February 2022 The Rossi Bar Starting the evening of people playing under their own real names we had Martin Chick. Last time I saw Martin play he was surrounded by a load of bulky kit including an old Korg, this he slimmed down to a Modular synth and another box, the inevitable clutter of wires ensuring it’s not too tidy. Starting with a bass pulse on the 8s with bell on the ones, he blends in some white noise snares, warbling tinnitus pitch tones marshalling in more drums. A bit of random pitching ushers in a more minimal section that ends up feeling like a fence post being replaced after a storm. Slowly, slowly, blocks of bass or noise or stem whistle are folded in and left to drift off. The sound empties out; cuts of drum in and out, beep tone, bass teased back, then again out. Those blocks of pink noise back, flexatone. A steam kettle in another room washes out everything, building to blistering boil and end.
An SD card incident has removed two thirds of my recording of Kieran Mahon’s set, but hey, I streamed it on FaceBook Live, so can revisit that. Kieran hisself starts the set tucked down behind the upturned box hiding his modular from us – so a much sleeker look to his kit, a dreadbox perched on top. Mid-range drone modulates to wobble as buzzes and the sounds of a dinosaur in a cardboard box reverb subtly into our audio view. An untuned high stabbing on the 32s distracts from the indecent growling, everything goes back do drone, then we get some proper across the board pulsing. Then slowly we get a bit of the beeping sequencing peeping through – and that’s what we come to Kieran for. All around it science fiction shimmers and tones form and fade. Some time later a counter arpeggio assembles against the first and the two dance around each other. This slow unfolding is mesmeric. The sequences morph chaotically, pitches bend, timbres mutate. Shudders whip through, then all we’re left with is the ephemera. Echo thrums and a doorbell riff lead us on into the final section of almost free improv clanking, finally a bass heartbeat grounds us and a long arpeggio sends us blissfully off into space.
Finally we had R. Dyer to end the night. She started with what I suspect was an unplanned version of “Little Victories” with a new set of recorded good moments, they’re as funny as usual, the song as gloriously melancholy as usual, looped soprano sax lines weaving around each other over a low keyboard drone as Becca sings over the top. There’s a lot of new victories so we have a fairly extended outro involving washing up, Coventry, bells… other things. The second track starts with a strong keyboard bass line, organ notes, chimes, a couple of gently muted sax layers, vocals. Little raindrops is like an afternoon spent in the loft of your childhood home. “Canaries” was next, after a chat about the canary resuscitator, they were only retired in the late 80s. Who knew? It starts with a creepy creaking walking pace keyboard part, with some odd fx and singing from the canary’s perspective, an interlocking set of soprano layers, more singing finishing with the song of a toy canary. Starting with drum machine tambourine, unison soprano, I missed the name of the penultimate song. There is a sax solo in this one that really flies, lifts the spirits. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. For “King Alfred’s Cakes” Becca’s harp became detached from its contact mic, so she performs it acoustically, no electronics(!) but it’s wonderful, so we don’t mind. Voice and harp, do we need more description.