Small Seeds. Huddersfield 24th January. 2019
Small Seeds is the kind of quirky venue you'd expect to find in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin or the Harajuku district of Tokyo, a Hobbit's hidey-hole of shrubbery and half timbered walls with an incongruous tree trunk sitting jammed floor to ceiling. Strings of bare light bulbs hang from branches, a giant carved wooden eagle adorns the bar front and the tables all look like they were made by Robinson Crusoe. I trust they have a well maintained sprinkler system. Upstairs you'll find a popular pizza shop and bar, there's flyers for yoga classes in the gents and the sound system is this side of shit hot. Here we are then, at a venue that would never have existed in this somewhat dour Northern city ten years ago, all friendly and warm with my glass of red wine on a sloping wooden mushroom.
Actually not that warm. Steve Beresford keeps his winter coat and scarf on during his entire performance and I too am feeling the nip and thus keep woolly hat firmly on head. At least we won't go hungry as David Velez and [I think] his wife Lina María Velandia Pizón are cooking actual food on the actual stage. I was lucky enough to experience a Velez installation at Huddersfield University early last year, a pitch black room full of speakers playing the sounds of kitchens, mainly noisy Far East kitchens where woks are bashed with steel spatulas and cooks shout over the din, the experience a disorientating one as the sounds come at you from different angles as your eyes slowly become accustomed to the darkness. Here he's boiling a kettle as Pizón fires up the hot plate and fries some plantain. Things fizzle and pop as Velez introduces field recordings of domesticity. The queue for food at its conclusion is lengthy and takes some time to go down but everyone seems happy with what they get and retire to eat it at tables that have never entered the thoughts of IKEA designers.
Kelly Jones kneels and pours water from one metal bowl in to another. Rather sloppily at times which is a little disconcerting as she's mere inches from her laptop and other electrical gear. She pours from one to the other then clinks them together, slops some water over herself, the floor and then gets up to give someone in the audience a rock or is it a crystal? After a manipulated spoken word emerges from the laptop she begins to process the sound of rock on slate, scraping while producing powder and atmospheres that swing between dreamy and Industrial hellish. Some of the bass tones are so deep and violent that at least one audience member clap his hands to his ears, when one sustained blast actually got louder when you thought it couldn't actually get any louder I thought the PA would blow. But it didn’t. As much a ritual as sound exploration.
There's an upright piano at the side of the sizeable tree trunk with its maintenance panels removed and in front of it a table full of cheap looking machines that look like they'll make cheap sounding electronic sounds. Which they do. Beresford starts his short set with a bout of chair shoving [a bog standard chair with steel frame not one made by Robinson Crusoe] which makes you realise that all those years at school shuffling chairs around on polished floors was you making drone sounds. He then improvises on the keys, flying up and down the keyboard like Cecil Taylor in a winter coat before going in to the guts of the thing jamming the hammers in to the strings and plucking them like an recalcitrant harp. Then the table gets it. A proper table. Various noise making things held up to two mics, a mini bullhorn which he squeaks in to and places machines to. A maddening cacophony of gibbering gadgets. A radio is turned on and plays something Mendelssohn like. Things that hum are placed on the piano keys. A ghost like glowing dome makes a 'woo' sound. A tin mouse with a rasping wire tail is brought in to the action. That is 'Part 1'. We know this because Beresford tells us its 'Part 1' at its conclusion. Then he tells us that what's coming up next is 'Part 2' which is a short work using two machines that again make all kinds of peculiar sounds.
This is the first night of two from AME both celebrating a book launch showcasing their two years of putting gigs on in the town. Except the book hasn’t made it back from the printers. AME is the acronym for ‘Art Music Experiment’. Its also the Japanese word for rain, those four little raindrops you see in the middle of the ‘m’ are from the Kanji character for rain. Outside it is cold and the streets are weirdly deserted. Huddersfield is no Harajuku. I’m glad AME are putting gigs on in the town though. The more the merrier and its quicker for me to get home from Huddersfield than it is Leeds. I can’t make it for the Friday show which is at 21 Market Place. I think I’ve been there before. I’m pretty certain I saw Adam Bohman there. It has tables that aren’t sloping mushrooms.