Nocturna Discordia #13 at Soda – 11th Feb ’15

Amaiur González (tuba)
Eugene Martynec (laptop)
Pablo Vazquez (electric bass)
Joni Garlic (drums)

Here we are again. However, this time I must confess to tardiness and despite the beautifully relaxed peninsular attitude to the clock, noise was already emanating from the stage when I arrived. (One consequence of this is that I missed the classic jazz disc beforehand – judging from a record sleeve I spotted, it might well have been “Moanin'” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.)

But what a fascinating noise! Once again, the less-than-traditional instrumentation (combined with less-than-traditional techniques) produces a noteworthy experience from the off. To begin with it’s Martynec’s laptop, sounding somewhere between and electric piano and a gong – my immediate reference point was the tonality of some of Frank Zappa’s Synclavier work, which would prove to be an odd coincidence; I’ll tell you why later. Anyway, chimes and scrapes from Garlic’s kit some positively rabid bass attack unroll the welcome mat for González’ tuba – a delicious sonic contrast as he conveys the soft sound of a gently questing pachyderm.

A little further in, and I’m beginning to wonder if JG will play anything remotely conventional (not that I want him to necessarily, I’m just curious) as so far it’s all clatters, scrapes, subtle use of offbeat vibrational tendencies and generally a great rubbing of parts. He’s practically torturing the kit, and it sounds great; wrestling marvellously with Vazquez’ effects-laden bass which at this point is churning out a semi-psychedelic dissonance, occasionally sounding more computer-ish than the laptop. Unless those sounds are the laptop; there are very few visual cues to tell you when a laptop-player is going at it. Finally, while AG barely has to breath to layer on the dense heavy tones and Garlic continues to keep things percussively interesting, Vazquez’ instrument subsides to a crackling undertow of clicks, buzzes and repetitive thumps – pulling and pushing at everyone else but never quite overwhelming them. It strikes me that the bass is actually performing quite a traditional role here: that of rhythmic anchor. A fractured and partial anchor admittedly but firm nonetheless and for a moment there’s a clear sense of the others all being connected through PV’s peculiar and mischievous frenzy.

So, far, the music is quite uncategorisable (which is a cause for rejoicing) and I’d call it Dalí-esque but that might be a little too obvious and ‘on the nose’ round these parts, so let’s just settle for “aggressively surreal lullaby” or some such meaningless phrase.

The second piece begins with a fairly awesome drums and bass intro – everything is twanging, pounding, vibrating and gleefully chaotic. The density builds as AG’s tuba adds some heartbreaking lines, and at the highpoint? BLAM! Sudden no-holds-barred volume from JG and practically regular playing, sticks hitting skins, wonders may never cease. Not to worry, it didn’t last long and we drop to a minimalist almost-silent delicacy. Inevitably, we begin to climb again, and all four musicians start digging in. Is it possible for a tuba to be overdriven? Certainly, there’s a growling, distorted tone from González, while Vazquez grumbles tectonically, Garlic plays a theme tune to Ragnarok or Armageddon, and meanwhile Martynec keeps it all impassively weird while throwing out sampled yelps and fragmented voices. It’s all very apocalyptic but in a knowingly tongue in cheek sort of way. Again, I can’t help but think Zappa; possibly the lovechild (or ‘idiot bastard son’ if you prefer) he might have had with King Crimson and AMM. Does humour belong in music? Well, it’s here whether you like it or not.

After a third piece which actually drops into a funky groove before dissolving into a soup of chimes and dirge-like drones, the set is over. Left feeling a little blown away by the sheer unrelenting and inventive quirk of it all, there was one final ‘haha’ moment. Discordian had brought along some of their own record collection for the post-event soundtrack and having scribbled FZ’s name at least three times in the last 40 minutes, what do I hear? “The Grand Wazoo”. Nice.

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