Phonographics, Ruins, Sunburned Hand of the Man, [The User], Acid Mothers Temple, Philip Jeck, Ira Cohen
Dundee Contemporary Arts
“I feel more at home here than I do in my neighbourhood in New York,” says sixty-something Beat poet, compulsive namedropper and living shamanic totem Ira Cohen, introducing a screening of his legendary Angus Maclise/La Monte Young soundtracked film, The Invasion Of Thunderbolt Pagoda. Bearing in mind that it’s a Sunday afternoon in Dundee, such a magnanimous statement, however much it’s designed to flatter, is pretty big cheese indeed.
Taking up residence amid the chi-chi white cube main gallery inside one of Europe’s sexiest 21st century spaces, this provocatively named three day festival of sight and sound embraces two specific strands of thought criss-crossing each other beyond its solely aural/visual interface.
On the one hand, Philip Jeck, [The User] and Phonographics offer more insular reflections that tiptoe cautiously but utterly, unremittingly focused through rice paper-strewn memory dreamscapes. On the other, the more conventionally diffused East meets West psych-rock explosions of Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man crash and flail unfettered into cacophonies of noise-induced nirvana some might call a trip. In the no-man’s land at the heart of both, a convergence takes place that, in this context, makes perfect cosmic, not to say rhapsodic sense.
Philip Jeck’s performance eased and oozed us into the weekend. His usual array of junkshop turntables conjured a jumbled-up collage of sepia coloured scratch ’n’ stutter, in which slo-mo East End pub piano tinkles and shards of backwards raga become as much vintage museum piece installation as generator of living history.
Taking the acoustic properties of a massive grain silo in Montréal as its starting point, [The User]’s ‘Silophone’ bats Dundee-generated sounds betwixt Scotland and Canada via ISDN,only to have them bent out of shape and morphed into some Chinese whispers-style mutant at either end. Visualised by pretty splashes of just formed but perfectly regimented blue and yellow, the space left between each suggests wordless tone poems igniting the landscape.
For their first ever UK appearance, Sunburned Hand of The Man bring home movies to accompany their freeform freak-outs, and, like good tourists, shoot a few more for good measure. Entering with a soothsaying wail, their wayward nouveau jug band clatter instantly veers off down thrilling back road indulgences, where one of the drummers wraps his kit, then himself, up in red tape, snares are balanced on heads and the whole shooting match sounds like a gloriously messy cry after liberation.
Anchoring the chaos is the seismic metronomic thunder of bassist and Peter Fonda lookalike Rob Thomas, who, in his instrument’s blisteringly insistent bombast, recalls classic Steve Hanley-era Fall. If SHOTM ultimately push too hard and peak too soon, it’s nobody’s fault. That’s just how it is.
Thanks to British Airways and a series of road delays en route from Birmingham, Tatsuya Yoshida’s Ruins very nearly don’t make KYTN’s Sunday session at all. As it is, bassist Hisashi Sasaki is injured, and the ad hoc co-opting of assorted Acid Mothers Temple members into the fold lends a rip-roaring urgency to their truncated one band Japanese New Music Festival, from the gabbling a cappella of Zubi Zuva X to the amplified manipulations of a holdall zipper.
Phonographics, featuring Christian Fennesz, Werner Dafeldecker, Martin Siewert and Burkhard Stangl, finish things on a sublime note, as they perform a live version of their gorgeous score to Gustav Deutsch’s stunning, multi-screen Film Ist. While meticulously sourced vintage silent movie footage jump-cuts its way through modern times, steel guitar and rumbletum laptop twinkles breathe deep on the fragile, eyes-wide stream of coincidence onscreen. As intimations of immortality go, it leaves a staggering hush in its wake.
The Wire issue 238, December 2003