Fresh from their collaboration with Neneh Cherry, The Thing headlined this amazing night at the Cafe Oto.
Opening group lll人,consisting of Paul Abbott (drums), Seymour Wright (alto saxophone) and Daichi Yoshikawa (electronics), unleashed a fiercely textural, saw toothed assault on the Café Oto audience. The performance was full of shrill drilling feedback and sax squeak. The band created waves of noise punctuated with sudden bursts of silence. At times they sounded like a cement mixer full of snooker balls, played at ear troubling frequencies. Yoshikawa’s electronics were particularly interesting, forming a dialogue with the sharp squalls of Wright’s playing.
The Thing were, needless to say, absolutely amazing. Their sound was full of locked in Ayler contortions. Paal Nilssen-Love was a volcano of percussion, both launching and supporting Mats Gustafsson’s raging torrents of soulful blasting and lorry klaxon. Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, switching between electric and acoustic bass, was a vital presence, underpinning the group's interplay with rich tentacles of frantic activity. Every set was full of screaming energy and passion. Even the quieter sections never lacked fire and commitment, they functioned in their own right and not just as a merciful interlude before another Gustafsson hurricane. The rhythm section were immensely good, utilising a machine gun drum clatter and often punkish bass lines to drive forward every composition and improvisation.
Gustafsson’s playing, despite its volume and violence has nuance and subtlety. The sections where he grinded out rough bluesy garage rock riffs fitted seamlessly with the parts which saw him melting the front row with molten room-filling shrieks. His tightly pained facial expression, puffed out cheeks and reddening skin was at times troubling; as if he may expire at any instant from the sheer force of his blowing. I began to worry that the audience might be hosed with the liquefied remains of his lungs, expelled at huge force from his saxophone, covering the audience like a live but fatal action painting. Joined by a second saxophonist, Martin Küchen, for a second set, Gustafsson joined him in a pitched battle, combining in a mutual howl of ecstasy. The audience reacted with abandon, screaming and shouting at the transcendent glory of it all. At its close I was surprised to see we had all survived. I expected to see the Café Oto reduced to a smoking crater. This was a band drunk on their own joyous noise, performing a set of such brilliance that it echoed in my head for days.