Amal Gamal Ensemble
Red Rose Club, LondonAfter a year or so hiatus the Amal Gamal Ensemble returned to live improvisation foregoing the Horse Hospital, their regular venue and London's premier underground arts establishment, for the Red Rose, a North London Labour club.
The Amal Gamal Ensemble comprise an illustrious list of musicians with an impressive musical pedigree in post-punk and experimental circles. Tonight's improvisation featured Karl Blake (Shock Headed Peters, Lemon Kittens), David Knight (Arkkon, Shock Headed Peters, Lydia Lunch), Stephen Thrower (Cyclobe, ex-Coil), Gavin Knight (Possession) and one other unidentified performer. Their free flowing miasma of sound, comes across like the dark side of a psychedelic jam, a loose musical bad trip. At times Amal Gamal Ensemble improvisations - and they probably wouldn't thank me for this - recall Throbbing Gristle's recording of Heathen Earth. In many ways the sounds of Amal Gamal Ensemble inhabit a similar sound space as that recording which Brion Gysin regarded as the best soundtrack to his flickering Dream Machine device.
The hirsute Karl Blake, with an array of effects pedals at his feet picks out notes, and performs short riffs on his guitar allowing them to be launched into the ether, Dave Knight complements with treated chord progressions. Gavin Knight and Steve Thrower contribute alien analogue soundworlds from short keyboard stabs to varied electronic textures. Electronics bleed and blur creating rapturous visions in the air while, shards of guitar sounds are launched leaving vapour trails. Only the cellular phone activity with the audience ensure the sounds remain earthbound. In many respects tonight's stage set-up worked against them. Their usual inward facing circle allowed closer interaction between the performers tonight they rely solely on the unanchored sounds to guide them. This may explain why the music appeared hesitant at times, and at one point quite literally broke.
Amal Gamal Ensemble performance don't always lead where you wish but when the sounds converge into something special and they step through a portal, you really wouldn't want to miss it. There's a great point when the flickering electronics and sonic shreds build into a swirling vortex of black sound. An intensity is achieved that they never really attained at earlier performances. There's perhaps little to watch - screen projections were absent this evening - but in my sleep deprived state the Amal Gamal Ensemble manage to transport me to some alternate reality.
Arkkon - www.arkkon.com/
Karl Blake - www.karlblake.com
Cyclobe - www.cyclobe.com