"A joy and a privilege"
by Ed Barrett for remotegoat on 11/04/19


What else can I say?

You know sometimes you go to a gig, or to the theatre, or to a football match with such high expectations you are – almost inevitably – disappointed?

This wasn’t that; not by a long way.

In fact, seeing Terry Riley and Gyan Riley playing together was a sheer pleasure, the highlight of as enjoyable an evening of live music as I’ve ever experienced. There were times I was so transported, it was slightly surprising to look up and realise I was still in the same room. It’s tempting to describe the pair as a Sorcerer and his apprentice; but that would be to underestimate Gyan’s playing, and his role in this sweet partnership.

Part of the pleasure came from seeing just how much father and son enjoyed playing with each other – at times as freely as a parent and child playing tag, at others like code-breakers enjoying the challenges of the musical riddles they were setting each other. I hope I’m not the only one who felt like they were party to a psychic conversation that just happened to be in the language of music.

And yes, I know that last paragraph wouldn’t be out of place in Pseud’s Corner, but bear with me: it’s difficult to put this experience into words.

There were many of the expected elements on show – virtuosity; adept use of technology; trippy, dreamlike musical wanderings, et cetera; and many of the expected influences – jazz, blues, minimalism, and electronica amongst many, many more. But there were also elements that might have sounded familiar to a Griot, a Native American, a Pandit, an Aborigine, perhaps even a blue whale. And, yes, I know how pretentious that sounds; the great thing is, there was nothing pretentious about the music.

I arrived well into Ex Easter Island Head’s set – a mistake I’ll never repeat, as the two numbers I did catch were mesmeric, beautiful, magical. The clicks and hums of the other kit, the bar paraphernalia, the building itself only added to the effect. They seemed genuinely moved by our appreciation, and I’m sure they’re now many people’s new favourite band.

Saxophonist Daniel Thorne likewise played some beautiful compositions of his own, essentially solo, with a little electronic accompaniment judiciously used to enhance a performance that might sound austere if I try to describe it, but was more an expression of his joy at being part of this show. His pleasure was ours.

If there’s anything to link the three acts I saw, it would be the fact that some of the stuff they each performed would play a perfect part in the soundtrack of one of those late-night films you catch almost by accident, but end up falling in love with.

The intimacy of 24 Kitchen Street was matched by the warmth of the sound system, the welcome of the staff, the sheer pleasure of the crowd knowing it was part of something truly special. Not simply an evening to remember, but a winderful waking dream. I may never see its like again.

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