Thurston Moore Group / Rattle, The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, 20th October 2019
It’s not every week you have a true rock ‘n’ roll legend like Thurston Moore grace the stage of your local music venue, but, there he is, standing tall in front of a packed Wedgewood Rooms introducing his backing band before playing a single note. He politely informs the waiting audience that the group will perform a single song this evening, but if you’re familiar with his latest album, Spirit Counsel – a two and a half hour record featuring three tracks – this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
First up though is tonight’s support band, Rattle, from Nottingham. The duo consists of two drummers (with some vocal harmonies thrown into the mix), and you might be fooled into thinking that this is some kind of gimmick, but their music is spellbinding and we were all left in a trance, hoping for more. Their set-up may be minimal, but vocalist Katherine Eira Brown is able to create a unique sound of her own that fits beautifully in and around the tribal drumming patterns. It’s hypnotic, strange and the music transports you to another place. Rattle’s simplistic approach is helping them to build a strong following, and it’s not hard to see why they are fast gaining a reputation as one of the best live bands around, which is thoroughly well deserved.
After nearly four decades in the music business, Thurston Moore is still producing some of the most interesting and accessible alternative/avant-garde rock music to date. His last solo record, Rock n Roll Consciousness, was a perfect hit for those of us still yearning for a Sonic Youth reunion (hmm), however, his latest offering takes a slightly less straight forward approach. Entirely instrumental, Spirit Counsel is a huge album (in both length and ambition), and it’s the first track from the album that we’re treated to this evening.
Alice Moki Jayne – named after Alice Coltrane, Moki Cherry and Jayne Cortez – is as inspiring as the women namechecked in its title. It takes many twists and turns throughout the performance, but for a song of this length, not once does it lose its way. It starts with Jon Liedecker creating some gentle electronic textures, before Thurston nods his head for the guitars to join in. Joining Thurston on guitar duties is James Sedwards and My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe, and together they create a lush wave of noise that makes your head swim. The wash of cymbals adds to this effect, and I can’t help but think of the intro to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond during the opening refrain. It’s beautiful and ominous at the same time, with the delays and drones in between the riffs adding another layer of intrigue to the song.
As the song progresses, the drums gather speed and the krautrock rhythm being played with military precision eventually gives way to an ear-splitting breakdown of guitar spasms, before a sledgehammer meltdown makes a few of those around me jump in surprise. This heavier section of the song sounds like the sort of all-out-sonic-audio-war that Swans have been championing since their reformation, and it’s absolutely brutal. The guitars are played with such ferocity that they’re knocked out of tune, but the song is nearly over and who’s going to care?
After 70 minutes everything gently slows to a halt, and you can hear a pin drop. There is a pause before someone shouts “fucking brilliant!” and the crowd erupts. Our patience is rewarded, our faith in music is restored and that was one of the most Pompey endings to a show ever! Good effort all round I say.
28th October 2019