The last in the four-part improvised/experimental music series entitled The Fold took place in St Audeon’s church last night. The line-up featured Cathal Coughlan, an unusual choice as a “spoken word” performer, followed by new wave/experimental group Thread Pulls and rounding off with multi-instrumentalist Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. It was an inspired line-up and fair play to Gary Sheehan of Note Productions who had the vision to know that these diverse acts would work together in the reverent quiet of St Audeon’s.
I won’t write much about Cathal Coughlan as there is a review of his performance last night at Onfire Blog, which seems to be much more familiar with Coughlan’s work than I am. Suffice to say, his voice washed over me like any performance of experimental music – the words drifted around me, some distinct phrases I caught (“I saw Seamus Ennis walking a bit tequila gaga, porter stains spoiling his white shirt”), others struck me for their lyrical, musical quality, the actual words lost. His Cork accent was gorgeous (Munster girl here) with his rapid-fire breathless style of recital.
Thread Pulls were a complete surprise to me on the night. I caught them a few weeks ago supporting R.S.A.G. at The Model Satellite in Sligo and didn’t have anything to say about the gig. They didn’t strike me as anything special on the night and I now realise that was really to do with the sound in the space. I remember thinking at the time that although the space was excellent, the sound wasn’t quite right. Knowing the techie usually engaged for The Model’s gigs, I thought it had to be the space as he’s always come through before and I was dead right. The sound of the drums bouncing around St Audeon’s last night made all the difference. I brought a traditional musician friend of mine to the gig and he was delighted with the sound, laughing out loud at the dramatic change between Coughlan and Thread Pulls and declaring the drummer Peter Maybury akin to the Muppets Animal. The performance was loud, loud, loud! and there was a very real/raw quality to Maybury’s drumming. Gavin Duffy provided bass, vox and trumpet over the incessant rhythm and made great use of loop pedals throughout the whole performance. I thought some of his effects – looping perfect third chords on the trumpet at the start of a track – were lost in the violent drumming and were only heard as a vague harmonic on the drum sounds, but maybe this was their intention… I didn’t get a chance to ask them either way.
After a quick break to massage the life back into our asscheeks, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh treated us to the quiet whisperings of his violin/viola/hardanger playing. Ó Raghallaigh has been improving rapidly in his live performances since arriving back in Ireland after extended travels. I’ve written on Ó Raghallaigh previously and enjoy each performance more than the last. A new element in his performance was the introduction of a vocal recording by deceased Donegal musician Neili Boyle (Ó Raghallaigh was quick to point out that the recording was made before he died). Boyle was recorded presenting a lecture to BCC radio and Ó Raghallaigh weaves his melodies around and over the words. I adore that each instrument gets an introduction, as if they’re partners in the performance and not mere tools through which Ó Raghallaigh transfers his music.
The Fold was a brave and inspired series and it would be great to see a little more of these platforms for experimental performance coming from Note. The website mentions the possibility that the idea could develop into an ongoing initiative which would be so good for experimental music in Dublin, and indeed, Ireland. Here’s hoping…