Monday, October 24, 2005

I Am Not Damo Suzuki

Some time back I saw popular improviser Damo Suzuki playing in Dublin venue Crawdaddy. I republish my comments here for anyone who did not have the opportunity to read them last time, and as a taster for my forthcoming incredibly fascinating discussion of the time he played with The Jimmycake.

Supporting the well-known sultan of improvisation were a couple of local acts. First up, some laptop guy. He made the kind of music laptop people make. You can buy programmes that generate this stuff automatically for you, can't you? Anyway, all enjoyable enough if not earth shattering. Next support was this amazing Scottish guy whose thing is hitting cymbals. He would use a drumstick in one hand and a set of maracas in the other, or some variant thereof. Sometimes he just scratched at the surface of the cymbals to create a strange shimmery sound. All in all this was a lot more interesting than it sounds, being hypnotic and trance inducing. I wish I could remember his name.

Damo Suzuki himself was playing with some local musicians from the band E=S+B - two keyboardists, a drummer, and a percussionist, all masked. Allegedly Damo never rehearses with the bands he plays with, meaning that there is always the risk of any performance he gives being a formless, meandering mess. Tonight things seemed a lot more focussed, to such an extent that you would think they were playing prepared pieces. It is possible that essentially the band were playing the kind of stuff they always play and Damo was just improvising vocals over the top, but even at that it seemed a lot more together than might have been expected. Someone did say on the interweb that they did a very long soundcheck, so maybe that in practice doubles up as a backdoor rehearsal.

I liked the music that came from this collaboration a lot. Like the drum guy, it was hypnotic, but it was a good bit more melodic and rocky. My intention for the future is to seek out more music from these E=S+B people. I heard that they are some kind of off-shoot of the band Wormhole, who were liked by me in the early 1990s.

I bought a Damo Suzuki double album from the nice German lady doing his merchandising, but I haven't listened to it enough yet to say too much about it.

Spurred on by the Damo Suzuki gig, I've been thinking about what a funny old rock and roll world it is. I mean, take improvisation (please, take it (nurse, call the sides doctor!)). Everyone loves it, at least in the world of music, but imagine how irritated you would be if novelists just made up books as they went along and never went back to re-write anything? I can definitely see the appeal of improvisation to musicians, but looking at the matter from first principles it is hard to see any intrinsic benefits for listeners in making up tunes as you go along.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't that Kerouac's method? And yes, it is annoying.

ian said...

The musical improv thing is meant to be more like a conversation.