Review by: Alan Taylor
Artist: Richard Youngs and Alex Neilsen [score 2/5]
Founded in 1997, the Terrastock Festivals have apparently become legendary in the USA for bringing together underground and new bands poised on the “brink of obscurity”: some of the very earliest performances by Neutral Milk Hotel, Six Organs of Admittance and Charalambides have taken place alongside established acts such as Mudhoney, Kendra Smith and Sonic Youth.
Having decided to try a similar concept in the UK, the event organisers brought “legendary free drummer” Alex Neilson and collaborators to the Cube Cinema as part of a series of “Terrastock Tea Parties”.
Team Brick started the night, described in their web blurb, by a clearly breathless PR man, as incorporating “all kinds of instruments, equipment and techniques, including clarinet played through a loop pedal, drum abuse, chiming bells, plucked strings and a cappella rants” they clearly had a lot to live up to.
I could hear the moaning, I mean erm . . . “cathartic off-mike bellowing” as I walked up the stairs to the theatre. I was treated to further moaning . . .excuse me! . . . “throat singing and speaking in tongues which activate the acoustic properties of the whole body” . . . well I can only say the whole experience was fascinating. Particularly the final number, where our hero occasionally looked a little unsure, quite which combination of his bells to pick up. I suppose he had to concentrate, to prevent what could have been a balls up? – but, fair do’s he gallantly made it to the end and the moans seemed quite resonant with the notes. Essentially I would agree with the breathless PR man who gushed, that Team Brick produce a “mysterious body of work that offers a half-glimpse into an intriguing world of its own”. Though I’m not totally sure I would like to see a FULL glimpse!
Motor Ghost, a duo formed of Alex Neilson and Ben Reynolds. Described as “channelling Free Jazz energies and incorporating the transcendent beauty of Britain’s indigenous folk melodies, to create a fiery music to quench the soggy spirit of our times”. Well soggy spirit or not, I was really looking forward to this one and it looked promising we had a drummer and a guitarist this time, oh and even a vocalist! Problems though, we couldn’t quite hear the vocals (signal to the soundman) then I realised that he’d been to a similar moaning school to the first guy, but worse than that, he hadn’t learned his moans and leant drunkenly or rock star like (?) over a scruffy piece of paper on the floor which he peered so close to, that he looked like he might fall flat on his face.
This it seems, was a guest appearance from the top billing Richard Youngs, I have seldom seen such a pitiful performance from a professional (well it did cost to get in!) lead “singer”, he eventually picked up his aid memoir and continued to mumble from it, until eventually buoyed by the final verse he tossed it aside, triumphantly finishing from “memory” for two further incoherent sentences whilst free drums drummed and guitars wailed in the background. Then he teetered off the stage as abruptly as he had arrived and frankly, things improved. Neilson and Reynolds at least looked like a unit who had put some work in and produced some reasonable sounds with clever guitar work from the latter.
We finally reached the climax of the evening - a meeting of “two of the finest minds in the British avant-garde scene”, Richard Youngs and Alex Nielson at their very first public performance in England. We were told to expect to see Neilson’s “mind-blowingly blistering percussion melding seamlessly with Youngs' gorgeously e-bowed and distorted guitar work”. Well I could only assume that “melding” was somewhere between welding and blending? With images of caterpillars, Frenchmen and demolition sites pulsating on the cinema screen behind, I tried my best to like what I saw and heard, or at least to appreciate the “art”. I’m sorry boys, but I guess I just didn’t get it, and the crescendo of wailing, tuneless distortion combined with Neilson’s increasing frenetic drum style left me careering for the exit, just three numbers in.
I suppose you could say that it’s me moaning now, but that ain’t moaning that’s just a spot of avant-garde, cathartic off mike bellowing “melding” from my resonating spirit to the sound of free drumming!! Alasdair Roberts, Bonnie Prince and Tom Waits can relax a while yet.
Motor Ghost via www.dancingwayang.com
Venue: The Cube Bristol [score 3/5]
Nice small Cinema - but sound not 100%Security [score */5]
Not needed for 30 people