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Marc Ribot live at Café OTO

London 11 May 2017

Marc Ribot live May 2017There’s a scene towards the end of John Carpenter’s turbo-charged 1982 creature feature The Thing when the titular metamorph – just before being blown to shit by Kurt Russell’s vengeful sticks of dynamite – writhes and transmutes in all its slimy, gory glory.

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UnicaZürn / Charles Bullen (live at Café OTO)

London 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.

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Senyawa (live at Café OTO)

London 17 October 2016

Senyawa live October 2016It’s going to be very difficult to describe Senyawa in words. What follows will probably contain muddled metaphors, chaotic similes, idiotic expostulations, expletives, wild imagery, desperate comparisons, upholstery by Zachery, knick-knackery by Thackery, Terpsichore by Dickery and dickery by Dock. Younger readers – or those of a nervous disposition – may want to look away now.

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Little Annie (live at Café OTO)

London 20 May 2016

Little Annie live at Café OTO May 2016Tonight, Matthew, Café OTO will be a smoky jazz club, only without the smoke due to it being 2016. It’s Ellroy for vapers, a healthier Lynch movie. Because tonight Little Annie is here delivering the latest instalment of her nearly forty-year career of eclectic awesomeness, on the back of her wonderful new album Trace. Accompanied by double-bass, understated drums, piano and sax, she takes the stage shrouded in a bright neon yellow scarf, and it’s this combination of the shrouding and the vivid colours that’s to typify the evening’s entertainment.

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Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Bitchin’ Bajas (live at Café OTO)

London 24 March 2016

Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Bitchin' Bajas (liveI think about what Bonnie “Prince” Billy has been to me the last few years since I began listening to him. I was late to the party, obviously, but caught up very fast and developed my obsession in earnest.

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This Is Not This Heat (live at Café OTO)

London 13 February 2016

This Is Not This Heat live at Cafe OTO February 2016I suppose it would be prudent to start off with something of a disclaimer – it’s going to be very difficult to get much critical distance from this evening. Like no other gig I can think of, I was nervous when I thought I wouldn’t be able to go, nervous when I found out I could go, and nervous about trying to write any kind of review. The weight/wait of expectation is almost too much to bear.

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Drew McDowall / Helm (live at Café OTO)

London 3 February 2016

Analogue at Cafe OTO February 2016It’s all very restful really, sitting around at the front of OTO, bathed in the soft orange glow of the tea-lights scattered around the stage and sipping a cranberry juice. I’m trying to get my head around Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s recent tome on anti-fragility whilst awaiting the arrival of the “notoriously reclusive” Drew McDowall, one of the lesser-spotted denizens of the liminal zone staked out by his erstwhile collaborators Coil, when suddenly the guy sitting next to me strikes up a conversation.

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Morphogenesis / Colin Potter and Jonathan Coleclough (live at Café Oto)

London 10 September 2015

Café Oto, a place that seems to be shorthand for Bobos to some people. However, tonight there were far more middle-aged music nerds than craft-ale and pulled pork enthusiasts (as there seems to be every time I’m at the venue, yet it has this reputation as being wall to wall, errr, the ‘H’ word).

First up was a duo featuring the mighty Colin Potter. Potter sat centre stage in front of an array of hardware (mixing desk, pedals, et al), whilst his accomplice Jonathan Coleclough activated various boxes taped to the walls etc throughout. At the start Potter stated that “anything could happen”, turning the mind toward catastrophe. Luckily, the man at the controls had control of the situation and we were treated to Colin’s tactile, vivid sound (his contribution to the Nurse With Wound‘s sound is undeniable).

Once underway, an icy metallic drone rose from

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HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit (live at Café OTO)

London 16 June 2015

HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit posterThere is a German proverb which reads, “Jede Leiter fängt mit der untersten Sprosse an und nach der obersten kommt nur noch freier Fall.” We might possibly translate this as, ‘Every ladder begins at the lowest rung, but after the highest the only way is down’. Tonight, the capacity audience packed into a summer-heated Cafe Oto are treated to evidence that miraculously both confirms, and at the same time, gloriously disproves this pithy aphorism of folk wisdom.

It’s like a sardine packers’ outing in here. The only time I’ve ever seen OTO this full before – and with such a palpable sense of fevered anticipation – is awaiting the entry of the Sun Ra Arkestra. And the reason for tonight’s sense of breathless

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Thurston Moore and Caspar Brötzmann (live at Café Oto)

London 7 August 2014

Probably the best way to imagine this gig is to picture the Newtonian Laws of Motion resolving themselves inside a packed Turkish sauna. If Car A is driving down a road at 100mph, whilst Car B is driving at 100mph in the opposite direction, if they collide, they will crash at 200mph. You get where I’m about to go with this, right?

