Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stephen O'Malley + Steve Nobel | Marcio Mattos - Cafe Oto, London, 18 August 2010

In a record shop I like to frequent they have a section labelled 'Pretentious Art Metal'. It's here that you'll find albums by Stephen O'Malley's Sunn O))) and other bands on the Southern Lord or Hydra Head roster.

Whilst record shop staff are notorious for their snobbery, the instructive part of this tale is that nothing fails as awkwardly as a project with delusions of grandeur. So the two night residency of O'Malley and jazz drummer Steve Nobel is either going to be a triumph or something a long way short of that.

Before I can pass verdict we are treated to a solo cello performance by Marcio Mattos. He swiftyly switches between bowing and plucking in the staccato, jerky, style I can only, for the lack of the correct musical terminology, describe as modern classical. It's spellbinding and within a few minutes Mattos has even silenced the crowd by the bar.

He's also rigged his cello so that he can manipulate the sounds he creates with some additional sonic effects. My distant position in the audience prevents me from seeing how he does this. This allows Mattos to introduce spacey noises like a 1970s computer before he drops in a heavy bass 'whoom', a completely unexpected noise from a cello.

Steve Nobel immediately launches in to a rapid fire, schizophrenic, drumming. He flits across his kit in a hyper kinetic way, all energy and blur. O'Malley meanwhile seems to be trying to work out a chord based puzzle on his guitar. Deploying sluggish riffs in a way which provides tonal colour.

I wait for the performance to coalesce, but it never does. Nobel works his kit furiously, the variety and dexterity of his playing is something to witness. However, O'Malley's sonor ping riffs come across for the most part as if he is trying to tune his guitar.

Fundamentally this pairing doesn't work. Which is a little odd given that they have both played together in Aethenor. But in this setting they simply don't mesh. Nobel's drumming requires a more active guitarist, someone more able to duel and spar, or take the lead. While O'Malley needs a less intrusive percussionist, someone who can give his guitar playing more space to unfold and expand.

Preferred drink: Kernel's London Porter.


Plague Recordings said...

Odd... "Pretentious Art Metal"... that similar to so-boring-it-hurts?

Jilted Barfly said...

I think it's fair to say you'd struggle to tell them apart.

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