoming, performance managed to inspire and provoke in its stunning live narrative. The crowd slowly gathered initiating a late start from the opening act: KK/KK. Before his set, a number of early revellers walked upon interactive carpets that bellowed walls of sound, as their archaic and kitsch patterns were interrupted by thin-ankled feet. As the first performer delivered his take on power electronics a film crew began to record the evening for a reason I am sworn only to ponder.
The early afternoon, accompanied by sun and smells of the evening before, was lifted into motion by the saxophone/drum duo of Rose and Nichols. Having not played together for over two years, this duo appeared under lights, indoors, in the dim performance area; one obscured from view, his sax gleaming with refracted light from the bar to which he garnered during his performance. Nichols unique approach to percussion has molested my ears frequently over the last 18months. His various guises, both solo and ensemble have highlighted many a gig through this years jam-packed musical calendar. I am unfamiliar with the tall, grey haired figure of Rose, who appeared with two saxophones, ready to make menace with his partner.
A stuttered reed blew alongside peppered percussion as both artists seemed to test the air for heat and density. The birdlike jabbering was made more bizarre by Nichols bent neck and open mouth, seemingly feeding off the din to gather some material for live interpretation. He played a small, prepared drum kit littered with oddities, and to his left was a small table of tools that I could only puzzle at their perspective usage. Mouth agape, sucking in the dancing air, Nichols brought the proceedings to an almost halt, as Rose limited his output to forceful, yet restrained blasts. Nichols absence was soon broken with kick-drum and cymbal. Snare tapping added a tonal displacement that soon became a rockslide of tempered splatter. Sweat beads glistened on both foreheads, as a static crowd stared in deep contemplation – ardent confusion rife within their eyes, yet a deep expression of enjoyment as one might find on the face of a muse. Rose spoke in twisted tongues, which seemed to persist with inhuman language. Trauma and rhythm worked a careful balance that often toppled into a cyclical existence with Rose taking the lead, followed by a breathless continuum courtesy of Nichols, and then, without reprieve, a duet of intricate fervour that never waned into abandonment.
The second motion brought reverberating bass tones via Rose’s huge bass sax. Nichols played short sharp percussion, with the aid of huge sticks as thick as branches, and various oddments including small glass panes and dirty rags. The sharp short percussion worked in opposition to the tree trunk tones of the dominating sax. Rose’s cheeks reddened in contrast to his grey beard as the terminal approached with impending exhaustion. Watching his finger run up and down his instrument had a disturbingly erotic appearance: intimate, alien and voyeuristic. Nichols was allowed a few minutes of solo play, again deeply intimate, and unnerving to witness. Finally Rose screeched a painful tongue, as if parleying for a truce. The performance was a rare union of passion, self-interest and mutual engagement. The artists often fought in their own creative spaces, dividing the harrowing and then unifying in the unexpected. It was truly magical and an awesome moment to witness.
As the shadows lengthened in the garden, smoke swirled as those forced outside quenched their addiction with savoured inhalations. I ventured inside with a cool fresh lager, awaiting the imminent solo performance from UK guitarist Cam Deas. Deas has been gaining an expanded following, with some fantastic releases courtesy of the ever reliable Blackest Rainbow label. A very meagre crowed had gathered as most had ventured to claim their free BBQ lunch (not the fault of Deas who had to play later than scheduled). Deas guitar was tuned loosely adding a sense of tremor and depth. The large instrument sat clumsily on his slight frame, blond hair pointing downwards in a gathered fringe, towards the pale yellow wood. His arched back and stretched arms made for a wonderful pose of intimate concentration.
Deas began with minimal, angular chords that were allowed to traverse the acoustics of the room. Think Bailey or Wissem, with warmth fused with Blues modes. With open chords he strummed, at various points, forging a caustic rhythm with haunting vibrations. The guitar breathed in sharp, flat tones that appeared somewhat uncomfortable and devilishly real. The shift to a melodic delivery of finger-plucking magic was welcome, as the sound was driven towards the Spanish inspired outpourings from Sir Richard Bishop. He created incredibly subtle motions that created the illusion of expanse beyond his confines. Metal glistened from his augmented fingers in a criminal grin of mischievous purpose. This metaphor was echoed in the music, as ones mind’s-eye was allowed to roam through imagined screenplays. An eastern sound was interjected with carefully bended notes that worked well to add and remove drama in a controlled yet evocative manner.
He began a rampaging, paced and resonant piece, which struck with gigantic sounds to simmering quiet and back again. He created an incredibly open sound that managed to break the pokey walls that kept us from spilling into the streets. Often the floor seemed to quake beneath his more intense and violent passages. The temperature rose to a volcanic crescendo that finally waned to abstract tones creating an almost palindromic composition. A fellow listener draws nearer to were I sat. I smell the fresh onion on her breath from a recently acquired salad. The slight repulsion I feel was made immaterial by the final stages of a simply spellbinding performance.
I have had the fortune to witness the insanity that is the A Band a long while ago supporting an emerging James Blackshaw and a recently relocated Peter Wright at the Gramophone in London. Their unique brand of chaotic jamboree funfair free-for-all didn’t fail to entertain over a year on. I spotted key player Stewart Keith, his long hair and beard mottled with colourful nappy-smears of face paint that formed congealed tufts at the summit of gathered face-fluff. A gaggle of giggling misfits made mischief in a space at the rear of a narrow beer garden. The music had finally moved outside. As the instruments begun to sound the crowd looked, faces puzzled, at the performers – seemingly without purpose or composition. Various percussive, stringed, woodwind and toy instruments were littered and engaged sporadically through the mass of decorated performers. Think somewhere between the wild improvisations of Sunburned and Oddclouds and then remove logic and fuck thinking anymore. Repetition and gathered near melodies wrestle with a vacuous stage as the sound seemed to suck into the open air above before it had time to tickle the ears of the onlookers. Various A Banders trudged their way through the crowd in a determinant way – as if to deliver their sound through the empty corridors made by t-shirted torsos. The sound timidly emitted from a toy plastic guitar, whilst many melodies were interpreted by the collective. Imagine the Wombles gathering the remnants of a music festival and conducting a strange symphony from their horde: their furry faces grinning, slowly coming to terms with the amount of noisy objects and the infinite uses thereof.
I love these guys; they seem to cut a mood of humorous abandonment without the arrogance of nihilism. They practice a sound of the moment and bring seemingly unpractised verses to delirious affect. No one makes me smile like these guys whilst at the same time making me want to get involved. I love the sea of almost angry faces as people just don’t get it. There is nothing to get! You enjoy it or you don’t – simple. Stewart Keith moved through the crowd and delivered a mad sermon repeating “shamanism is rubbish” over and over until the nonsense of his verse became both annoying and amusing. He got in the faces of many an unsuspecting onlooker bashing and rotating various oddities that he could have found routing around his musical underpants. A guy playing coconut shells creates a rhythm laced with the comic imagery of Terry Gilliam. The set rambled on a little too long, but fuck it – what do I know? All in all I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope to be picked up and molested by this enigmatic shifting organism in the near-distant future.
Next Week… Part Two: Motherfucking & Spoono.
-- Peter Taylor (2 September, 2009)