It’s been a while since I managed to catch two concerts in one evening (festivals don’t count, obviously), so I was very pleased to be able to see Radian at the Gartenbaukino and then Bulbul at the Rhiz a couple of hours later. The double-header was a breeze to pull off, in fact, thanks not only to the perpetually late start time at the Rhiz but also to the fortuitous route of the number 2 tram, which runs directly from one venue to the other.
Radian have been on my radar, so to speak, ever since I moved to Vienna, but performances in their home town have been frustratingly rare in recent years. This was only their fifth gig with a new line-up, the ubiquitous Martin Siewert having replaced original member Stefan Nemeth. And it was no regular gig but a live soundtrack affair, with the group playing along to a quartet of short experimental films. These were a hit-and-miss selection, with Chris Marker’s rightly revered La jetée being easily the pick of the bunch. Told almost entirely through still photos, this chilling post-nuclear fable was given stark shape by Radian’s glancing, propulsive constructions. Fritz Ostermayer recited the film’s text in an appropriately sombre tone, but being in German it went completely over my head.
Moving on from there, both Peter Tscherkassky’s Outer Space and Siegfried Fruhauf’s Mirror Mechanics were disorientating collisions of grainy black and white imagery. Producing credible musical accompaniment to such disruptive texts was a considerable challenge, but it was one that Radian responded to with aplomb – as, indeed, they did with the evening’s one dud film, Ben Russell’s Black and White Trypps Number Three (a tedious portrait of rock audience members in the throes of noise-induced ecstasy). With Siewert’s steely guitar work the perfect foil for John Norman’s rock-solid bass and the geometric lines of Martin Brandlmayr’s percussion, Radian’s elusive post-rock was a fine musical correlative to the unsettling psychodramas being played out onscreen.
Moreover, the sheer size of the Gartenbaukino scaled up the performance dramatically. As the largest cinema hall in Vienna, it’s the perfect venue for these live soundtrack shows (Naked Lunch’s Universalove experienced there was magnificent). The cinema being no more than half full, I was able to leave the seat I had initially grabbed and go right to the back of the hall to watch the films and listen to the music with no appreciable loss of impact.
Over at the Rhiz, Bulbul played their usual blinder, with well directed blasts of noise tumbling into bouts of delirious fuzzed-out garage rock. The fact that the Rhiz was packed to the rafters for this gig was a salutary reminder of just how popular and well loved Bulbul are in Vienna. It was only when the last tram of the night was approaching to take me home, coupled with the arrival at the front of an idiot dancer dressed in some ridiculous animal costume and a minor member of the Vienna improv scene being “shamanic” by throwing himself around, that I knew it was time for me to leave.