Review of Emeralds, Modulator ESP, Gareth Hardwick, Birds of Delay at Rammel Club, Nottingham Sunday 25 January 2009

The purpose of this page is to provide added exposure to musicians I respect. The bar is set high. To pass Landschaft quality control, the music must be of a quality that meets or surpasses the standard that would secure them a commercial recording release, and/or that I feel an itch to do a Landschaft mix of. I do not review everything they produce - see the band's own websites for complete chronologies - what I review is what I encounter, when I encounter it.

The Rammel Club # 2

The Rammel Club, held infrequently (this is the second event) at The Chameleon bar, down a dark alley, into an old Georgian tenement and up some rickety stairs. What better place for a venue? The room decked out in knackered sofas, a hotch-potch of odd pieces of furniture. The floor bare old boards. I didn't think there were places like this in scrubbed new Nottingham any more. One end of the room the mixing desk, the other the performance area, not raised to a stage, but floor level. Two massive wardrobe-size speaker stacks. I was Jez's roadie and minder for the night, but the crowd was so sympathetic that my job of watching over gear was superfluous really and I could relax and enjoy the spectacle.

Tonight's performances bought to mind a quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." (The Tractatus aims to bridge and explain the gap between language and reality in an absolute methodical reduction). Accepting the empiricist premise "all ideas come to us through experience", we start to approach why we are moved by art, and why it enriches and rewards so. And all the more so tonight because there were no words. These were wholly instrumental performances that posed questions in the rhetorical sense for the listeners to answer within themselves, and so these artist's command of the language of their craft - in the broader sense - the syntax of music and sound, expanded the limits of comprehension and enabled the listener to move into new exciting places, the world of transcendence, the essence of aesthetics. That is what I think sums up The Rammel Club, of which tonight's was the second incarnation, and did it's bit to keep the guttering flame of Nottingham's far out music scene ablaze.

The Rammel Club website

Gareth Hardwick

Mellow interplay of guitar textures from this duo. Gently positioned chords melted across the air. The audience, in a reverie of Sunday borne reverence stood, as would a church congregation, rapt upon the un-words of these silent preachers of beatific harmony.

"Flow, my tears, fall from your springs, exiled for ever, let me mourn where night's black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live forlorn." (John Dowland), Like Dowland Gareth Hardwick work with a palette of gentle, lilting melancholy. This achingly beautiful dialogue, put in haunting chords and cascades captivated me and put me in mind of the mortality and frailty of things.

Gareth Hardwick website

Modulator ESP

Modulator ESP, one of Jez Creeks many musical personae put in a set of semi-improvised soundscape, firmly in the Space/Berlin School. The piece was operatic in scale and majesty, a great Tanhauser of a beast that threw mesmerising slabs of sound at the audience like lightening bolts, controlled by this millenial warlock and his bank of electronics. It was all encompassing and held me enchanted from beginning to end. There were quotations of Zeit and Phaedra era Tangerine Dream, but with Jez's own ingredients and sensibility that gave the music it's own special uniqueness. The pace of the single piece, some 30 minutes long was excellently realized, rising to a magisterial Bladerunner/Vangelis-esque passage - that Jez says he put in for me, a brief lift of harmony in the rich layers of timbre that made this set, of the four, my personal favourite. Lush structures piled, wave after wave, one over the other, each building and releasing tension that gave the piece a distinct sense of geometry, each block of sound supporting the next. I have watched Jez develop over the last few years as a musician, and I can say with absolute conviction that he has achieved mastery over his genre and his instruments.

Modulator ESP website

Birds of Delay

Too stark and raw for me, and I took the opportunity to leave the room and repair to the bar for refreshment. The instrumentation was minimal, and structured in a sort of planar way. Think Mondrian as a painting analogy. It's a personal taste thing, and with respect to the performers, this was not my cup of tea.

Birds of Delay website

Emeralds

Photograph

Three young men from Ohio, USA on a short tour of England and the continent. Minimal instrumentation, loads of floor pedals and arcane hand made electronics. The first Korg MS10 (a devil of an instrument to patch and get a descent sound from) I've seen for years. A chunky looking Moog and a guitarist. A spare roster of instruments that needed considerable mastery to make work as an ensemble sound.

A live performance is an experience of the senses. Different to the listened experience of the recorded work. The impurities, the fragility the risk hightening the sensory load. Emeralds ascended the hill to take us to a shimmering plateau of noise. It wasn't Drone (a rather uninspired genre catch-all), it was a gigantic beehive buzz; a language that communicated to the audience at an in-the guts level - my innards were shaken by the frequencies, and that was the essences of Emeralds' experience of the senses, and the success of their wordless communication. The laws of conservation of energy were affirmed: Electricity in, Emeralds catalysed it, the audience absorbed it - the essence of Emeralds' performance remains with me, resonating within my bones, and for that I thank them.

Emeralds website