Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thoughts at 2am on Sunday

battles are hard. They play with the vim and vigour I knew little of before seeing Frightened Rabbit a couple of weeks back. Apparently now that is the norm. All other drummers must up their game.

The difference between the Rabbit and Battles has to be intent however. Whereas Saturday night's Battles set was a lesson in performance and technique (by no means classical, but skilled nonetheless), Friday's was another display of shear heartfelt exuberance. FR's drummer plays like his life depends on it. So does Battles' except, that drummer appears to be directing his own fate. He looks like a drummer punishing himself. He doesn't play each with drum with both hands, he dedicates one stick to each. He doesnt put his crash and hi hat within easy reach, he makes himself work to reach them. The man sweats like a, cheese. or something that sweats an awful lot. It is as if the man is restricting himself in order that he can be the machine that Battles wants to be - one that pumps out a newborn montage of free dance and metal. Which it does, but with little overall purpose. I see the skill, the sweat and the conviction, but I can not clearly see the aim, the soul, the meaning. Perhaps battles are just an exercise, with no meaning.

Saturday was a night of drumming. We had battles, followed by Steve Reid and Keiran Hebden (Fourtet), two renowned rhythm mongers, all preceded by James 'Colditz' Chapman, trombonist turned drummer turned expert composer/producer. A tantalising set comprising all new to me tunes, played out to found sound backings on piano, cello, viola and trombone. James played with virtuosity, George blew assertively and lucidly. The performance was precise and so considered that it was played out serenely by all. A delicate and modest set that left the audience enraptured.

Later, Reid and Hebden would play with similar attentiveness but the sound let them down, as it did all the acts occasionally throughout the night. The venue was great for the event, large, open and friendly, and sufficiently trendy. But the sound was volatile, erring mostly on the high-end, and with various channels mysteriously droppiong out on occasion, while Reid's drums were almost constantly swamped by Hebden's belching samples. The quagmire lifted at one heady point of true dialogue between drummer and laptop but that was sadly unique. The perfomance showed great potential and given its brevity is undoubtedly an exciting work in progress.

The night ended with the Sun Ra Arkestra of which I feel unqualified to say much. It was simply a great way to end a great lineup, psychadelic and off-the-wall, trad and mod, simply a great big band. The first that I've seen in far too long.

[This is hopefully the first of many attempts to document the silly amount of time and money I spend at gigs and exhibitions.]

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