The Purging of The Nymphs

The Purging of the Nymphs
21st March 2009
Fell Foot Wood

Damo Suzuki, Electric Free Time Machine, Gnod, Herb Diamante, Goat Girl and Madame P.

Dusk draws in on a balmy spring evening, last years’ beech leaves spin down onto half-assembled tents. Figures shuffle down through the woods to congregate by the stage. Tonight is The Purging of the Nymphs – a psychedelic burlesque of avant-garde performance and improvisation guested by influential ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki.

Act 1, The Enchantment, kicks of with Herb Diamante, who visually looks like a cross between Andy Warhol and Anne Robinson. ‘I’ve eaten a lot of cheese tonight,’ says Herb, cigarette crooked and glowing. He looks out at the audience. ‘I’m wondering, am I dreaming?’

Looking up at the stage, we wonder the same thing as Diamante launches into a series of dark cabaret-Chanteuse beat-poems, belted out with a full-throated vibrato and set to a backing track of James Bond riffs, brass and electric guitar. Goat Girl comes on stage and adds shrill Kate Bush vocalising. That, alongside the Dietrich-cum-Lou Reed singing, in itself is quite arresting, but the effect is given a whole new dimension by the fact she wears a larger-than-life set of male genitals, gyrating and nudging as she sings. It’s a tricky balance, but I’d guess they take themselves just seriously enough. ‘You’re screaming like a rabbit/such a nasty habit!’ fades away to a mixed response, but it’s got peoples’ attention.

Next, after joining Diamante for a number, Madame P seats herself, Japanese-style, at her table of effects and performs a set of vocal-based improvisations. She has a beautiful, fluid voice, with a sultry, tender tone, and tonight she weaves it into dissonant echoing phrases. I think to myself I’d be happier listening to such a voice stripped down and given a different kind of workout, but tonight’s enchantment is deliberately off the beaten track.
The Satyr who is leading us all astray is the event’s organiser, Barry. He takes the stage to a swell of affectionate applause. He has been possessed by the nymphs, he says, and that is why tonight has come to pass. He recites a self-penned poem as an incantation, then exits on a tractor (N.B. for practical reasons) nevertheless bringing more cheers and applause.

Act 1 continues. Goat Girl returns to stage as Queen Shmu Qui, dressed as an astronaut, with rubber chickens and strange objects in her bum-bag. She baffles us for a bit then changes into a red flamenco-type dress, and seats herself with a guitar. ‘Frighteningly brilliant,’ says one person, ‘Frightening,’ says another. But then she performs a series of folk songs, to be joined by an accordionist, her voice and style not unlike Joanna Newsom, having a similar swooping, unguarded soprano, with whirls of non-linear melodies.

Act 1 is over, the spell cast, Enchantment complete. Electric Free Time Machine take to the stage and within sixty seconds a crowd gathers. Dave George casts off into a swirling synth ocean; the first bass line takes hold, picked up by an urgent swagger of jazz-funk drums. Guitars flex, the crowd cheers: Damo Suzuki clasps his hands around the mike (he does not let go throughout the entire set) and closes his eyes.

What follows is a constantly changing musical painting – each segment’s ‘canvas’ is pulled roughly on stage with a painter’s fervour, and is quickly filled, moving us through a series of passages each with a different attack: first, smears from the bass slides, then a spatter of drops flicked from the guitars, swirling currents washing all away to begin again. Twisting in his long-buttoned coat, Suzuki moves from scat to growls in the undergrowth, building mysteries with hermit foil. A seeming languageless, or multi-tongued vocalisation becomes an image of a man walking down the street and observing the rat-race, then we’re picked up and deposited in a seedy, jagged, gathering of people in the darkness and smoke of a back-stage door, a four-note scale could be a security alarm, a siren. And all the while, Suzuki twists and growls. ‘It’s like cleansing Japanese funk,’ said a companion, ‘it’s like he’s drawing the energy.’

EFTM make way for Gnod who start with a slow, ruminative intro, a bass lollops at a comfortable pace – they’re going to take their time and take in the sights. Mood set, Damo returns to stage and the sound gradually builds to a pulsing soundscape. We’re in the city streets again, but this time driving, and at speed. Thick-electric bubbles of effects, over strung by wailing, tripping guitars, create the sense of street-lights whipping overhead. We’re on a road-trip.

Barry returns to stage, to sit shaman-like at Suzuki’s feet, moving his hand slowly in time, but I’m not sure whether he’s feeling energy released from the stage, or he’s trying to get the band to wrap up. Either way, the purging process has sprouted its own wings. EFTM replug and join Gnod on stage, others come, it fills, overspills and people pick up djembes and percussion in the wings. The set ends with a full-on jam which includes a beguiling contribution from the members of Gnod on brass handbells in a fey, ever-changing loop.

Then, the power is pulled, the lights go out, drum sticks are confiscated.

But in the woods, the jam is only starting…

— reviewed for The Lunecy Review by One Baked Bean

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3 Responses

  1. […] Relyn wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe Satyr who is leading us all astray is the event’s organiser, Barry. He takes the stage to a swell of affectionate applause. He has been possessed by the nymphs, he says, and that is why tonight has come to pass. … She baffles us for a bit then changes into a red flamenco-type dress, and seats herself with a guitar. ‘Frighteningly brilliant,’ says one person, ‘Frightening,’ says another. But then she performs a series of folk songs, to be joined by an accordionist, … Read the rest of this great post here Posted in Uncategorized on March 25th, 2009 | […]

  2. Wow, I offered to review this, glad I didn’t as that is a wonderful description of proceedings on the night…Excellent stuff. Fellfoot continues to delight and mystify in equal measure

  3. Very interesting..

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