Friday, 29 October 2010

Cocteau and Hallogallo

Last Monday’s screening of Blood of a Poet by Jean Cocteau at St Mary’s in the Castle Hastings was a great success in my opinion. The screen was as large as a full-size cinema and the projection quality and sound were great. About 50 people were there, more than I had expected; apparently only 8 tickets were sold in advance, one to me. Steven Severin provided a ‘live’ soundtrack with his Powerbook which, despite my initial reservations, fitted well with the bizarre images. I had not seen this film before and it still impresses after all these years: the image of the talking mouth superimposed on a hand is famous and I finally realised the origin of the still used on the sleeve of a Rip Rig and Panic single I once owned. Lee Miller, Surrealist muse, major photographer and wife of Roland Penrose puts in an appearance – they lived near the Downs in Sussex and I believe their house is sometimes open to visitors – I must investigate. Met Severin briefly outside afterwards when he was having a smoke – he signed a cd I bought of the soundtrack – told him how much I loved The Scream; it’s great that events like this are taking place in Hastings.

On Thursday night I hurried along to the Barbican after work to catch Hallogallo 2010, a trio consisting of Michael Rother on guitar and electronics, Steve Shelley (drummer in Sonic Youth who I used to see very often in the 1980s) and Aaron Mullen on bass. It was billed as ‘Michael Rother and friends present the music of Neu’, although I only fully recognised one Neu song (Hallogallo itself) - I read later that they also played Fur Immer and Negativland, I believe some Harmonia music was in there as well. Nevertheless the Neu incessant motorik beat was ubiquitous throughout and it was exciting to hear this music played live and at a reasonably loud volume – someone kept shouting out to turn the guitar up, which Rother obligingly did.

Rother looks in remarkably good nick for a 60-year-old – I can’t imagine they (original drummer Klaus Dinger died in 2008) played live much over here in the 1970s, if at all, but their music has gradually become very influential on a number of rock groups. In my naivety I assumed, when I used to go to early Stereolab concerts, that the monotonous driving two chord sound was all their own – imagine my surprise when I heard the first Neu lp some years later. Neu’s music is timeless - my own favourite is probably the second lp even though most of the second side consists of slowed down and speeded up versions of the pieces on the first side – the second song seems to have invented the Jesus and Mary Chain 10 years early. Last week Rother introduced a number of ambient sections, but the drums soon re-entered, Shelley doing sterling work at bashing away relentlessly. The guitar was much more ‘rocky’ and overdriven than on the records - one of the interesting features of the originals is the relatively self-effacing guitar sound and I imagine some members of the audience might have had problems with that; I did, but I got used to it fairly quickly. This was after all a modern interpretation of the music and these days Rother seems to favour a heavier approach.

Support was from Seefeel, although I suppose Stereolab would have been the (too) obvious choice – only caught 15 minutes of their set – the live sampled guitar seemed a bit old hat now. I used to love their cd Quique in the early 90s but never got to see them live.

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