So, translated into sonic terms, if Car A is not a car at all, but in fact a battered Fender Jaguar, and the man behind the wheel is Thurston Moore – alternative guitar god, mainspring of avant garde culture, and latterly resident of these parts – thrashing, trashing, grinding and mashing its six strings to within an inch of their lives, what we have here is a seriously speedy vehicle. However, if heading into a full frontal collision is Car B, in this case

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Otoroku label round-up (Decoy with Joe McPhee / Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Evan Parker, Tony Marsh, John Edwards and John Butcher / Brötzmann, Adasiewicz, Edwards and Noble)

Michael Rodham-Heaps tackles a trio of recorded documents from London’s Café Oto released for wider consumption on the ever-expanding Otoroku label…

Decoy with Joe McPheeSpontaneous Combustion

Decoy with Joe McPhee - Spontaneous CombustionThis one grabs my attention first, the gritty screen-printed abstracts go well with first half of this tasty double, recorded back in twenty eleven. It’s a fragmented fermentation, loose dot-joining limbs avoiding the unusual scuffle cuffs jazzy improv seems to gravitate to. Little strangulations of trumpet here a there, weird auras of percussions taking the ear, then sliding back out on tantalisations on venting, pursed lips.

The Hammond trickling in the background, then foreground chasing. The trumpet crawling over it, full of bicycle bell and cymbal dopplegangers, everything surging in unsteady curving

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The Sun Ra Arkestra (live at Café Oto)

25 August 2013

en-coun-ter (en-koun-ter):

To come upon or meet with.

(Origin: 1250–1300; Middle English encountren < Anglo-French enco ( u ) ntrer; Old French < Vulgar Latin *incontrāre, equivalent to in- in-1 + –contrāre, derivative of contrā against)

Hynekian System of Classification:

‘Close encounter of the third kind’ – sighting of an animated being.

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On the August Bank Holiday 2013, the animated beings that comprise the Sun Ra Arkestra have chosen to take a brief respite from travelling the spaceways in order to land on Earth for a five-day residency at Café Oto. That every night is sold out, the club packed to the gunnels despite the heat of the summer evening, speaks volumes for the standing that The Arkestra now possess. Gone are the hecklers of the 1960s, the financially precarious times of the Philadelphia communal house

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Gravetemple/Russell Haswell (live at Café Oto)

London 13 April 2013

Russell Haswell Cafe Oto April 2013Slipping quietly into the performance area, arch-noisemonger Russell Haswell opens his set with a slow build of spluttering sharp attacks, crawling eventually into chaos wrapped in shards of broken glass spat bloody and still sizzling into the ears of the willing victims in the crowd. Haswell is hunched intently over his boxes of dubious FX, never looking up and playing his devices the noisnik rather than the muso way – hard, brutal and as instruments themselves, an analogue/digital miasma with any emergent beats left to fend for themselves in musical purgatory.

Gravetemple are tonight (the first of two shows they will perform at Café Oto this weekend) the core trio of Stephen O’Malley (also known as SOMA), Oren Ambarchi and Attila

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Harmonic Rooms guitar diary (November 2012)

Harry Wheeler of Harmonic Rooms spends a week in November in the company of some of the current greats of the acoustic guitar, and reflects on the enduring legacy of John Fahey and Robbie Basho.

Steffen Basho-Junghans and Cam Deas in OuseLast November, I spent over a week in and out of the recording studio with my trusty video camera and two explorative guitarists, Cam Deas and Steffen Basho-Junghans. Part of the appeal of getting these two guys together was the cross-over in their respective styles and approach to their instruments (primarily 6 and 12 steel-string guitars), combined with their difference in age. With Cam being in his early twenties, his playing has a youthful passion and vigour to it which also contains high energy and real sparkle, while Steffen, being in

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Peter Brötzmann (live at Café Oto)

Café Oto, London 19 February 2012

71 years old, and with the gravitas of a Prussian general contemplating one final glorious attack on Paris, free jazz saxophone legend Peter Brötzmann swings into Old London Town for a two night stand at Dalston’s Café Oto, E8’s achingly hip home of improvisation, experimentation and general squealing and freeping of every sort. Only a short hop, skip and jump from The Vortex, the difference between the audiences drawn by the two venues is immediately apparent: Oto-goers are a far more youthful and less beardy crowd than the elderly chin-strokers mostly present for a comparable event at The Vortex, an [post=evan-parker-live text=”Evan Parker”] gig, say.

For a start it’s packed. And I mean packed. There must be 200 or more people squeezed in, standing behind pillars here, sitting on the floor there, and that’s unparalleled for improv gig like this. And there are youngsters!

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