A real change of gigging pace after last month’s trip to the Moth Club in Hackney to see Vic Godard & The Subway Sect with Johnny Britton (see here). It was a new venue for me in 24 Kitchen Street, with minimalist legend Terry Riley performing alongside his son Gyan, and another minor gem it is.
Terry Riley is a minimalist pioneer and is now in his mid-eighties, so this was likely to be my only opportunity to see him live, especially so close to home.
I’ve been familiar with other minimalists like Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and Steve Reich for decades, but somehow I’d never got around to checking out Riley until I heard of this concert, so I ensured that I received 1964’s In C and A Rainbow In Curved Air from 1969 as gifts from My Beloved Wife over the past few months.
Fortunately, the mighty reds’ Champions League game against Porto was scheduled for the night before, so I was able to attend – not a dilemma that many others in the crowd would have been facing, I’d warrant (if I can judge many books by their hipster or beatnik covers…).
I found my way to the venue via the backstreets, eventually helping some other attendees who were trying to find the entrance, which was on Blundell Street rather than the titular Kitchen Street.
Already ‘on stage’ when I arrived, with the smell of incense in the air, were Ex-Easter Island Head, who had taken over what turned out to be a small seated area for later performers.
Sadly, it was difficult to get a good view due to the lack of space in the venue (as the place was pretty busy already), but they appeared to be four pretty motionless men dressed in black, making a pulsing, rolling Glass-esque noise on the lengthy first piece that I heard, which then evolved into something more techno-meets-Ryuichi Sakamoto and King Of The Slums.
The second piece sounded more like a dark European drama movie soundtrack – apologies for my lack of decent descriptions for the fare on offer this evening. It’s hard to draw comparisons as it’s not my area of expertise.
Between performers, Lupini (aka Nina Franklin) was DJ-ing, maintaining the mood effectively. As the first act’s equipment was cleared away, there was now more room for manoeuvre, so I headed down a step to the back of the seating to get a better view, although a couple of large pillars didn’t help.
Next on was the enthusiastic Aussie Daniel Thorne, who was alone on stage with just a sax and some effects pedals. He started with the fluid and light Due Point, following this with the more 1950’s film noir-esque Everything I Knew which turned into something more like Terry Riley.
Following an emergency change of reed (and a little woodwind-based repartee!), he went into the jazzier Double Helix, after which he reiterated how honoured he was to be on the night’s bill.
He closed with a track off his new album Lines Of Sight, which he was clearly delighted to have been able to record. This was the more cacophonous Fear Of Floating that edged towards James Chance territory.
Finally, it was time for the main event, with father and son Riley kicking things off with a cover of jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ Airegin (Nigeria backwards).
Riley senior was stage left using a range of keyboard instruments including a melodica and baby grand piano, while his son accompanied him on guitar (with various effects). A review of a previous show I have come across said he “sounds like Bach doing bebop during this series of joyously ramshackle improvisations”, which will do for me.
I don’t know the names of most of the pieces played, but they were both clearly loving being on stage together, sharing many a smile or nod. As well as minimalism, there was clearly plenty of jazz and Indian influences in the (presumably largely improvised) music.
The only other number to be introduced was I Like Your Eyes Liberty, although perhaps I misheard as that seems to be the name of an album collaboration with poet Michael McClure rather than a piece of music.
After around ninety minutes on stage, they convened at the back (behind a pillar from my view!) and were encouraged to play some more.
I left during the encore, as I had a very early start the next day, but it had been something special to see such an icon in the flesh and hear such an intriguing series of sets of challenging, unusual but engaging music.
I wore my orange Silver Apples t-shirt, the closest kindred spirit available in my racks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t spot any other band tees amongst the crowd.
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Here is a very brief sampling of the music from the night on Spotify: