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UnicaZürn / Charles Bullen (live at Café OTO)

25 January 2017

UnicaZürn live January 2017Charles Bullen of This Heat fame was up first, ricocheting a rich stream of bubbling metallics from a specially adapted lap-steel contraption. A set of gamboling percussives and deep Balinese-like bounces drawn through a shanty town of effects. All very fragmented, his sparse trajectories sped off in doubling harmonics with the odd bit of accidental mobile phone surreally spluttering through.

The grit of the entire show possessed this happened upon-like sparkle, where brief melodics drew you inwards, resonating your skull in tropical thunderstorms, a trancelike verve occasionally banqueted to claws of feedback and wasping backward glances. A highly changeable verve that seized upon the moment, then flipped out in search of further distraction. Really loved it when he drew upon the flattening sound of his thumb piano to contrast with the bassy hugeness of the damaged bells below, then he hit the dulcimer and it’s a wow of eastern colour and darting shifts that feel like Lilliputians plucking the body hair from Gulliver.

Charles Bullen live January 2017

After a brief shifting of the furniture, UnicaZürn took up the mantle. Troubling sound problems behind them, they quickly kicked the room into touch with a vibrato-filled heartbeat. At its centre was Danielle Dax, a neon blue centrifuge reading from some massive bits of card, her words floating around like disturbed children, itching with magical context. A slow delivery relished, the sonic debris surrounding them grabbing at the dislocations.

Dax gave her voice some spooky effect washes as UnicaZürn paraded a whispering cyclone of cats. She threw herself into the gloomy “Jack Sorrow” (from the band’s début CD), the words conjoining with that spoken word curiosity at the end of her Pop Eyes LP and I’m full of wow as the words “tear-sodden soil” bring on a convulsion of Gillie Smyth-like moans. Whimpering silverfish caught on Mr Knight‘s fret faeries, words cut up into curling mirrors, Mr Thrower dispatching the dishevelled, muddying the sonic waters. Ms Dax retired to a comfy armchair on the trailing corpses of her words, happy to let the remaining three banquet on each other’s sonic skree. Tey embark on some mighty fine closed-eye moments, something that puts me at a disadvantage in the reportage – but hey, when the internal movie is this good, it’s hard to pull yourself back.

UnicaZürn live January 2017

Things stutter and crumble, something feels like it’s banging on a window (inside your skull). This palm-drawn stigmata of twisting italics affixed in scattered beats, baked in the blur of reverb that jabs at the stabs of chords jutting up out of the free-flowing dynamics. The slippery cascade leaking more light than previous encounters, Thrower’s clarinet swirling in jovial abstracts, a cabaret to which Knight e-bows a host of squalid shapes and the other David (J Smith) counter-fills with percussive footfalls.

UnicaZürn live January 2017

Again the vibe gets the better of me, but sometime later Mr Thrower adopts a power stance, wah-pedalling this nosediving velocity from his keyboard in a massive layered Vangelis wail of an encore with David J’s sheet metal singing underneath. Thrower’s clarinet getting duplicitous in curling otherness; Knight’s guitar abandoned in favour of a bank of electronics ripe with rupture; Danielle returning to her microphone, adding agitated tropes to the mix; Smith throwing a wild array of clatter into the affray. The place is a blaze of magnificence that slips this mortal coil far too quickly, leaving a rapturous applause in its wake.

UnicaZürn live January 2017

I’ve got to say I didn’t think I’d ever see Dax perform again, so this was beyond special. Was really intrigued as to whether any more of her music was seeing the light of day in the near future, but a quick after-gig chat revealed that sculpture is her vice of the moment. “Maybe some music will materialise in another ten years time”, she adds; “to the chime of a Zimmer frame”, she appends with a cheeky chuckle.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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