Cotton Ferox, The Salon, the 291 Gallery, London, 5th December
The first UK gig by the former White Stains musicians was very much not your usual concert. Rather than a gig, the Salon is a space for a variety of different artists in different disciplines and this night featured music, visual art, poetry and spoken word performances. Then venue itself is amazing, a converted church with great acoustics, a low stage where the altar was and a massive film screen behind, on which visuals by Mikael Prey were shown for the first two acts.
First up was Karl Blake, former performer with Sol Invictus, The Shock Headed Peters, Lydia Lunch and Current 93, reading out texts over rumbling dark ambient backing music. Karl's voice is commanding and hypnotic. It was difficult to listen to the words he was actually reading, as the combination of the droning words and the loud music was almost trance inducing, but, contrary to his own claim at the end, he was anything but boring. Fans of Alan Moore's similar spoken word work should check him out.
Dieter Muh came next, a live electronica act, creating dark and compelling ambient/industrial soundscapes with a mix of sound machinery, violin played more for noise than music and human voice, courtesy of special guest Gaya Donadio, immediately sampled and distorted. While this kind of thing can tend to sound boring on disc, live, with the sheer volume and unpredictability, it was absolutely compelling. Electronica at its raw experimental best.
And then it was time for something completely different. The Native American Church of Satan Reverend, Steven Johnson Layba, and Monique took the stage, the Reverend bare to the waist with a horned jester type hat on, initially with his back to the audience as Monique began reading prose with a definite hint of violence in it. Then the Reverent began ranting against capitalism, the US corporate state, Christianity and ideology as Monique carved symbols into his back, finishing with a large inverted pentagram. She then took the mike again and then the Reverend turned forward and began another rant, this time against the war on terrorism, the Patriot Act, proclaiming "I am a terrorist" as Monique first carved symbols into his chest, then began licking the blood off his body and spitting it in his face. Extreme stuff.
After a pause to wipe up the blood, founding member of the anarchist punk band Crass, Penny Rimbaud, took the stage. With his long scraggly hair, he looks far more like a 60s beatnik than an angry young punk these days. The fact that he's reading poetry with an intermittent backing of saxophone and folky flute from Louise Elliot, just adds to that impression. However, he puts a lot of energy into a very animated reading and the music punctuated the performance well. He also made great use of the venue's acoustics, and cut back on using the mike. He wrapped up with a reading of Jack Kerouac's 'Ti-Jean' that started out well, but did go on quite a bit (he did warn at the start that it was a bit long). It was funny to see Reverend Steven nodding and smiling at the sections critical of "this so-called Land of the Free".
Last up came Cotton Ferox, the new incarnation of the former White Stains members Thomas Tibert and Carl Abrahamsson and minds behind the Kooks musical collective. As an electronic act, the stage set-up is a common one, a mike with two laptops, Thomas controlling the music with one, and Carl using the other one to control the images on the screen behind. They were introed by a distorted version of Bowie's 'Kooks', before the opened with 'The Cotton Ferox Manifesto', Carl speaking the words outlining what the band's about, with the rumbling music granted a increased intensity in a live setting.
This was followed by an instrumental piece, which led into a mix of material from "First time hurts" and the forthcoming "Worship" album. Unfortunately, Genesis P Orridge's vocals on the two 'Interlubes' and 'Times change' from the latter were on tape, the hoped for live appearance never happened. However, a hooded figure did make his way onto the stage and sit down during the last Gen track, 'Times change'. Once that was over, he took the mike and started singing. Despite the fact that he didn't remove the hood, he was immediately identifiable as Krister Linder, the fabulous voice who ends "First time hurts".
Live, he's even more amazing, he equals David McAlmont in vocal ability, but, in my view, has a much more appealing voice. He sang two of his own songs, the first with backing from Cotton Ferox, the second (for which he removed his hood) was even more stunning as he sang it accappela. Despite his reluctance to get involved with major labels, Krister is definitely one to watch. He and the band rounded up the show with a great rendition of their upcoming single 'Phantasmoplasm' and then it was done.
All in all this was an interesting and varied show and, even though the very special guests never materialised, it was very enjoyable.
Girl the Bourgeois Individualist