Thursday, 3 September 2015

Aarhus: 4

I woke up this morning... sorry, not a blues tune but... I woke up this morning with a holy headache and half a packet of crisps in my bed. What's all that about?
Yesterday was pretty full on. On paper, and for Aarhus, not a lot was happening. The only real musical offering was the intriguingly titled 'Information For Curious Citizens About Special Voices'. I didn't know what to expect but pitched up dutifully with Folmer to be warmly greeted by Hans (remember him?) my driver on the first day. Hans was very excited about the show. I'd already seen the night's three performers in the Efterklang Global concert on Monday when they were all out of their element in an ambitious international collaboration. Here they would be in their comfort zone; although 'comfort' proved to be the last thing on some folk's minds.

First up was Bae Il Dong, a Korean opera singer.
He was in the company of a jazz trumpeter and an Australian drummer who Bae II had apparently
been mentoring in Korea for a few years. Dong's storytelling was dynamically expressive, comical at times as he wove his impenetrable tales and clicked his fan in time to an uncertain beat. And what a din Dong produced! (sorry...) There was much white eyed wailing and beating of the chest. My best description would be a kind of traditional, Oriental blues. Both Jim White and I were in accord: although an accomplished player, the modern jazz trumpet musings seemed out of kilter with the drumming and vocals; the disparity adding chaotic cacophony rather than coloring the piece. It was certainly engaging but a little disjointed for me.

Next up were my dinner mates Jessie and Jean, accompanying the irascible inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq who had earlier promised, whilst wagging a lobster tail at me, the she was going to 'rip things up'. Tanya wandered on stage resplendent in a delicate gold suit and demurely introduced herself and the band before shredding our nerves and nature over the next 50 minutes. It was one long piece of extreme invention. Jessie's violin was looped to produce rhythm and texture as Jean's scattershot drumming underpinned what only can be described as a volley of primal screams, whispers and moans from Tanya.

Her bellow wasn't just emanating from the throat; she dug deep to produce guttural groans that at times seemed borderline demonic. There was definitely a world of feminine angst unselfconsciously
conjured up for us: Sex, childbirth, family drama, domestic violence, depression and repression all seemed suggested by an unbelievable wall of sound that rose and fell, often to a whispering wail of heartache. The physicality of Tanya's performance was breathtaking, literally; she breathed in and she breathed out with a percussive ferocity, producing rolling rhythms and intense shrieks of white noise.
It made you wonder how she could maintain the vocal and bodily contortions over 50 minutes, let alone night after touring night. I seriously worried for her health at one particular 'Exorscist' moment, when it seemed that she was about to implode.

The reaction of the crowd was interesting; there was nervous laughter alongside raucous affirmation and head banging. At the climax of the show the woman behind us broke out into an hysterical laughing and weeping fit; the whole thing was almost shamanistic in its intensity. My eyeballs and teeth hurt... but in a good way. The show was worthy of its standing ovation: I knew I'd seen something special but am buggered if I can put it in to the right words: indescribable and yet this was experimental performance art at its most profound.
Earlier over lunch Tanya had teased sound man Peter for playing the Blue Nile at the soundcheck.
I can now see why.
I'm rethinking my plan to give her a copy of Happy Blue as a parting shot.

After all of that sonic drama it was a relief to bask in the the passionate delicacy of Spain's Carmen Linares who commanded the stage imperiously with her sensuous and elegant interpretations of traditional flamenco. Her support was simple and sophisticated: piano, two female singers sat alongside a flamenco guitarist of stunning dexterity.
The labour of longing never sounded so throat catchingly lovely.

Later back at the Radisson Hotel Folmer opened the bottle of single malt that I'd gifted him and we sat outside with Carmen and her crew until the early hours. Howe joined us briefly but ran for his sick bed after a shot or two. I did so too after a shot or two too many. I had briefly considered trying to track down a Danish kebab but resigned myself to the edible contents of my mini bar.
And... I woke up this morning with a half empty packet of crisps in my bed.
If they weren't cheese and onion then my sheets need changing...

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