Short Cuts 3: Autechre, Russell Haswell, Jarboe, Modell Doo

The third in an occasional series of handy bite-size reviews of shows I don’t have the will or, more pressingly these days, the time to write more about.

Autechre & Russell Haswell, Vienna Flex, 30 March 2010

Mesmerising night of electronic wildness, at a venue whose pristinely loud sound system I love almost as much as the eye-poppingly beautiful nature of many of its clientele. Russell Haswell – at least one supposes it was him, although it was impossible to tell given the baseball cap pulled down low over his face – came onstage just before midnight and made a huge and inspired racket for just ten minutes. Crushing drones collided with sick frequencies in a synapse-cleaning curtain-raiser to the main event.

Autechre were superb. Their precise, mechanistic sound could so easily have descended into a dry, sterile exercise; not a bit of it. This music was endlessly vital, bubbling and, oh yes, hot.

Jarboe, Vienna Chelsea, 12 April 2010

An all-too-brief setting of Jarboe’s powerful, otherworldly voice against a churning Metal soundscape. The Chelsea’s murky acoustics couldn’t dispel the hypnotic intensity of this, less a performance than an invocation.

Neonbeats, Vienna Replugged, 24 April 2010

Fun evening of Austrian new wave and post-punk revivalism to celebrate the release of a new, extensive compilation of this stuff on Klanggalerie. Of the four groups I saw, the only one that made a really lasting impression were Modell Doo, a synth/guitar and drums duo who played with a sharp, brittle passion.

Letter to The Wire, July 2007

A pity that David Stubbs’ review of the Donaufestival (On Location, Wire 280) only covered the first half of the event, as some of the festival’s most essential moments took place over the second weekend. Most notably, there were two deeply emotive appearances by the renascent Throbbing Gristle. The first, a set of bruising, uncanny atmospheres in song, was unfortunately preceded by the distinctly underwhelming Alan Vega. Vega resembled a confused pensioner as he wandered around the stage, cantankerously bawling drivel in the audience’s direction.

The next night, the Boredoms gave a riveting percussion-driven performance, before Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker shook the walls with their juddering noise, hypnotically lit by a green laser beam. TG returned to perform their live soundtrack to Derek Jarman’s In the Shadow of the Sun, a slow and infinitely sad dream piece saturated with hypnotic imagery. TG’s soundtrack, featuring a dark and mournful choir, was a suitably plangent and sweeping accompaniment. Lastly, KTL‘s deep and pulverising drones rounded off the festival, sending us queasily into the Austrian night.

Donaufestival 2007

Wow, what a couple of weekends that was. Too much drinking, not enough sleep, a bit of sickness on the last night, but most importantly a whole load of incredible music at the Donaufestival.

Week one kicked off, for me at least, with the Friday evening show in Hall 1. Matmos held no interest for me, far too tricksy and glitchy, and Om didn’t really engage my attention either. But the rather sterile non-atmosphere of the hall was broken awesomely by Current 93, who gave a formidable performance with an extended line-up of the band (I think I counted sixteen people on stage). Musically, the thing swelled beautifully, with the deathly pace of the strings and guitars giving a veiled, doomy ambience.

The next day’s curtain-raiser at the Minoritenkirche was a quartet of C93-related acts: two hits and two misses. Pantaleimon bored me rigid, and “Little” Annie was just an irritant. But Simon Finn impressed with his powerful, committed songwriting, and Julia Kent‘s performance on the cello and loops was serpentine and gorgeous.

Everything fell perfectly into place back at the Halle later that night. Fovea Hex were lorn and lovely, Larsen were driven and compelling. Six Organs of Admittance – featuring Ben Chasny and a very cool girl in a very short skirt – abused their guitars effectively out in the lounge. Nurse With Wound – a band I never thought I’d see live – created haunting, massive structures, and their two songs with Tibet on vox were shuddering, berserk blasts of energy. Will Oldham rounded off this superb evening with a set of pure tunefulness and white-hot wisdom.

My first night of Week Two saw a set of uncanny, bruising atmospheres being created by Throbbing Gristle. I simply needed to see these four unassuming people onstage – well, three unassuming people and one unashamed exhibitionist – and acknowledge the immeasurability of my debt to them. The infinitude of their influence on so much I have thought, done, heard and written over the last twenty years of my life.

Preceding their livid set, Alan Vega was a tiresome nuisance, looking for all the world like a confused pensioner as he wandered cantankerously around the stage, hollering useless drivel in our direction. Bookending the evening, Zeitkratzer and Rechenzentrum were rather ho-hum.

Things came to a spectacular end on Monday, with the Boredoms making a holy and riveting percussion-driven performance. Phill Niblock was a necessary interlude (by this stage I was feeling decidedly queasy), before Haswell & Hecker bawled out the place with a set of juddering noise, hypnotically lit by a constantly flickering green laser beam. TG returned for their Derek Jarman performance, and this was a revelation. The film (In The Shadow Of The Sun) was a slow and infinitely sad dream piece, saturated with deeply resonant imagery. And TG’s soundtrack, including a dark and mournful choir, was suitably plangent and sweeping. last of all, KTL (Peter Rehberg and the bloke out of Sunn o) played a set of deep, pulverising drones.

A word about the Esel guys, whose amiable performances I witnessed at odd moments in the lounge. They were very funny, I have to say. The stuff about auctioning off artists’ relics (sample riff: “here is a pill from Fabrizio of Larsen. Fabrizio will suffer pain because he will not take his pill”) appealed directly to my sense of humour.

It’s still scarcely believable how this all happened so close to me, here in Austria this year. Never again am I likely to witness such an extensive and concentrated pile-up of musical moods and experiences. It was, well, life-affirming.