Monday, October 06, 2014

Dave Phillips, YOL, Aming Liang. Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 3rd October, 2014

Its not often I leave the Wharf Chambers shell shocked but I did on Friday. What began quietly with me being the first punter there ended with the audience leaving slack jawed and stunned after witnessing Dave Phillips remind us all just how dumb an animal humans can be.

Somehow I’d managed to put to the back of my mind just how visceral Dave Phillips is when he's in this mood and had a feeling that we’d get something totally different from what we saw in Birmingham last weekend. There he flattened us all with some all out noise whilst his erratic movements triggered motion sensors that briefly lit up the pitch dark room. When the projection screen behind him goes blank at the end of tonight's second and final set he disappears behind the left hand PA stack to let everything sink in and the audience doesn’t know whether to applaud or lay siege to the nearest MacDonalds.

But first to Aming Liang who’s soundchecking his guitar. I ask promoter Pete Cann where he found him. 'Busking' he says. I assume he's joking. If he does busk then he's just become my favourite busker of all time thus beating hands down the asinine Oasis/Simply Red/Bob Marley regurgitatators who clutter Leeds shopping thoroughfares with their felt hats and jokey banter. A wet weekend to them all.

Liang sits hunched over a black semi bodied electric guitar and at times plays it with a violin bow processing the sound through various pedals that sit on a chair opposite. Strings are pulled and open chords are rung out making for some seriously heavy noise. It’s not Solmania but it’ll do for a quiet Friday in Leeds. Not having heard guitar abuse for some time the results are spectacular to my shell likes with deep visceral lunges parrying high skree and at times almost silence as Liang tickles the strings with his fingers. That he coaxes so many different sounds from his guitar during his short set leads me to believe that this is a deep well of talent. As his set ends he stands his guitar against the PA only for it to slide off making a hideous clanging sound. We all cheer.

Dave Phillips first set sees him channeling his own field recordings through a mixer. Mainly insect sounds and frogs with flies buzzing and growls and snarls and thunderstorms rumbling away, pure field recordings with volume giving them an impact. Phiilips field recordings are precise renderings and all enveloping. As the final buzzing sounds hang low in the air he rises from his chair to distributes important information to every single person in the audience. When he gets back to his seat he flicks a switch and then silence. Its the first part of his message. The second wont be as easy to digest.

Yol gives Phillips some breathing time with a cathartic set made from but the barest instrumentation. That's if you could call a galvanized steel mop bucket an instrument. Amplification isn't needed. Doubled up over his mop bucket he rattles the handle and scrapes it across the Wharfs tiled floor making a hideous racket whilst ranting common banalities about the weather and supermarket value lines. The jangle of a string of closed bells and the scraping of a fork and a razor blade onto the inside of the bucket adds to the scope of the sounds but its the rabid, veins sticking out on the neck intensity of Yol's performance that grips. And its all over in less than ten minutes. Rarely do you get to experience such an intense and personal performance, its brevity only adding to its impact.

When Dave Phillips takes to the stage for his final set the projection shows a close up of an elephants eye that then leads on to images of rivers clogged with garbage, gulls covered in crude oil, dead seabirds whose rotting bodies display discarded plastic debris. When you see the overhead shot of a nuclear bomb being detonated the accompanying sounds reflect it. Phillips mixes almost subliminally quick snapshots of slaughterhouse abuse and distressed lab animals with stark thought provoking messages [‘A clever virus never destroys its host’, Truth is invented by liars’] and lightning quick bursts of noise which he triggers through various pedals and handheld devices. He paces the stage manically jabbing at pedals and flicking his wrist and arms as if in the throes of an epileptic fit. As his set goes deeper and deeper in it gets louder, distressed animal sounds enter the mix and the accompanying sequences get longer until a final sickening ending and a stunned into silence audience. When applause does eventually begin its almost apologetic and embarrassed.

Its shock tactics all right but far more effective than sitting in a circle singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ or listening to Bongo telling us all how fucked up Africa is. Another Wharf Chambers evening that will live long in the memory.


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