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Savages/Bo Ningen (live at The Red Gallery)

29 May 2013

Savages ask for no picturesIt’s a Wednesday night in London’s hideously wanky Shoreditch, and we’re in an art gallery, and nobody’s really sure what to expect. Current music media darlings Savages and the achingly hip Bo Ningen have united to give us what they describe as a “sonic simultaneous poem”, and “a unique EXPERIMENTATION inspired by the early DADA concept of SIMULTANEOUS POETRY”. Seems like the only thing- well, two things, really – that can save this from being a terminal arsefest are the twin facts that, despite being cursed with both hipness and critical acclaim, both Savages and Bo Ningen are really, really good bands.

All dressed in black, they take the stage, part-adversarial (the bands are, for the most part, lined up facing each other), part collaborative (the drummers sit side by side). Women to the left, men to the right. Bo Ningen’s Taigen and Savages’ Jehnny kick it off with etheral whispers in French and Japanese, while the rest of the band(s) brood bassily in the background. Well, they STAND in the background, but the bassy brooding is mostly coming up through the floor, as it should. And then the tunes start, like a great beast fighting its way up from sleep, and it’s pretty massive. Great sludgy grooves envelop the room, and for a while it’s the heaviest meeting of East and West since Boris and SUNN0)))‘s majestic Altar.

There are times, when a huge riff carves its way like some massive earth-moving machine through the undulating landscape created by the two drummers, that I am reminded of Melvins. And there are times when I’m not reminded of Melvins at all, as this too passes and we move onto another aspect of their combined sound, eventually reaching something that sounds like Savages, but heavier. It’s a pretty perfect match, really. Both bands have a love of the bouncy, angular and wiry (not to mention Wire-y), but where Savages are all tightly focused and controlled, Bo Ningen tend more towards the cosmic and chaotic. Hearing the two together is an almost dialectical process, with the resultant synthesis being something rather lovely, like songs dancing in the space between the two bands. Almost, in fact, like the Dadaist concept of simultaneous poetry. Weird, huh?

Forty minutes later it’s all over, but it feels like we’ve seen three sets – one by Savages, one by Bo Ningen, and another, less tangible one by some sort of nebulous entity that lives between the two. Yeah, it was pretty awesome. Far, far better than Shoreditch deserves.

-Justin Farrington-

-Pictures not by Zoe Gillard-

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