Saturday, 22 February 2014

Phil Minton and Simon H Fell with Edimpro, Inspace, Edinburgh, Friday February 14th; / Malcy Duff, Dylan Nyoukis, Ali Robertson and Norman Shaw, plus Tina Krekels & Grant Smith, Rhubaba Gallery, Edinburgh, Saturday February 15th.

For some time now, the University of Edinburgh-based Dialogues 
initiative has hosted residencies by a stream of major international 
figures in experimental music. The likes of guitarist Fred Frith, 
saxophonist Evan Parker and sound recordist Chris Watson have all 
worked closely with composers and musicians from the University prior 
to concerts which has seen them play solo as well as with the group now 
styled as Edimpro.

The latest of these featuring veteran improvising vocalist Phil Minton 
with double bassist and long-term collaborator Simon H Fell was a game 
of two halves. The first opened with a chirrup and a whistle, as 
Minton, perched on a chair with his legs dangling, launched into a 
tightly wrought set of shrieks, yelps, gurgles and howls that moves 
language beyond words to something more primal. There's a call and 
response of sorts with fell, who at one point uses to bows on his 
instrument to create a self-reflexive counterpoint that's feverishly 
controlled, rising and falling with Minton's own guttural utterances.

The second set finds Minton and Fell leaving generous swathes of space 
for a ten-piece incarnation of Edimpro to navigate their way through. 
Saxophone and bass clarinet, laptops, guitars, drums and two pianists 
who bob in and out of view as they concentrate on their instrument's 
unseen underbelly weave around and across each other, each taking their 
turn in fits and starts until Minton and Fell conjure up a raging calm 
to close with.

A new generation of artists using similar strategies to Minton has 
grown up over the last decade, with the likes of Edinburgh duo Usurper 
and Blood Stereo's Dylan Nyoukis lumped in with the ever-fecund Noise 
scene. It was coincidence that saw Usurper's Malcy Duff and Ali 
Robertson join forces with Nyoukis and NOB's Norman Shaw the same 
weekend as Minton, Fell and Edimpro's performance for a Saturday 
lunchtime show that turned out to be the ultimate in family-friendly 
fun and games.

Following an intensely nuanced sax and electric guitar duet from 
Muscletusk's Grant Smith and the Edinburgh-based BOAR collective 
aligned Tina Krekels, Duff and Robertson sit alongside each other in 
the centre of the floor with a cassette recorder and cassettes between 
them. In a semi-improvised exchange, the pair mutter some spiel about 
ventriloquist dummies, before proceeding to 'bring out' Shaw and a 
be-wigged Nyoukis and perching them on their laps.

Switching between assorted cassettes, the 'dummies' lip-synch their way 
through proceedings, before a power struggle takes place and a 
wrestling match of sorts collapses into a mish-mash of collapsing 
limbs. While Shaw offers up occasional outbursts of “Indefatigable”, a 
prone Nyoukis babbles a potty-mouthed riff of tabloidese unpleasantries 
before things finally phutter to a halt.

The routine is a gonzo  variation on time-served robots-rising sci-fi 
techno-fear by way of schizoid psycho-thrillers where the voices in the 
ventriloquist's head become too much. In this particular quartet's 
hands and mouths, it also becomes an absurdist parody on power, both in 
the Duracell bunny kind of way, and more insidious forms of control. 
“Autonomy” is the last word spluttered Shaw's rebellious puppet as Duff 
drags him out the door. It's a word that speaks volumes.

The List, February 2014


ends

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