It’s been two years since I last visited the heavily gentrified area of Dalston and from now on I’m crossing my fingers that Oto will be able to hang in there. The prices around the area seem to be skyrocketing. Good old capitalism, I guess. The three day residency at Café Oto seemed like an extravaganza of like minded artists. I managed to catch the first two days. The second day, Saturday, was sold out but I guess that even on the day before the place was packed. And it was nice to see some weirdos (no, I do not mean myself) instead of the usually hip crowd of Oto.
The opening set of Vicky Langan and Aaron Dilloway did not deliver. Even though they both tried hard by switching knots and pushing contact microphones to their limits, like static, it lacked energy. The guys from the Wolf Eyes were up next for a small set, but they decided not to play safe (by just giving us a “casual” Eyes show), a decision that went for Saturday as well. So it was an expanded version of Wolf Eyes, the Universal Eyes (an offshoot of Wolf Eyes with members of the band Universal Indians), along with Gretchen Davidson. I strongly believe that this is the core of a live version: presenting a new image, an altered one, something different. Their sound was huge. Nate Young was a dominant figure with vocals coming out the belly of the beast while Olson's sax shrieked between notes and an amorphous maze of noise. Yes, yes, I know, free jazz. Aaron, always the quiet presence, along with Davidson, provided an elastic electro-acoustic mayhem. It was cathartic at times.
The Universal Eyes stayed on. They must have liked it as much as the audience. Now it was with the duo of Elvin Brandhi and Gwilly Edmondez, the Yeah You. Having never heard them before, I’m not sure I got the right idea (if there’s such a thing) of what they exactly do. But, certainly they blended and reacted with the quartet of Universal Eyes amazingly. This six piece performance was the highlight of the two days. Many times, it seems that collaborations tend to suck out each other’s energy. Quite the opposite that night. The visions of six people, two different groups of musicians came together to form a new kind of ecstasy, some kind of transcendence. A psychedelic jungle maybe. Their forty minute set seemed to last forever, constantly climaxing until the very last second. A wonderful chaos.
The second day started with a DJ-set by Vicky Langan, and I must admit that she performed much better through this than the day before. I really enjoyed the weirdness of her set and how it was constructed to prepare us for what was about to come. For some reason, though, her set lasted very long. When the guys from Triple Negative finally took the small stage on Oto, I realized that probably they were just late. There seemed to exist some tension between them and those situations, very often, produce fruitful results. Well, not this time. Their performance was a mix of rock poses on guitar, a wind instrument that was literally inaudible and some piano with lyrics that were taking off on their own. Believe me, I have nothing against cacophony (quite the contrary) but this was not working and, disappointingly, there was little unity and collectiveness between them and the audience. Pretty disappointing.
The Universal Eyes returned for the last performance of the day. Saturday was the day of more rhythm and less noise. Young started off with some poetry, as he pointed out. I had the image that it was part two, like side b of the same record. Having heard side a just yesterday. It was less fun, more serious, more like an angry choice of words and sound. I would say that the term modern blues is more suitable for that performance. The pulsating, rhythmic monster of their sound was gradually hovering, going up and down in terms of volume, becoming a solid entity at the end. There was no catharsis on the second day but more movement of the bodies.