Review: André Vida, Rashad Becker, Bass Clef and NHK at Café Oto

Rashad Becker, NHK (Kouhei Matsunaga), André Vida
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved


André Vida and Rashad Becker with Bass Clef and NHK
(Café Oto, 16 July 2012; day 2 of André Vida/Rashad Becker 2-day residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Last autumn saxophonist André Vida was in London to take on the awesome challenge of playing nine times a day for three months in Anri Sala's film and sound installation at the Serpentine Gallery - over 400 performances! So it was nice to be able to see him share a solo setting with another Berlin-based musician, electronics master, Rashad Becker, and team up with British electro-dance and left-field, experimental trombonist Bass Clef, and Japanese electronics innovator, NHK (Kouhei Matsunaga). This was under the auspices of Berlin's Pan label, which recently put out Vida's impressive 3 CD retrospective release, 'Brud', and for whom Becker is the mastering and cutting engineer of choice.

Becker and NHK set up the electronic backdrop to the first half, an eerie, echoing industrial soundscape, over which Vidal introduced harsh, breathy distortions on a Yamaha WX5, and sporadic tonal interventions on sopranino sax. The coalescent sound revved up with a sudden, intense momentum - sustained sax, disruptive motor engine sounds of near-drag racing volume, and then with equal rapidity faded into blips and signals with lo-fi creaks from Vida.

Becker performs with a rare, unmediated engagement. His ideas of the specific notes, colours and textures come to life in the dialogue instantaneously. He works with quiet confidence from a massively complex palette, avoiding clichés, imbuing the interactions with an acute fingerprint.

This fitted perfectly with Vida's inclinations, flipping between sopranino and tenor sax, with a wilfuly disjointed, phraseless intent, returning to vocalisations, pulses, whistles and tics, that melded seamlessly with Becker's and NHK's soaring electronics, nautical chimes, and sampled drones.

Straight after the break, Bass Clef set up a shoal of sparkling electro-patterns which served as a foil to Vida's rasping bursts and bellows and his own deviant trombone insinuations which included gleeful, intermittent elephantine blasts in response. A hint of trance, but no chance of falling in to the trap of repetition, their duet was marked by a freshness and a sense of awakening to sonic possibilities at every turn.

Joined by Becker and NHK, who worked in close unison to develop a haunted, reverberating post-Floyd atmosphere for the final stage of the journey, Vida scrapped and scraped with compelling deliberation and embarked on a spell of sustained circular breathing that Kirk or Dizzy would have approved of. Bass Clef added a sharp, percussive layer and by way of contrast, took the trombone down to virtual silence, before Vida slowly walked from the stage and around the audience to Café Oto's front door, his rippling independence on sopranino countered by a menacing darkness and fast changing patterns set up by the electronics trio. A rumble in the jungle to finish off an evening of bright articulations.

André Vida: tenor and sopranino sax and Yamaha WX5
Rashad Becker: electronics
NHK (Kouhei Matsunaga): electronics
Bass Clef: trombone and electronics

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