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Nurse With Wound and Stephen O'Malley

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cover imageThe opening act for the 2008 Dublin Electronic Arts Festival (DEAF) could not be more exciting: Steven Stapleton's crew of madmen providing a bizarre and joyous introduction to the few days of blips, beeps and beats that would follow. With the addition of Stephen O'Malley to the core line up of Stapleton, Colin Potter, Andrew Liles, and Matt Waldron they did their now usual trick of pooling together sounds old and new from the Nurse With Wound back catalogue to create improvisations and faithful reproductions of classic tracks.


23 October, Dublin, Ireland

Prior to any live music being performed and to prevent the sound man from sticking on a random CD on while the crowd gathered, Stapleton and Potter spent a few minutes setting up a series of loops that built up into a version of “Salt Marie Celeste.” Leaving the stage and the loops to their own devices, the creaking lost mariner drones were allowed to fill the venue with a disturbing ambience. Even with no one on stage, this was already shaping up to be a great evening (yes, I have a huge soft spot for “Salt Marie Celeste” so even just listening to a version of it over a PA was a buzz).

cover imageStephen O’Malley filled in as support, playing guitar (naturally) through two full stacks of speakers with what looked like two preamps as well the two full heads. Combined with the PA, O’Malley was pumping out as much volume as is possible from one man. His set was more in line with his playing in Sunn O))) than the more experimental style he usually employs on his solo releases. With his guitar sounding like it was in an open tuning, O’Malley created a thick fog of guitar feedback. Just when the waves of sound became comfortable enough to become soothing, he would hit the frets at a position that would unleash masses of dissonance. This jarred most of the audience out of their trance and back into the deafening reality. Then, just as suddenly as he started, O’Malley’s set was over and our eardrums breathed a sigh of relief. Stapleton and Potter again started the “Salt Marie Celeste” loops, adding in bits of the Echo Poeme recordings for good measure.

cover imageWhen Nurse With Wound started their set, I noticed that there was a completely different tone to this performance compared to the Nurse concert I saw last year. This was most likely due to the venue last year being in a far more formal concert hall than this venue which had far more of a rock gig vibe. Despite the influence of the academic side of the avant garde on Stapleton, Nurse With Wound are a freaky rock band at heart so this lighter mood was most welcome. Stapleton kicked things off by bowing his guitar and all his associates contributed to the sound. Things got quite raucous, O’Malley’s barbed guitar adding a sinister edge. The group pulled back from the abyss to allow Waldron to stretch his vocal chords on “Black Teeth” from Huffin’ Rag Blues. He sang another song later in the set but it was not something I recognised (and if anyone there knows what it was, please let me know).

cover imageSome of the elements used at the London show had been retained but this was anything but a rehash of previous performances. Like the recorded back catalogue of the group, familiar sounds get recycled into new situations. Rhythms from Who Can I Turn to Stereo-era recordings appeared and mutated into almost unrecognisable forms. However, what I enjoyed most during this performance was that the weird humour that runs through Stapleton’s work was allowed to breath properly. Simple visual gags like smoke coming from Waldron’s trumpet or auditory juxtapositions like “Ach du Lieber, Augustin” being played over screeching guitar and some very odd funk bass made the performance that bit more fun than the mindfuck I experienced before (although don’t get me wrong, both gigs have been perfectly excellent evenings). By far the funniest (and most surprising) part of the night came when Stapleton sauntered out to the front of the stage, took the mic and belted out a fantastic version of “My Lovely Horse” from the TV show Father Ted. Even my grandmother was impressed when I told her about it.

cover imageA final surprise (although not that surprising considering he lives only a couple of hours away) came with Petr Vastl (a.k.a. Aranos) coming out to play. Blasting out trumpet on a killer version of “Rock’n Roll Station” with Stapleton on vocals and Liles moving to wah-wah guitar, you could not ask for more. Luckily we did get more anyway, an encore of intense jamming with Vastl shredding away on his violin as the others created a massive tide of noise behind him. One by one, each member of the group vacated the stage and Vastl was left alone, continuing to play and play. Evidently not wanting to do something as uncouth as tap him on the shoulder, Stapleton instead blew into a duck call to get Vastl’s attention and finish the concert. It was a typically Nursey way to end a great evening.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 October 2008 13:18  


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