KTL, Vienna Rhiz, 7 May 2008

So the Rhiz is ten years old this month. It’s a great achievement to keep going a club/bar/venue (like a few other places in Vienna, the Rhiz never seems entirely sure of which it is, and is all the better for it) devoted for the most part to defiantly uncommercial electronic music, and to make a success of it. Hats off and happy birthday, then, to Herbie Molin, his collaborators and conspirators.

When I first arrived in Vienna I didn’t get to the Rhiz much, but I’ve been making up for it in recent months. There was the Nurse With Wound night last month, at which DJs Walter and Martin span a range of classic NWW sides and Colin Potter played a funereal live set. And now there’s the 10 Years of the Rhiz celebrations, with a slew of gigs taking place in May. The first of these, for me at least, saw the KTL duo of Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley play on a much smaller stage than the last time I saw them at the 2007 Donaufestival. What was so impressive about that concert was the way the group utterly dominated their surroundings, transforming the sterile Krems exhibition hall into a proper concert space through the crushing totality of the noise they produced (and also, it must be said, through the use of huge quantities of fog).

Last week’s concert at the Rhiz was all the more exciting for taking place in such an intimate setting, but was curiously underattended. I’m no authority on O’Malley’s principal project, Sunn O))), but from what I do know (and from the memory of their 2006 concert at the Szene at which Rehberg did a support slot; was that the evening that birthed KTL, I wonder?), I would have thought your average Sunn O))) adherent would have been ecstatic to see O’Malley do his massive drone guitar thing in a venue as small as the Rhiz. It’s not as though Sunn O))) and KTL inhabit dissimilar musical worlds, after all. And yet the place (which holds 100 people, tops) was not at all crowded.

In any event, the set was musically as well as literally blinding (the fog filling the room made the duo only sporadically visible, even from a few feet away). Coiled and hovering with malevolent presence, O’Malley’s agonisingly slow guitar reverberated around the room and invaded the listener’s very marrow. Rehberg, meanwhile, issued deep and obliterating drones from his Mac, forcing O’Malley’s guitar lines outwards in a mounting vortex of pressure. The music seemed to be searching for escape within the tight confines of the room and, finding none, turned in on itself; an afflicting and oppressive infiltration.

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