Thursday, 14 August 2008

Acid Mothers Temple / Shit And Shine - White Heat / Madame Jo Jo's

Acid Mothers / Pika pic by Greg H

Tonight is a night of experimental music.

I’m somewhat on my guard, as previous experience of such events warns me of the likelihood of random noise, extreme seriousness and a general vibe that this is not ‘entertainment’ but something more akin to that medicine which tastes nasty but is supposedly good for you.

The initial signs are not promising. A young chap sits on the floor of the venue, generating and distorting feedback through a guitar resting on a speaker. It is ear damagingly loud, but is the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. It beats me how anyone has the gall to present this guff to a paying audience.

Fortunately, it doesn’t go on for long and the next band more than make up for any doubts that I may have had. In tonight’s incarnation Shit and Shine comprise five drummers (three on stage, two amongst the audience), plus three sinisterly masked guitarists, two of who also sport bunny ears. There is also a girl doing something fairly indefinable with a small keyboard, apparently using it to warp the vocals of the Bunnymen.

There is nothing subtle here. The five drummers wallop the living crap out of their kits while the guitarists lay down screeing shards of metal riffage. There is much electronically altered screaming.

And it is wonderful. The noise and rhythm generated by the drummers is astounding. They are all synchronised, but seem to take their cue from a green-clad girl on the stage, who is pulling the most extraordinary faces as she laughs and competes with the other percussionists around her.

This barrage goes on for around half an hour, during which time one of the Bunnymen attacks a fellow guitarist and rides his back like a horsey. They careen into the audience. This does not phase anybody at all. Things gradually wind down when one of the guitarists throws his instrument onto the stage, awkwardly clambers after it and then proceeds to kick the drum kits over as their operators dive out of the way. There is a final squawk of feedback and (blessed) silence.

Organisers White Heat have said that the headliners Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno will play for around two hours. Despite attempts to get the band on stage quickly, it is still nearly a quarter to ten before they start.

Tonight the veteran space/psyche rockers are joined by the marvellous Pikachu, the whirlwind drummer from Afrirampo. She dresses like a drunken 20’s showgirl and screams and clatters along throughout. The rest of AMT specialise in extremely long, improvised jams based around the guitar heroics of the extremely hairy band leader Kawabata Makoto. Aside from Pika’s squeaks there are only very limited vocals from bassist Tabata Mitsuru.

As there are two drummers pounding out a rhythm, there is no let up in momentum, even if no tune really goes anywhere. This formlessness would under other circumstances become boring, but fortunately there is so much going on (and at such a speed and volume) that there is always something to get your attention.

One lengthy song seems to be based around the guitar figure from PIL’s ‘Poptones’. It’s hypnotic. Centre stage, Higashi Hiroshi wearing the garish trousers of a down at heel court jester, sways back and forth, apparently completely lost in music, caught in a trance.

Things reach a conclusion with Pikachu clambering around atop her drum kit and improvising a scat vocal call-and-response with the audience.

Makoto then smashes a guitar (not the one he has been playing) into pieces with extreme gusto. With total finality, the plug is pulled from the feedbacking amplifiers and all is quiet. The silence itself is deafening.

It’s been at times a literally stunning evening. I doubt that either of these acts could reproduce this effect on record, but in this small space they are devastating.

(Additional reporting by CW)
Here's a representative clip from their earlier London show at Corsica Studios.

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