, live at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Dublin
I consider it my patriotic duty to pay witness to the greatest Australian band (in the field of improv) whenever I can. After more than five years of fandom, I should get frequent Necking points, or maybe even a sunhat. It was a piece of luck that I heard about the gig — there is a small centre devoted to improv music here after all — heartening. The tickets were just raffle stubs. I tried to get some colleagues excited and inarested to no avail. But the music, the music. I was kinda keen at one point to catch the opinion of the Germans sitting behind us, but I stopped caring. What’s the point when you’re listening to the sound of creation? The format hasn’t changed much (still in the mode of the last studio and live albums); the improv is startlingly unique every time though actually quite consistent in range: Lloyd’s looping 4/4 riffs, Mr Abraham’s asynchronous drones bordering on mental despair at the top of your head, and the superlative percussion work of Tony Buck — probably the greatest percussionist in his field. You tend to forget there’s more to rhythm and percussion than just hitting things. Tony scrapes, scratches, taps, tickles and trawls an astounding variety of sounds from a limited kit. First cymbals, then a ratchet ‘round the snare rim, a hand (or suspended, or China) cymbal running over the floor tom to make a crusty old machinic sound, a brush of tindersticks tightly packed, now agitating a bunch of brass bells with his foot as though crockery’s being stacked somewhere in the distance — all the while pacing and slowly evolving the pattern and the syncopated growth. The total percussionist as artist, he is. It’s amazing to see a band who not only have immense respect for each other’s musical space, but who take an almost infinite care with the texture of improvisation. I sat three metres away from Mr Buck in humble thrall. If only writing could be like this, I asked a mind thrown back on itself and I answered It is, it already is when you consider the creation of it. It’s in the care and attention to detail, the controlled permutation. That tension of control and freedom chaos, the seeming freedom which obscures a complex ability. The joy of ordered play in seeming-chaos — so refreshing compared to the at-times wilful chaos of Dublin. And that charmingly off-guard surprise and casual bewilderment as they walk offstage to the cheering and totally tuned audience. Jubilance at shared creation. Chuffed smiles.