Monday, November 01, 2010

last gig at Orange Street

Canterbury's Orange Street Music Club is no more, the owners have sold up to someone new (who may or may not use the space for live music—no one seems entirely sure). But they went out on a memorable note.

Ruby Colley from Belfast (well she lives there, but her accent and the presence of members of her family, suggest that she's actually from somewhere in southeast England) played a solo violin/Loopstation set, supported by Liam and Raven from Syd Arthur.

Liam started off solo, just acoustic guitar and voice. He's getting really quite ambitious with both: his voice, which was already distinctive and highly expressive, is being pushed in directions which brought to mind some of Tim Buckley's farther-out work; his guitar style seems to have had another layer of John Martyn-like spaciness added to everything else going on in there (a lot of West African influences as well as all the psychfolk-prog-Canterbury elements). Raven then joined on violin and mandolin, pushing things up to another level. The ultra-intricate syncopation employed on a couple of pieces produced a truly odd sensation in my brain...the best way I could think to describe it would be "like listening to optical illusions". They were playing stuff that somehow seemed to defy possibility...not just in the sense of being really fast or complicated, more in terms of getting something to work that somehow shouldn't (like Escher did visually). That alone was worth the £8 entry (which seemed to have put a lot of people off, as Ruby Colley, despite her virtuosity and creativity, is not exactly a household name).

Liam's put together a new intro for one of the songs which will feature on the forthcoming Syd album Moving World (the sole acoustic piece of the set, I think it's called "Forgotten Lands"). The intro sounded something like 'cubist flamenco', pretty incredible stuff — he attempted (very ambitious) to retune in midflow, transitioning into the song, which didn't quite work, so there was a momentary hiccup, an apology (no one seemed to mind), and they were back into the song. And the song itself was utterly transporting...I was taken off into some kind of psychedelic fairyland on the far horizon of the album art on the front cover of In the Land of Grey and Pink. They're sounding so tuned into each other, there were moments that just took the breath away.

Ruby C may be an early prototype for the future of live music, in that she's able to travel with just a violin and a loop pedal, yet sound like a whole orchestra. With the current economic reality, this seems a lot more viable than trying to take a large band on the road with a vanload of heavy equipment. Using an electric violin, she's able to build up rhythm tracks by hitting it (carefully, of course!) in various places, and then she's away with layers and layers of fluid melody, stacatto attacks, etc. Despite not appearing very comfortable with the communicating-with-the-audience side of performance, it was clear that she's totally in control of both her instrument and her equipment, her timing being flawless with both.

Because of the repetitive nature of loop-based music, I could hear little flecks of Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Krautrock and Gong in there, although I have no idea how much of this has influenced her. She did play one cover (the only thing she's been able to find that works with the Loopstation, she explained): the opening theme from Tubular Bells (the bit that got used on soundtrack of The Exorcist) there's an indirect Canterbury connection (considering that Mike Oldfield worked with both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt). She also played a piece called "Butterfly Dance", but nothing to do with the Kevin Ayers song of the same name.

Here's some footage of her playing back home in Belfast:


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