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Le Guess Who? 2015 - A Second Opinion #2

  • Written by  Stef Siepel

The Tivoli Vredenburg venue has loads of areas that they can give concerts in, and one of those has eluded me up to this point, namely the one named Hertz. It is primarily used for classical concertos (is what I believe they call it), and today it is time for me to get in the classical kind of mood. So move over searing guitar bands like Titus Andronicus, A Place to Bury Strangers and all your kind that are also playing on this day, but let's sit back in one of the three layers of the Hertz hall to witness some proper arts, ya know?

Deaf Center is the first one to play. It is a combination of noisy ambient, a piano, and a guitar. The guitar, by the way, used in all kinds of ways, from being played as if a violin to just some old school guitar strumming. The noise makes sure there is always this layer of sound there, a bit grainy, a bit dark, and then the guitar and piano flesh the sound out or, often times, pierce through it with lighter, more hopeful sounds. That combination is something that always works well, it is the flower in the concrete industrial city, so to speak. Deaf Center also plays with volume, sometimes the music is very minimal, but on occasion they aren’t afraid to go at it a bit more loud.

Some stretches are interesting and captivating, though I’m not running to the merchandise stand afterwards. The hypnosis that this kind of music should bring doesn’t take hold of me, which makes the playing with light and deep, hard and soft also less effective. Now, it are hard circumstances and interesting circumstances for the band probably, as this is a festival where people like to come in and taste. So people who wouldn’t ordinarily be there will come in and have a listen, which is an enticing idea for the band probably. But these people are not going to sit down, be quiet, and stay for the whole show. So there’s always some noise, always people walking about, and always a beer bottle somewhere that is being knocked over. Also, don’t sit near the exit for this kind of thing, that amplifies all that, no doubt.

Swervedriver are playing a few floors down, and the veteran alternative rock band play their brand of shoegaze. A brand that doesn’t just include eyes down, building a wall of sound, and then dark, broody vocals on top of that. It veers more to the rock in terms of having songs that are interspersed with instrumental moments where the driving drums and the guitars work together to get going. That is also what is best about the show, the moments where the drums rattle their way forward, and the guitars bring it to completion before transitioning back to the song and the vocal part that belongs with it (which won’t be mistaken for Whitney Houston anytime soon). It’s good to see they are still going at it, but in terms of shoegaze I’m more traditionally inclined perhaps, and in terms of rock I maybe like more to happen on stage then that’s going on during this show.

Back to the Hertz room, as Lubomyr Melnyk is going to showcase his Continuous Music playing style. The older, Ukrainian gentleman is a mixture of two old professors I had class from back in the day. The humble demeanor, the large beard, the clothing, the slightly bend posture, and the enthusiasm for his craft is one, and again the enthusiasm, but with the tendency to go on and on until way after the bell for class has already rung is two. He, with love of the memory, tells a story of how he was playing in a hotel lobby at one point, just because there was a piano available. He said that probably most people thought, "Jeez, this old geezer at the piano, can he just shut up already?" (oblivious to the world renowned status of said player), but for the kids there, it was, "Wow, someone playing the piano". A lovely story, that gained an additional jokey layer when he went on about half an hour over his allotted time, and suddenly I was able to also understand the adults in the hotel lobby just a tad (for maybe he was on a 4-hour long marathon binge, who knows?).

Not that I was begging for it to be over (you can, in that case, just vote with your feet, so the people in front of me when leaving whining about how he went over time, you know, you can just stand up and go and fake having to catch a train or something). His quickfire playing style and the continuous piano sounds combined with the hits of the keys in between make for a lovely road of momentum, building a soundscape that one can fill with ones own feelings and emotions. The last track, called ‘Windmills’, especially is a good example of that. Probably the only lull is the song he does with the vocalist, who doesn’t come out of this endeavor all too well. But, in the end, a standing ovation, people hollering, and Melnyk repeating his call to see the beauty around us and in all of this world. A deserved ending, I’d say.

Since the concerto went over time, I can only catch the tail end of Anna Meredith, the young Scottish artist who is on stage with some extra people to help her out. And the wonderful thing here is that those people all bring something else to the project, from the more experimental and classical side of the cello and Meredith’s own clarinet, to the more contemporary and electro side of the music with some electro gadgetry and a big kick in the drum to give it this modern vibe next to the more compositional nature of some of it.

Even in the few songs I manage to catch I can see a whole range of influences, this being a woman who obviously isn’t thinking in boundaries and restrictions in terms of what goes. If it goes, it goes, and if it goes with a kick drum, then all the better. It makes for an interesting mixture of experimental, contemporary, compositional, worldly, and, oh horror, even some song structures in some of them to hang your hat on. Though not in all of them, and not all are equally accessible, but then the joy with which she is playing it makes it worth watching all the same.

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