REVIEWS: Keiji Haino and William Basinski solo concerts at Cafe Oto.

William Basinski at Cafe Oto, September 2015
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Keiji Haino and William Basinski
(Two solo concerts at Cafe Oto: Keiji Haino 30 Aug, William Basinski 15 Sept, 2015. Reviews and drawings by Geoff Winston)


These two very different sell-out solo performances at Cafe Oto occurred within two weeks. Keiji Haino's acoustic set in the sandbag-bunkered Project Space was given at  at short notice.  William Basinski's electronic set in Oto's main space shared a common fascination in the revelations tucked away in the quotidian. For Haino the lyrics of the popular song formed the groundwork of his accented deconstructions; for Basinski, it was the insistent and tender repetitions of the found musical phrase.

Haino proved to be a performer in the widest sense, integrating gracefully dynamic dance manoeuvres in the creation of his crisply focused, yet inevitably transient sound world, adding an unusual intensity and force to the idea of an acoustic evening - 'unplugged' in spirit it certainly wasn't!

Desk-bound with laptop, reel-to-reel and analogue kit, Basinski switched from light-hearted pre-concert chat to sharp concentration mode in summoning up the haunting piano loops and havering distortions in his most recent compositions.

Haino collaged together diverse and surprising streams. 'His singing tonight is part of sound rather than singing,' was the introduction. Well-known lyrics ('Come on, baby, light my fire') and those more obscure ('I was dancing when I was twelve …' from T Rex's Cosmic Dancer) delivered with raw, melodramatic unease, crossing Scott Walker with grindcore. An unexpectedly jazzy acoustic guitar interlude rubbed against ear-bending metallic chimes and shimmering temple bells.

Keiji Haino playing reed pipe at Cafe Oto, August 2015
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

In the spirit of Fluxus, a tambourine was played with a hair dryer, then with tambourine in each hand Haino traversed the stage, wheeling circular patterns, shaking and spring-jumping with athletic energy. Pausing at odd junctures to return to the refashioning of the song lyric Haino maintained engagement and continuity within the unique beauty of his performative vision.

Basinski melded deep resonances from sampled, orphaned, acoustic fragments that derived power from compounded repetitions and retention of their distant, degraded sound qualities. The heartrendingly touching, isolated piano phrase at the heart of Cascade moved on to the energised orchestral fragments forming The Deluge. Basinski's immersive sound space evoked, with gracefully blurred focus and a lingering unease, the poignant ephemerality of the spirit which drove the original recorded performances and hinted at the experience of the listeners at that time. Flickering patterns of light on water projected on to the back wall completed the experience of fleeting, watery ambience.

In the enhanced intimacy of Cafe Oto's unique settings both artists ran against various grains, to deliver uniquely memorable experiences.

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