Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Quiet Club in the Goethe Institut

Thursday morning of last week saw me pottering about in my usual aimless way, vaguely working on projects I should have tackled ages before (involving beeswax, a soldering iron, and lots of swearing). Thursday afternoon saw me in my car, driving towards the metropolis for an evening of fine music in the Goethe Institut on Merrion Square, a concert by the Quiet Club (the Improv project of Danny McCarthy and Mick O’Shea, both sound artists of long standing based in Cork) in celebration of the launch of a new CD by the Quiet Club and a book on Danny McCarthy. There was, in fact, a whole table of CDs, which left me cursing my poverty as I wasn’t able to buy them all, but I settled for Tesla (the aforementioned QC CD) and Radios Silent by David Stalling and Anthony Kelly, two composers/improvisers who were also performing that evening. (More information on McCarthy and O’Shea here and here, and on Stalling and Kelly here and here).
In the room where the concert was happening, just across from the table of CDs, were tables covered in all kinds of objects: theremins, cables, bits of instruments, and a plastic apple, while on the ground beside was a black mat with more stuff: a boxy Middle-Eastern guitar with grey duct tape stuck to it, a pile of stones, another theremin, and a tiny toy record player next to an angle-grinder disc. It looked like a strange car-boot sale! It think it’s fair to say that this sight filled me with glee, as such an array means that, even if the music’s dreadful, the sight of the performers playing with all their toys will amuse, and they’re guaranteed to pull some interesting noises out of the ether one way or another. Of course, when the performers are of the calibre of these lads, a very compelling musical experience is almost certainly assured.
The first section of this continuous performance was just McCarthy and O’Shea, with the latter seated at one of the tables and the former on the black mat. Utilising the objects above, they created deep bass drones and rumbles, electronic squiggles, bursts of static noise, groans and whooshes, with what sounded at one stage like distant, barely audible voices. Or, as my companion said: “parts of it sounded like something huge lumbering about in a small space...” It was (relatively) quiet, restrained music, yet full of incident and quite compelling, evoking a dark, brooding landscape, like just before an electrical storm. The guy who introduced the concert, Dr Francis Halsall, had advised the small audience to approach it as looking at objects in sound (like sculpture, I think he meant), which was not a bad analogy. When David Stalling and Anthony Kelly, two Dublin-based composers/improvisers joined them, the music initially became more edgy and active, as if the storm was about to break, but then it subsided and continued as before, except thickened slightly by the extra voices. But there was no grandstanding; the four musicians produced a singular sound that was organic in nature, and in continual transformation, like the sky on a troubled day. I became so entranced by the performance that I completely forgot to take notes, and just let the sounds carry me away. It was fun to see live, though, if only to appreciate the odder instruments they use (their choices, such as the toy record player, do indicate a wry sense of humour). All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience (although the couple sitting next to me and my companion didn’t think so, as they left halfway through!), and I’m really enjoying Tesla, the Quiet Club’s above-mentioned CD, available to purchase here with other, equally interesting stuff, if you’re so inclined. Here’s a video of Quiet Club live in Cork, in a considerably noisier performance.

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