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Motor Ghost, Star & Shadow, 18th September 2007

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With both duos on this bill having free drummers behind the kits, it was bound to be a case of compare and contrast. Percussionist Paul Hession's track record behind the kit may be longer but Alex Neilson (as part of Motor Ghost seems to be covering more ground, in amuch more excited and involved manner.

The opening duo of saxophonist Hans-Peter Hilby and Paul Hession on drums stuck to the free jazz format for the whole of their set. There's nothing wrong with a handful of blowouts, and though Hilby took a few turns through Moroccan scented melodies, it still didn't feel like the pair were on fire. Despite its improvised nature and lack of structure, Hession's performance of snapping forearms and pumping knees still felt a little too strapped in, sounding like a thousand other free units. While Hilby's playing was all angles and turns, at points the drums felt like a technician had reassembled the playing from gathered data. It was almost like Hession was phoning it in despite his furious playing, maybe his head/heart just wasn't in it.

On the other hand, Motor Ghost's chemistry made it feel like they could follow any genre root they chose. With their debut LP having more than adequately proved their ability at subverting psychedelic rock, folk and exploding free duo sounds, both Ben Reynolds and Alex Neilson worked a fiercer magic live. Adding a barely reined-in Bluesy stomp to their repertoire, Reynolds handling his guitar like a furnace stoking lunatic instead of his folk spangled playing. Feeling as authentic as any modern interpretation of the genre (and a damn sight better than most have done), the stop/start percussion explosions emboldened Reynolds to even fiercer heights. A keen collaborator, Neilson's work with Reynolds feels like it has a more obvious push and pull than much of his other work. From full-on free fury to sweat kissed skin-warm lulls, Motor Ghost combined arrangement and thrilling release into a sound like throwing petrol cans into bonfires.



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