Perhaps we’ve been spoiled. What with the impromptu meeting of Kan Mikami, Alex Neilson and Jandek earlier in the year, and last year’s solo vocal performance from Keiji Haino, maybe Glasgow crowds have become immune to the draw of these once-in-a-lifetime performances. Or maybe it’s just the Bossk show going on five minutes’ walk from this intimate, peaceful café. Either way, the explosive on-stage melange of Charles Hayward (This Heat), Guy Segers (Univers Zero) and Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple) should have had this room packed with beard-stroking Wire subscribers and hirsute heads from the moment the doors opened yet it’s surprisingly empty and subdued, with the restaurant seating ample accommodation for those who have arrived.
It’s this mostly seated assembly that greet Cru Servers, who begin their table-top knob-twiddling with little fanfare. While their cut-and-switch electronica has all the hallmarks of glitch, it’s to the two brothers’ testament that they never really follow the genre’s unwritten instructions. Scattered loops and odd stabs of synthesised percussion are thrown about with deceptive precision and hidden amongst melodies that disappear around the same time as you realise they exist, a playful approach that they attack with concentrated sincerity. Despite the transient nature of these sounds, they deliver them with a natural fluidity, never rushing their constructions or miring them in swamps of pointlessness. Of the two lengthy cuts they offer up, it’s the latter and its twinkling echoes of Autechre that leaves the impression that there’s something special going on.
Of the three acts tonight, Dick Fifty are the wild cards. Little is known about them except that they are a relatively new creation (this is their third show, or thereabouts) and that they include among their ranks members and ex-members of noise duo Blue Sabbath Black Fiji and inventively-monikered weirdoes Ultimate Thrush. As it turns out, their ranks are considerable, the stage soon filled with eight humans, two conga drums and countless pedals, percussion instruments and noisemakers. And a guitar. The result of this is an extended, accompanied drum circle, a faintly-structured cacophony of sound that has more to do with primal ritual than logic or melody. The steady, woody resonance of the congas dominates throughout, pushing what looks like intriguing guitarwork into the abyss of sound while the subtle electronic layering gets similarly buried. A mid-set interlude sees half of the band take to the floor with percussion in hand to dance and whirl and generally make merry, their enthusiasm shining through the ridiculousness of it all, but as they return to the stage and continue where they left off, the frustration of seeing the most intriguing musicians yet being unable to hear them looms once again. They’re an undoubtedly fun proposition, but perhaps a better balance of sound would take them into being something more than novelty.
Earlier in the evening, Kawabata had explained that Uneven Eleven was one of the few projects he had been involved in which was completely improvised, deciding only on a rough direction to take when they had gotten a measure of the crowd, atmosphere and time allocated. So would tonight be a speed guru punkstravaganza, or a motoric exercise in kosmische repetition, or would it be something completely unexpected, even by this trio’s far-reaching tastes? In all honesty, it’s everything.
Starting out on a slow boil, Kawabata’s taking his now-ubiquitous jutte to his guitar in a steady flow of distorted ambience while Segers lays down a watertight bassline of opiated funkiness, it soon becomes clear that in this musical ménage a trois, it’s Hayward that’s calling the shots. Measured and understated, it only takes five minutes for him to switch gears, descending into controlled chaos and deadly rumblings, upping the tempo tenfold and challenging his partners to catch up if they can. Of course they bloody can, though Hayward hardly makes the game easy for them. Watching these three is like being a spectator at some nefarious Money in the Bank match where allegiances are constantly shifting, where just as it seems like they’re all in tune and playing along nicely, someone will seize the moment and go for glory.
It might be Hayward and his temporal U-turns, or Segers’ stealthy dropping back, pulling the performance into a simmering, deliriously trippy swirl of luscious rhythms but, for sheer showmanship and eerie displays of skill, it’s the Speed Guru himself who always commands the most attention. A lifetime of improvisation has left him with that innate knack for reading a situation and knowing when and how to deviate from the script, when to leave the muted chords and swathes of reverb behind and simply tear shit up. His soloing is dazzling in its range, melodic and possessed with spinning-top grace one moment and a hellish explosion of string-mangling aggression the next. He does this all with a focus and degree of calculation that is at odds with both the abandon of Hayward, a man with the expression of someone on a perpetual rollercoaster, and the innate groove of Segers, and these opposing and complementing approaches are what make tonight what it is.
The fusion of mind, body and spirit covers all the bases and gives the performance a cohesion that’s all the more surprising when you reflect on the wild tangents that it took in such a relatively short time. I don’t think anyone really knew what they were expecting tonight, least of all the three taking part, but whatever it was, this buried it.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes