Taken from his recent album Free, Iggy Pop has paid tribute to his good friend Lou Reed, on what would have been his 78th birthday, with a reading of Reed’s 1970 poem ‘We Are The People’, backed by a beautifully forlorn keys and trumpet of Leron Thomas.
On October 1st Universal will be releasing a deluxe edition of The Velvet Underground & Nico to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the album. The main point of note with this version over previous re-releases is the inclusion of the Scepter Studios acetate version of the record which has been fetching the insane amount of $155,401 on eBay.
The LP gets released at the end of October but today we have the first full length track The View. It reminds me a bit of Bowie’s dalliance with Tin Machine in parts and heard as a whole track it sounds way better than the impression the 30 second teaser gave us last week.
There was something exciting about attending a celebration of noise, drone and experimental music at the Opera House, a venue that normally hosts music and theatre of a more classical and structured form. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson are to be congratulated for their Vivid Festival curatorial selections and the variety of music they have included across the event.
On arrival for the anticipated 7.30pm start time the anticipation was quelled somewhat by a delay of an hour which meant longer hydration time at the bar and a chance to check out the eclectic audience of Sydney musicians and fans of deconstructed music. Ushers roamed the bars handing out earplugs, a sure sign that volume was going to be the order of the night.
Once seated we were eased into the volume and sonic explorations with the relatively straightforward noise rock of Melbourne’s Zond. There were furtive glances between members and insistent gestures as to how to start and end their songs that were filled with propulsive, surging bass and textural, slashing guitars.
The first of two Japanese bands were Melt-Banana who were like Rage Against The Machine colliding with a punkier Bjork. Their precision and the inventive guitar sounds and playing made for a fascinating and schizophrenic sound. Time signatures mutated and they showed that playing challenging music doesn’t mean you forgo the right to performance and showmanship. They were the most entertaining group of the evening.
Local guitar manipulator Oren Ambarchi conjured up some incredible sounds from his instrument and a table of effects units. There wasn’t a guitar chord or note progression to be heard, instead we got a soundscape of surging electronics that darted across the theatre’s crystal clear speakers. Ambarchi’s skill lies in his sonic control and the ability to shape rhythm and form without descending into density and noise for noise sake.
Ambarchi stuck around as a supplementary axe-slinger for Boris, a band who are masters of their punk, metal, stoner, psych, drone-rock domain. Playing a more drone-based set than their full weekend shows they lulled the audience into a sedative mood before unleashing their full force with waves of thunderous distortion that pushed you back into your seat. It was insanely loud, dense and the perfect mix of repetition and weight. The drummer was particularly resplendent in white suit, and gloves and his gong playing and propensity for raising the devil’s salute made him the focus of the band’s all too brief set.
Intermission gave the ears a welcome reprieve before we were aurally assaulted by Rice Corpse and the sight of Lucas Abela blowing, sucking and screaming into a sheet of mic’d up glass that gradually snapped and shattered in his hands. It was interesting to watch but there seemed no interplay between Abela, the keyboardist and tight power drummer. An experiment gone wrong.
Once a vacuum cleaner cleared the shards of glass from the stage – to rousing applause and witty heckling – Bardo Pond, accompanied by Marc Ribot, played one long piece of swirling psychedelic drone that slowly built like an approaching tsunami. The singer had issues with her monitors that distracted from the music and there wasn’t really a sense of the music reaching its destination or indeed its potential until its final minutes. Bardo Pond needed to be experienced over a full set to really appreciate their hypnotic abilities. By this time stage crew were scurrying like manic ants, shifting amps, rewiring mics and still trying to make up for the late start. Night Terrors unfortunately got an early windup after two songs but they added another angle to the ‘noise’ theme with a more electronic slant augmented by some wonderful theremin playing. It was haunting and melodic rather than the usual novelty shortwave radio screams we are normally subjected to from the instrument.
The final section saw Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson return to the stage (after a brief interlude jam earlier in the evening) to lead an all-star ten piece collective through a mesmerising improvised audio collage. It worked surprisingly well with all musicians respecting the greater whole and not over indulging on their given instrument. Reed commanded centre-stage on a throne of sorts with comfortable chair, guitar and racks of effects while Anderson was resplendent in tartan skirt, track pants and nylon ski vest, coaxing dramatic melodies from her electric viola and directing the music that ebbed and flowed like an experimental classical piece devoid of structure and restraint.
Noise Night was a great success musically but the structure, with continuous music and constant scrambling stage crew, made the evening feel too frantic and distracting. It was an experiment that didn’t quite work but the sounds and intent of the musicians was a treat for those who prefer their music to be intellectually stimulating and physically confronting.