FOR THE non-German speakers in the room, the title of this Goethe-Institut-supported event translates as Music/Travel.
Musik/Reise - Platform, Glasgow
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The destination: a welcoming arts centre in deepest Easterhouse. The sonic scenery: a collaborative blend of extemporised Germanic electronica and Scottish post-rock atmospherics.
Special guest Hans Joachim Irmler was a founder member of German adventurers Faust, who were cult pioneers of the country’s influential Krautrock sound of the late 1960s and early 1970s, despite only ever playing around 25 gigs and pissing off two major labels, Polydor and the nascent Virgin Records, with their freeform approach to composition and budgets.
This time, Irmler had a deadline: two days in a rehearsal room with four of Glasgow’s finest purveyors of experimental noise-making – Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and drummer Martin Bulloch and Phantom Band guitarist Duncan Marquiss and keyboard player Andy Wake, all Krautrock fans to a man.
Before airing the results of their intensive labours, there was rapt and respectful silence for a seamless set of hypnotic, ambient sound from Irmler, created on the same homemade synthesizer he has been touting around Europe for the past 40 years, and comprising Vangelis-style washes of magisterial synth, underpinned by rougher analogue fuzz and shaken by patches of disturbance which sounded like an unholy mix of church organ and aircraft lift-off, all accompanied by mesmerising, repetitive film footage riffing on a theme of circular grooves, sometimes etched out by pen.
There was an anticipatory whoop in the crowd as the collaborative second half got under way with zero fanfare: suddenly, the musicians were in their places, guitarists Braithwaite and Marquiss leading off, their twin head-nodding lifted by the injection of Bulloch’s drumming.
Like orienteers hitting their mark and changing direction, they switched out of this ponderous phase into a lovely, layered psychedelic guitar interlude, reminiscent of the acid distortion of Jefferson Airplane, and the New Age chimes of guitarist Leo Kottke or composer Harold Budd.
Although the Scottish contingent were wary of simply imitating their influences, the revving up of that motorik rhythm which one associates with the Krautrock bands invigorated a performance where Irmler’s synth was less of a feature. But he did weigh in with a burst of Giorgio Moroder-style electro before the whole ensemble dug in for the finale.
During the Q&A session which followed, the participants estimated that the performance was around 50 per cent improvised. “We knew where to start,” said Wake. And, for many in the appreciative crowd, they took them where they wanted to go.
Seen on 10.01.15