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Githead, 25 September 2005, The Sugar Club, Dublin

What surprised me most about Githead was how light hearted they were. Sure their name should hint at some sort of humour but their studio work has a seriousness about it that made me imagine four people on stage staring at their shoes. Thankfully what I found was a friendly, funny band that interacted warmly with the slightly anaemic looking audience.



The underground supergroup (consisting of Wire’s Colin Newman and Robin Rimbaud a.k.a. Scanner on guitars and Malka Spigel and Max Franken from Minimal Compact on bass and drums respectively) is on their longest tour yet with a stint around Europe.


Support for their Irish show was provided by the Dublin band Crumb. To me they sounded quite dated, they’re obviously influenced by the meeker British indie rock of the eighties. They had no real presence on stage. They would have passed for entertaining if not for the guitarist’s terrible tone, he had the treble turned up so high that everything he played was masked by a grating high pitched noise. This is a shame because from looking at his fingerwork he had a nice technique.

Githead launched into the instrumental track “Antiphon” from their Profile album. Spigel’s bass was the most prominent part of this song and indeed most of the set. Her tight, fluid playing drove the band all evening, except for “My LCA (Little Box of Magic)” where Newman played bass and Spigel took to the mic and guitar. Counter to this strong bass presence, both Newman and Rimbaud set up a rhythmical shimmer of guitar. At times their playing blended together as they weaved in and out of each others’ riffs. Rimbaud looked very comfortable with his instrument considering he’s best known for twiddling knobs. In fact, the highlight of my evening was his playing during the final song “Raining Down” (another Spigel vocal moment) where not only did it sound good but the poses he pulled were very entertaining. Another memorable moment was “To Have and To Hold,” which sounds tremendous live. Newman’s whispered vocals were just audible enough over the band. The addition of Franken’s live drumming to the pre-recorded drum machine beat fleshed the track out into a truly memorable performance.

With any luck Githead will make a return to Irish shores sometime soon.


 

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EYVIND KANG, "VIRGINAL CO-ORDINATES
Ipecac
As a violinist, Eyvind Kang has played with the likes of Sun City Girls, Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs 3, Laurie Anderson and many others. As a composer, Kang has carved out a unique position for himself, releasing a series of studio albums drawing on his concept of the NADE (a concept which I won't attempt to explain here, mostly because I don't understand it). The albums combined elements of disparate ethnic music forms with esoteric spiritual ideas, and sudden, unexpected transitions into fully-formed pop songs or long passages of pastoral ambience. I've liked most of his work that I've heard so far (especially 2000's The Story of Iceland), but it appears that Kang has outdone himself with Virginal Co-ordinates, a beautiful recording of an ambitious live performance staged in Italy last year. Kang composes and conducts a 16 piece ensemble—called the Playground—augmented by himself on violin and several guest musicians, including Mike Patton on voice and electronics, Michael White (former Sun Ra Arkestra violinist) and Tim Young on electric guitar. I suppose the inclusion of Mike Patton is the only reason this album has surfaced on Ipecac Recordings, seeing as it's otherwise entirely different from the label's usual output. It's quite an impressive work, split up into ten movements of varying lengths, each gently joined to the next with gossamer instrumental threads. The title of the work evokes images of untouched glacial expanses, secluded valleys and mountains untouched and unadulterated by the progress of man—Virginal Co-ordinates in which the mind and spirit are free to find connections with nature beyond those limited ideas inculcated in us by the artificial strictures of society. The album artwork is pure white, the color of virginity, with a white cobra in the center, appearing poised to strike. The cobra is a perfect symbol for the current of hidden menace that runs through much of the music. There is a spiritual yearning throughout, but it is often joined by vibrating undercurrents of dread. "I am the Dead" transforms into a full-blow orchestral pop song with echoes of Brian Wilson, but its lyrics presage the death and rebirth rituals of the Bardo Todol. Mike Patton's voice lends an ethereal beauty to certain passages, and Walter Zianetti steals the show with his acoustic guitar solo on "Taksim." Elements of Spanish guitar, Indian raga, tonal Oriental scales, film soundtracks and American pastoral symphonies all weave their way into Kang's work, culminating in the majesty of the title track, a magnificent, shape-shifting wall of orchestral noise in which musical phrases from earlier movements are recycled and juxtaposed to hypnotic effect. At 73 minutes, Virginal Co-ordinates is never boring, which is something that cannot often be said for works of modern composition. In fact, its appeal goes well beyond the usual modern classical crowd, and I imagine it would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the transformative and magical possibilities of music. 

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