Review: Body/Head with Ikue Mori at Yoko Ono's Meltdown (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

Body/Head with Ikue Mori at Yoko Ono's Meltdown; Kim Gordon, Ikue Mori, Bill Nace
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Body/Head with Ikue Mori
(Yoko Ono's Meltdown, 20 June, 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Short, sharp and loud. That was the format for the headlining trio of Body/Head with Ikue Mori and support duo, Mystical Weapons. It was all over by ten past nine, but the brevity was more than made up for by the intensity of the music. Compressed and densely textured, both sets offered a different angle on sounds that grew out of in New York No Wave and sixties psychedelia.

Mystical Weapons combined the mood of the historic underground with current noise threads. Greg Saunier's vigorously intent fusilade meted out on his drum kit, Sean Lennon's strained post-Zappa guitar and electronic mélange, the Indian-flecked tones and traditional imagery in the fast-moving projected film collage had the feel of a work-in-progress - assured in parts, fragmented in others, it packed a punch and it will be interesting to see where this project takes them.

Kim Gordon, guitarist and pivotal member of Sonic Youth, teamed up with in-demand Boston noise guitarist, Bill Nace, a couple of years ago to form the duo Body/Head after some informal improvisational jams. For the Meltdown concert she invited her contemporary, the percussionist, Ikue Mori, veteran of New York's punk, No Wave and improv scenes, and one of her primary inspirations, to join them. Mori's career has focused on computer-based percussion and she had apparently not performed in concert behind a drum kit for 25 years!

Gordon, "honoured to be asked" to participate in Yoko Ono's Meltdown, kicked off their set gently strumming while Nace picked, her husky vocals dropped in before a clatter and a crash announced Mori's presence and a ramping up of the tempo. Nace's sustains flowed alongside Mori's thoughtfully paced and accented substrate, and the mutually controlled decibel levels were indicative of the trio’s high quality interactivity.

Gordon has used the term 'experimental' to describe her position and, as the brew became more concentrated the performance took on the flavour of a laboratory of sound, a toxic power drain with a flow of crunching chords and wailing feedback, coloured with indistinct vocals and intermittent bleeps. Within the dense melee, Mori was an oasis of calm, laying down a firm, nuanced current of solid beats and thuds. Gordon took up dramatic, if somewhat anachronistic, poses with her guitar and her amplified harmonica added the rich tones of an accordion to the mix. Nace maintained the momentum, continually adding and exposing fresh layers within the dark waves of sound.

All the while, a slow-mo film (uncredited, as far as could be seen) played out in the backdrop, a non-narrative scenario of computerised and live action based on two characters in a loft-like setting, which lent a certain quality to the ambience.

Yoko Ono has said that "people have this incredible prejudice about age" and her surprise appearance for the trio's final number showed what a lithe and energetic octogenarian she is, with a piercing singing voice that cut through the crushing swamp of sound with clarion clarity, a balanced foil to Gordon's softer vocal delivery and a perfect high on which to end the concert.

See Geoff's drawing of Yoko Ono on stage with Kim Gordon of Body/Head HERE

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