Review: Samara Lubelski and Thurston Moore at Café Oto

Thurston Moore and Samara Lubelski at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


Samara Lubelski and Thurston Moore
(Café Oto, 29 January 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Three compelling sets at Café Oto - one each from psych-folk musician, Samara Lubelski, on her first instrument, the violin, and trail-blazing, maverick guitarist, Thurston Moore, and their final duet - were bound together by a scalding sense of drama.

Lubelski grew up in New York's artistic community in Soho, and experienced a musical epiphany at school when a teacher played a Beatles record. As a singer and multi-instrumentalist, she has been involved in various bands, made several solo albums, and has collaborated with Thurston Moore on projects including Chelsea Light Moving. Moore produced her 2009 album, 'Future Slip'.

From an eerie, nervously drawn-out start, maintaining high, wavering pitches, Lubelski swept the violin into areas of concentrated electro-interrogation. She held trembling tensions, coaxed echoes and road-drill repetitions from the instrument in an absorbing flow that swerved, jittered, and fleetingly transmuted its familiar timbres into industrial insect life and Arctic gales. Hints of an other-worldly harmonium gave way to a passage of solo call and response, anticipating the duo that would follow.

Thurston Moore's light, metallic sonar clinks and pings, as he worked his way over the fretboard, gradually gave way to a pulsating, industrial barrage with a cataclysmic punch of feedback and distortion that invoked Hendrix's searing redefinition of territory for the guitar. Shards of dense chimes from the shunting yard were loaded with an urgency that built up to motorised, drag-strip intensity.

These two balanced, powerful individual performances, encapsulating the essence of their respective approaches with economy and clarity, set the scene for an entrancing, extended duet beginning, as a hush descended on the house, with a subdued shimmer that welled up with reverb and returned close to silence. Manipulating the guitar in theramin-style, Moore's pulsing beats and finger taps complemented Lubelski's wheeling, scudding flights. Bottleneck glanced against a glimpse of tender folk melody, searing feedback and alarm-bell chimes filled the room and Lubelski invested the violin with an elemental, abstract quality as the duo dived into the deep zones to conjure a raw, resounding finale.

An outstanding evening which offered rare insights in to the processes of carving out new ground for two familiar instruments by two leading innovators – and in Café Oto’s informal setting as much about the contract with the audience as that between the musicians.

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