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Nurse With Wound and Christoph Heemann

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Nurse With Wound's long overdue return to the stage finally saw them make their London debut. Steven Stapleton was calmly and amiably wandering the venue prior to the show, so evidently it wasn't making him as nervous as the hype machine surrounding the night would suggest. Nevertheless, this concert more than lived up to both the hype and my expectations (which were well and truly blown out of the water).

 

3 March 2007, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Nurse With Wound were not the only performers making a rare live appearance, Christoph Heemann was drafted in by Stapleton to provide support. Barely acknowledging the crowd, he took his position behind his table cover with neatly arranged electronics and began his performance. Proceedings were gentle for the first few minutes, recordings of traffic sounds murmuring through the hall. Gradually Heemann upped the ante and intensified the sound in both volume and texture, smoothing the traffic noises into a powerful set of drones, always slightly out of key leading to beating between the notes. The result was a splendidly rich sound which is how I imagine God must experience tinnitus. It was nearly too much for my ears thanks to one of the speakers being pointed directly at my head but after a few minutes, Heemann relented his assault on my eardrums and focused on a softer sound.

With my ears able to relax I was then able to pay more attention to what he was doing on stage. Most of the sounds seem to be pre-recorded as he was mixing different CDs together and tweaking them from a mixing console with various processors sprouting from it. This was a little disheartening that most of what we were listening to was not of this moment but the quality of the sounds and the power of their delivery more than compensated. He again brought his performance to boil towards the end the set, the sound perfectly complemented by colored lights searching around the stage like spotlights dotted along prison walls. Although this time Heemann launched a painless attack, the PA was not sounding the best as it spluttered trying to cope with some of the lower frequencies. On any other night this would have been a great headlining performance but the evening was just getting warmed up.

The five members of Nurse With Wound's live line up took to the stage to a surprisingly muted applause. Colin Potter jokingly asked the crowd to settle down in his best schoolmaster’s voice, class was now in session. For an hour, Stapleton and company voyaged through an A-Z of odd noises. Many of the sounds were familiar from the Nurse With Wound back catalog but were used out of context which freshened them up no end. The stage was set up like a long work bench, with each member tinkering away on his chosen toys. Stapleton spent a long time bowing a guitar, creating a hypnotic swirl of sound. Andrew Liles and Potter both seemed to be concentrating on the technological side of things; although it was difficult to figure out what they were actually up to. Potter in particular was dwarfed by a stack of rack equipment and a laptop; he seemed to be pooling everything together, sampling different elements and playing them back later (sometimes in a mutated form). Marcus Ripley’s percussion was subdued and impeccable, he brought just the right amount of extra atmosphere to the already heavy mix of sound.

 Special mention goes to Matt Waldron who was the star of the show in terms of physical performance. He seemed to have brought Mary Poppins' travel bag as minute after minute he pulled out some new item to make completely unexpected sounds from. It is hard to pick one highlight from his performance but his singing while bashing his own head in with a little drum and later his vocalizations through the tube of a gas mask were definitely two things I will remember fondly. The gas mask in particular was surreally funny and eerie at the same time, a description that summarizes the entire performance. David Tibet made two appearances during the night to sing his parts on “The Dead Side of the Moon” and “Two Shaves and a Shine.” The former did not quite gel together right for me, in retrospect it was a great take on the piece but at the time it was not what the set needed. “Two Shaves and a Shine” on the other hand was fantastic. It was slowed down and stripped of its guitar and bouzouki, shards of noise instead breaking up the bass lines.

After about an hour of getting my mind massaged and fucked in equal measure, the group began to gear down. It seemed that would be our lot for the evening but then a familiar creaking sound began to emerge from the speakers. The performance was already one of the best gigs of my life but finishing with a nearly full rendition of “Salt Marie Celeste” was the finest icing this cake could be topped with. It was hard to tell how long it lasted, it must have been at least half an hour but felt like longer (in a good way). Seeing the group perform this piece explained some of the mysteries behind the sounds, such as the clacking noises of the ship’s timber being a mechanical wooden whale toy. Each member of Nurse With Wound came into their own here although for most of them it was hard to discern what they were doing. The sound that came from the PA was full and immensely powerful, I found it hard to sit still as the sound washed over me in waves.

 When the good ship Nurse With Wound finally set sail, I wandered out of the venue stunned at how unbelievably good tonight’s gig has been. Either "Salt Marie Celeste" or the preceding performance alone would have made it worth my time and money venturing to London but the two combined made it special beyond words. The heavens obviously were in harmony with the performance, when I left the Queen Elizabeth Hall I noticed that the lunar eclipse had turned the moon the color of dried blood. A fitting reprise of “The Dead Side of the Moon” to say the least!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2007 18:06  


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