Two startling nights at Cafe Oto. The first in the Project Space billed as an acoustic set and the second in the cafe with Russell Haswell. On night one KH’s performance was preceded by an announcement concerning the vocals: ‘..these are part of sound rather than actual singing.’ The ‘songs’, that book-ended instrumental improvisations, included versions of ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Cosmic Dancer’ and ‘Strange Fruit’. Night two included a dense, spatial solo set by Russell Haswell, a complex duo and another episodic collection of solo improvisations with more ‘songs’ from Haino. On this occasion he was introduced thus: ‘he’s a music machine and a singer.’ This time round the selection included ‘Yesterday’, ‘People are Strange’, ‘Song to a Siren’ and, once again, an extremely unsettling rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’.
Haino’s work occupies a space that allows a ‘singer’ to not sing and, at the same time, it is in the uneasy, overlapping zone of ‘music machine’ and musician.
Haswell and Haino
Yesterday, I found myself looking at some Rococo silverware in a showcase I had designed. This is not the kind of thing that usually interests me but the spectacle of all that glittering detail was dazzling; the drawn lines of natural form pushed to extremes.
Later in the day at Cafe Oto after a virtuoso display of extended saxophone playing by John Butcher and Seymour Wright, I found myself immersed in the shock and awe of a duet by Russell Haswell and Kevin Drumm. Last week I spent another hot night in Cafe Oto being assaulted by high volume sound played by men dressed from head to toe in black…the weather making the uniform particularly incongruous. Last week’s version was the Franco-Japanese pairing of Makoto Kawabata and J. Francois Pauvros…a barrage of relentless and exhilarating effect-laden guitar work. For the Drumm/Haswell duo an additional 4 speakers had been set-up enclosing a square space and from the start the possibilities of this surround sound were exploited with noise crossing diagonally across the space, circling and switching from back to front. As the music continued the layering became denser and picking out individual cadences among the squalls and sliding shrieks became more difficult…and I was reminded of the Rococo silverware I had looked at in the afternoon. The sound was creating a peculiarly 2-dimensional field in which no one theme or line could be picked out. So my mind drifted from thinking about the sound of warfare to thinking about this as the aural equivalent of dense, overlaid, endless pattern. And this suggested to me that this packed sound-environment was actually ‘content-less’ and, even, ‘decorative’. I have never considered this immersive and often brutal music in these terms before and I suspect that it is not the way the musicians think about it (?) but I do not think it takes away from the pleasure of loosing oneself within the endless labyrinth of this music. I even began to consider the chosen black dress code and the performers’ passivity as part of this ‘field’. Instead of being a negation of persona in the visual presentation of the work, these attitudes become at one with a swirling, Rococo surface.
Russell Haswell & Kevin Drumm