|The fringe events of the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival have always provided a number of exclusive shows from musicians, and tonight was no exception. The two hundred or so people who have gathered in the basement of Subtone, the town’s cooler nightclub, witnessed an electronic experiment featuring last night’s festival headliners The Guillemots. (This venue had already hosted Babyhead and Massive Attack’s Daddy G over the course of the weekend.)
The evening opened with the folk electronica of Brickwork, featuring members of Silverman and Longstone’s Mike Ward. The 30-minute set was reminiscent of Mazzy Star on holiday with Aphex Twin. Beautifully melodic vocal lines and picked acoustic guitar were interspersed with ear bleeding synth noises and wandering bass lines. This was as close to real songs as we got all night. Brickwork’s show was calm, consideri and broken down into actual tracks with breaks in between.
After a short interval, what happened was less of a gig, and more of an improvised free for all. Longstone took to the stage and sat behind tables staked with keyboards, laptops and children’s toys, before being joined by Chris Cundy and MC Lord Magrao of The Guillemots. The crowd was then taken on a non-stop, hour-long ride through desert plains, Alaskan waterfalls, volcanic eruptions and inner city noise pollution. There was no break for applause, no time to slip to the bar and grab another cold pint of lager and no freedom for anyone to have a second of thought outside what is happening in front of them.
If I had been born 15 years earlier, I may have been lucky enough to witness the live jams of Pink Floyd, Cream or Jimmy Hendrix. I wasn’t, but what is on show tonight is as close as I will ever get. The beats were danceable, while the distinct lack of any vocal not processed through various electronic instruments or toys, provided for a purely Omen like feel. At times, I was genuinely scared by the deep protracted voice that bellows over the top of James Lavelle and Charlie Parker’s lovechild rhythms.
The show ended in a climactic sequence of orchestration, and the smiles on the faces of all involved, as well as the crowd, showed just how much was been achieved in this performance.
Words: Oliver Guy Watkins