Did I know the No Hay Banda Trio before I stepped into Rich Mix in sadly up-and-coming Shoreditch? Yes. Was I at all aware that Clare Savage and Bellatrix were hiding a monstrous talent in their minute figures? I do now.
Match & Fuse FestivalCity: London
Venue: Rich Mix
File-sharing, the demise of music labels as we know them, streaming services paying pennies, the embarrassing catalogue of redundant music on offer, crowdfunding as a contemporary myth, lack of innovation, and an unhealthy abundance of artistically avoidable waste: these are the problems affecting today’s music industry. Match & Fuse Festival is not the solution, but it does show a way. A simple, relatively affordable method to make your music known is to actually play it. Small venues, reasonable prices and quality (yes, it still matters) make a promoter happy and an audience loyal. Did I know the No Hay Banda Trio before I stepped into Rich Mix in sadly up-and-coming Shoreditch? Yes. Was I at all aware that Clare Savage and Bellatrix were hiding a monstrous talent in their minute figures? I do now.
When these two girls take the stage, they do so to join a vocal trio that is beautifully mistreating tones and loops. Sam Coates, Becky Chilton and Ben See clap hands and share frequencies fluctuating from Steve Reich to Julianna Barwick without making any real contact with them. Three voices that become five when the two ladies timidly step onto the stage. A quick glance to the audience and no smiles for the cameras: Clare Savage blasts a catalogue of dum, cha, boom, scratches and turns, but this is no Marinetti’s futurism: it’s the all too real art of imitating the sounds that imitate the sound. And yet there is purity in her performance. From the drumset to the sampler, to the throat – pure and simple – the substitution of the substitution takes on an original form and perfects itself when Bellatrix grabs the second mic. The bass sounds explode, the fury of drum and bass is unleashed upon us. Other hands are clapped; this time off stage. Minimalism meets its nemesis in a jubilation of drums and drones, and the tunes that follow are the exact compromise between two worlds that are so far apart as to be unexpectedly close.
The Comet is Coming
A pint of overpriced beer later, a weird combo appears under the spotlight. Three minutes and the audience is all theirs. The Comet Is Coming (pictured in the lead image of this article) consists of a sampler, assorted keyboards, drums and a saxophone. Surely the recipe for joy? The final result is, instead, a confusing mixture which, at least live, appears to have missed the transaction from improvisation to finished product. The talent of a young Coltrane is matched by a wild albeit precise drumming, while the main melodic path is provided by sounds moulded in ways which are not always in line with good taste. But it works. The ever-present sax tends to overdo things, the final mix is out of focus. But it works. People love it and that is what matters. Tweets appearing in real time on the screen behind the band are evidence of the fact that the Comet Is Coming has struck the right chord.
No Hay Banda Trio
Italy’s No Hay Banda Trio (today, sadly, a duo) have built a reputation upon the volatility of their sets, on an improvisation which has made the leap into composition without spoiling the existing dynamics. Their unpredictability is due to the precarious balance between actuality and potentiality, the infinite variances due to the instruments employed and their actual output on a stage. Multi-instrumentalist Fabio Recchia and drummer Lele Tomasi explore the recesses of math-core while courting the asymmetries of free jazz. But it is only when James Allsopp joins the duo that the circle closes. His discipline offsets the solid balance created by the symbiosis of guitars (yes, two, both of them played by Recchia) and the mechanically organic drum work. There is beauty in chaos and this can be found in the composition Allsopp (whose Golden Age of Steam is a quintet someone should write about) put together for the occasion. The pace slows down, but the tension rises again as soon as the trio drifts, once again, through the free jazz territories. For lovers of Zu, Mats Gustafsson, Ornette Coleman, Fond of Tigers and great music in general.
“Happy jazz-core”, they say. True. What Scandinavian Doffs Poi manages to produce is still matter of debate. There is an angular, highly infectious strain of noise, and yet, the music flows without having to resort to complicated weaves and contradicting patterns. The band is led by vocalist Mia Marlen Berg, whose presence on stage belittles – at times and only at times – the complexity of the sound apparatus. This is experimentalism which, by hook or by crook, manages to make itself palatable and interesting to the overwhelming majority of the people, who remain particularly attentive.
It is time to leave. Shoreditch’s high street absorbs us and we’re left at the mercy of hordes of hipsters (whatever this term has come to mean) and youngsters on a hunt. Match & Fuse Festival will not save the world, but if there’s a hope the music business can be saved, it is thanks to this and similar initiatives. Great music is great music. End of the debate.
[All photos by Francesca Colasanti]