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Thor & Friends / Kite Base (live at The Lexington)

London
2 May 2017

What makes the difference between just another gig and a profoundly uplifting experience? This is the question that I am left pondering in the wake of Thor Harris‘s (erstwhile Swans) percussion and noise collective Thor & Friends show at The Lexington last night.

Does that difference begin with the act of greeting your audience personally as they walk through the doors, a warm smile under a woolly hat, with a gentle and easy manner and a genuine appreciation of the time you have taken to venture out to listen and see?

Or does it arise from the inclusion of a support act that genuinely appears to be supportive? A support that extends in all directions with Kite Base; a two-piece comprising Ayse Hassan (Savages) and Kendra Frost, with bass guitars and complex electronic set up, vocal and sampled harmonies ranging from the ethereal to the earthy and a rich grounding in both tradition innovative technology.

Thor and Friends live May 2017

Perhaps the difference is in the way the assembled musicians blend the sounds they are making, or in the quiet humility necessary to bring such a variety of musicians to the stage in collaborative unity? Indeed, this evening could have been renamed “Thor’s big, beautiful, marimba jam session” as the main ensemble (Thor, Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier) were joined on stage by more and more musicians (including the aforementioned members of Kite Base) to play an assortment of percussion ranging from marimba/vibraphone, self-made bells, and including keyboards, saxophone, clarinet and basses (plural). The stage filled with vibrant life, with attention, with people playing music for the sheer delight of it.

It is not lightly that I am moved to make the assertion that the evening had more in common with the traditions of a jazz session, the music taking on an improvisational flow, the musicians following one another with a loose precision that is both effortless to hear as it is rigorous in its execution; the rhythm and the melody an equal partnership, impossible to separate. And so I conclude that this is, for me, what really makes the difference: a conversation of rhythm and melody, of minds and of souls. A conversation that extends from the stage to engage and include.

Thor and Friends live May 2017

There is something immediate and grounding about percussive sounds, echoing the energy of the heart, the movement of the blood, of cycles and of seasons. Throughout history people have gathered together to pound out rhythms and feel them in our bodies. This has not only the effect of moving an audience to dance and sway, but serves to hold open a door to deeper levels of communication, another kind of language flooding in to fill the spaces when it is impossible to find all the words.

Thor and the host of friends he brought onto the stage with him did something beyond just getting up and playing some music. It felt like we were making a pact, a sacred agreement to join with the sounds and energy from the performers, a root extending from the stage into each member of the audience, flowering through us to give voice to a wordless immensity.

-Words: Arwen Xaverine-
-Pictures: Jim Bennett-

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