Le Guess Who? Utrecht, Sunday, 1/12/13

Rather Copeland reminds me of one of those outsider artists like Ferdinand Cheval or Henry Darger, people who mindmap and create huge, mystifyinig edifices of work; stuffed full of weird curlicues and cul de sacs.

In bits, and afrighted at every turn by the stolid burgers of Utrecht out for their Sunday perambulation round the hell of the Hoog Catherine shopping centre, Incendiary took refuge in chicken and chips at Vroom and Dressman’s café. It was good, we were soothed and ready for the worst Le Guess Who could chuck. Today would be a bitch of a day though, for one reason. Basically the Sunday could have been a three days festival in itself, such was the quality of the line-up. I don’t subscribe to this concept of biking round the town catching 10 minutes of a gig here and 5 of another show there. Sure, you see stuff, and you can tick it off and yes I suppose it does make for a good review, BUT, we like to sink into a set, and a place, letting the sonic undulations – good or bad – do their work. So we had a bitch of a problem on the day. Three possibilities presented themselves. A day in RASA getting zonked out to some Mali blues courtesy if Terakaft, some dub in Mad Professor and some schizoid otherness courtesy of Eric Copeland, or hanging in de Helling with its brilliant line up of MV & EE, Wooden Shijps and Föllakzoid, or setting up camp in the dear old Tivoli Oudegracht to see Yo La Tengo, Lonnie Holley and Damian Jurado. We were pissed we couldn’t get to dB’s either as their line up looked tasty too. Ah balls. What’s a girl to do?  OK RASA. We go RASA. 

But before all that, as we were in the vicinity, we popped our heads round Ekko’s doors to take in Theo Verney, who rocked some grungey, Pearl Jammy tunes ,and made a lot of people, mostly grizzled blokes, bop about. Fine. Not really for us, but he’s a good showman and he does rock out in a cool and engaging manner. So off to RASA we went, and settled down to a Sahel deejay set before taking in the Tuareg desert blues of Terakaft who were bedecked in traditional gear. Not as blatant in providing such a commoditized example of “The Other” to the audience as, say Bombino, Terakaft nevertheless made it plain where they were coming from. Fine, as long as they’re pressured into looking exotic I’m cool. Backed by an astonishingly great rhythm section (the drummer being rocksteady with his use of snare* and the bassman dropping some deep and intensely gratifying punctuations into the ¾ rhythm, basically opening up a cavernous sound), the two guitarists, Diara and Sanou created an otherworldly set, built up by tessellate, grating riffs and delicately balanced hooks. They were adept at creating a different sense of space and time with their sound; able to negotiate tempo and meaning with tiny, incremental changes in the pressure they applied to a riff, say. Things started to steam up, Terakaft laying down a dizzying spell of groovy, shaking rhythm that had everyone swaying. Not only that they were able to dictate the pace of the gig beautifully, bringing the audience down to a level that gave them space to relax without letting any expectations falter; (you always get the feeling at these gigs that the hipsterish contingent in the audience want the funky elements and not the meandering bluesy bits, or rather meandering bluesy bits that go on too long for them to pull their “spiritually moved” face to). I suppose it’s like steering a boat over a vast and seemingly empty ocean, you’re the passenger, and you’ve got to trust the pilot.

After this something else entirely. We’re massive fans of Black Dice, and Eric Copeland. Before the gig I was chatting onto some pals and explaining how difficult I found it to adequately describe my love of Copeland’s sound. Sure it’s a mash up of sorts, and yes it reminds me a lot of later Faust LPs like Ravvivando, Freispiel or they brilliant Patchwork,  or even the stuff Deejay Marcelle does, but really, that’s only half the story. There’s this pixie like sensibility at work in his sound and the way he approaches it is far more plastic and “visual”, maybe artisan in the old sense of the word than strictly musical. Certainly in his appropriation of diverse sound sources. Rather Copeland reminds me of one of those outsider artists like Ferdinand Cheval or Henry Darger, people who mindmap and create huge, mystifyinig edifices of work; stuffed full of weird curlicues and cul de sacs. On the night Copeland - looking like he’d just finished a nightshift or been busy in his shed all night - was hunched over his electronic gadgets, barking orders, yelping impenetrable oaths and wiping his nose… delighting in making a big noise out of anything that came to hand. In this he’s got something of Tom Waits about him, some eccentric old bloke who’s been distilling strange brews in his shed.  Tremendous stuff.

Then it’s entertainment time! Mad Professor in the house, backed by two MCs and eager to create a trippy dub chamber out of RASA. I was a bit nervous, as I love his stuff (especially THIS LP) and sometimes these sort of showcase gigs can be pretty thin gruel. But no, this was set up as a dub party and we were here to get down. No pressure, only the bass. Actually the bass could have been a hell of a lot louder but I think sound restraints meant that it didn’t appear in the room to shake you by the hand wearing top hat with white tie & tails, but no matter there was enough to allow us to get our dub on. We got tributes to King Tubby and Lee Perry and the fairly thin crowd who had turned up got a fantastic party set. Really it was so much fun; that’s all you need to know.

People! Shut the fuck up about Damian Jurado! Yes, just like Hippy Johnny, I like him, I like him too; he’s great, his new LP is great, but honesty as soon as I heard everyone talking about it (friends, total strangers, semi pluggers, trendies), I knew the place would be jammed full of scene heads yapping or staring or looking like they were “loving it” so we didn’t feel too bad about shooting off home. We were cream crackered anyway, so it was time to head off home, back to lovely old Leiden. In any case, lots more interesting and influential and popular people than little old us will provide you with denkstukken on Damian, Yo La Tengo & the mighty Shijps.  End of excuse for wussing out. See you next year, it’s been a G.A.S.  

(*Credits for “festival visitor” and Mighty Sage in his own right, Jasper Willems for immediately noting that!)