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SunnO)))/Nurse with Wound (live at Koko)

Koko, London
12 June 2012

Been wrapped up in the awesomeness of NWW/SunnO)))‘s collaboration [post=sunnnww text=”The Iron Soul of Nothing”] since New Year, so naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to see both groups together. I was secretly wishing for a stage collaboration of sorts, but it was pretty clear, as Colin Potter, Steve Stapleton, Andrew Liles and somebody else I didn’t recognise on bass (was that Mr Waldron sporting hair!!?) filled the stage, that this was going to be a game of two separate halves.

The proceedings started quite sharpish, with none of the usual waiting around that London gigs seem overly keen on. Nurse with Wound floating out on some desolate hinterland just after 8pm, a tasty bit of nocturnal sound-mongering from all assembled.  That slight personal grumble of no weird visuals on offer being quickly eased by the sinister moray patterns purring nicely through my ears; that ethery swirl jutting up against the bowed freight trains and rusty hinged recoil. These guys certainly know a thing or two about creating an atmosphere and this sibilant snaking was shifting around quite (un)pleasantly indeed, scarred in electrical discharge and tectonic quake.

Not content to rest on their former glories, a surprise vocalist suddenly swelled their ranks and announced himself as Benjamin Louche in a low sneering purr, luxuriating in the enunciation. He looked like a recently dug-up Weimar cabaret star in his padded smoking jacket, really creepily gaunt and hollow-eyed under the lights, his crumbling poetics a blur of arcane wordage and macabre lustre, a deliciously jaded decadence, the delivery of which was nicely edgy and uncomfortable. Louche’s bulbous eyes constantly scanned the audience with scathing cynicism, the music behind him etching the words further in scrapes, tears and God knows what else?! A brew that mixed well with that ‘old time’ music hall decor of the Koko. Those kazoo blurs of his giving out the Mr. Punch spinal shivers, his final words ‘box captured’ and re-spewed in a slowed slop bucket of warpage and polyphonic slip.

As the vocalist departed the stage, the remaining musical friction climbed out of its sinister posturing to launch headlong into a loose beat-driven showdown, Liles’ guitar going all freakoid, bringing on lots of noisy scribbling from the rest, the angles all over the shop, sounding like a sophisticated redux of “Two Mock Projections” as they flung fantastic colours over the fx(ed) vapours and whirling afterglows. Steve really seemed in the thick of it this time round, writhing some tortured guitar shapes full of squeally pigs and retracted energies, orchestrating a grand finale of gnarled circuits and explosion, to which Mr. Liles added Islamic flute. Stapleton followed up with further vocal jabberings, bringing on parallels to that horse race commentary off  The Surveillance Lounge  whilst slamming his pick-ups for good measure. The magnitude of this freakout far rougher, more chaotic than the preceding, really got inside your and had a good rifle about, Benjamin returning at its zenith to shout his “Hi Hos” over the top of it all. The music become an intoxicated curdle of over-excitement hurtling into silence, and left me with the stupidest of grins.

Nurse With Wound were certainly a hard act to follow, but those primal subsonics the headliners SunnO))) later plied were something else, shifting through the body like some invisible entity, a heavy, almost overwhelming wave booming through your lower half, whilst the slow debris they were throwing over it rattled your throat and nose, bursts of extra energies filtering between the two.  A long dirgic howling with rumbling subcurrents that seemed to follow the shape-shifting smoke. The circle of speaker monitors glowing like a pack of stationary wolves, glimpses of hooded figure, hands groping through the mist like some Fritz Lang classic flickering before your eyes.

Then a blooming of Eastern European vocals crack through the murk, the guitars impaling it on nasty feedback spikes, his growling incantations levelling the ampage to a sizzle. The strange vowel play scintillated the mind as the guitars gathered around it like a plague of flies. For a cherished moment, the light show and smoke conspired to create two gigantic wings that literally sprung above the singer’s back. An epic fail on my part as I failed to get a snapshot of the evidence. A really good show of force, even if the doom-laden theatrics did wear a bit thin after the first hour. It certainly put my previous SunnO))) experience right in the shade.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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