Live – Horse Improv – Mon 29th July, The Horse, Lambeth, London

Horse Improv is held above a Lambeth pub, the room in a state of what can best be described “faded glamour”: grimy mirrors, tattered chairs, flickering lights, a slightly haunted atmosphere; a wonderful setting for an evening of fascinating music.  Zodiac symbols grace the ceiling under the rim of the coloured glass skylight, adding an arcane mood to the proceedings, as if we were at an occult gathering, which in some ways we were; the artists summoning a range of sound-spirits from the aether.

(L-R) Sharon Gal, Hutch Demouilpied, Sue Lynch, Jennifer Allum

 The first group were a quartet of Sharon Gal (voice), Jennifer Allum (violin), Hutch Demouilpied (trumpet/flute), and Sue Lynch (tenor sax/flute).  They conjured a flowing evocation of wind; a summoning of breath, like a long drawn-out exhalation.  The sound was full of fluttering, scraping, and thin wheezing; intricately and closely interlinked, playing as one multi-limbed organism; tense and still, like the edge of a storm.  A ghostly, hypnotising, intriguing performance; it ended far too soon.

Clive Bell (shakuhachi), John Jairo Garcia Rueda (tiple), and Gabriella Swallow (cello) were next on stage.  Their set was full of space and considered silence; a rattling shaky construction that often threatened to dematerialise altogether.  Rueda’s tiple and Bell’s shakahuchi provided a jagged, fractured bed for Swallow’s more strident, interventionist playing; some of her rhythmic work was brave in this setting, like trying to marshal the mist; a futile but necessary shepherd, her cello playing often pinning the others in place with long drones and soft beneath-the-bridge whistles.

Adam Bohman, Daniel Thompson

The third act of the evening was a pairing of Adam Bohman (amplified objects) and Daniel Thompson (guitar).  This group was an interesting pairing of controlled chaos from Bohman and weaving bracketing lines from Thompson.  The guitarist was a spidery presence, dropping a sound-web over Bohman’s grinding morass of rubbery industrial racket; flicking delicate glassy notes into a churning cement mixer.  Thompson employed an almost anti-shred technique, completely without excess, holding back and acting as a contrast to Bohman’s rumbling abandon.  The duo were the living embodiment of the neighbour in Tom Waits’ ‘What’s He Building?’

Dave Tucker, Phil Marks, Adrian Northover

The night’s final group was an ensemble of Dave Tucker (synth), Phil Marks (drums), and Adrian Northover (saxes).  They instantly created a great dynamic; Tucker and Marks conjuring a caustic sound-froth beneath Northover’s sharp sax flurries.  Marks’ sticks often flailed the air, creating inaudible beats around the actual ones.  Tucker’s contribution was a liquid amorphous gloop, flowing around the others like noise grouting.  Northover’s playing incorporated sustained tones, long looping runs, and breathe-stretching quacking tongue flutters.  Tucker at one point named the band ‘Wet Nightmare’; a more apt moniker would be impossible to think of.

As a new initiate, I urge you to visit future Horse Improv nights.  In places like this and Boat-Ting, you can really experience surprising, exploratory music; witnessing performers exchanging ideas and radical sound gestures in a good-humoured environment of curiosity and openness.
Horse Improv returns in the Autumn.  Listings here.

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