|Anne-James Chaton at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved
Anne-James Chaton, Andy Moor, Thurston Moore
(Café Oto. 2 June 2013; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)
The Guitar Poetry Tour is a meeting of minds with action. Andy Moor, guitarist with The Ex, and Anne-James Chaton, the French poet and sound artist have been working together since 2003 and were part the first Tour in 2010. The duo’s cycle of concerts through venues in France with Thurston Moore, guitarist, poet and publisher, finished up with an intense 5-set concert at a sold-out Café Oto.
The twin guitars of Moor and Moore set the scene in uncompromising style, weaving, rumbling and crashing through a rich ferment of extreme, articulated textures, rhythmically rooted, brimming with surging invective. Their interactive dynamics swerved close to the eye of destruction, throwing out chainsaw shuddering, shrill industrial distortions, chimes and aircraft hums, offset with a light tickling of the strings, revealing deep harmonies and a shared calm confidence within the seething welter.
Solo sets from Chaton and Moore addressed the vocal in quite different ways. Chaton sewed dense nets of spoken words, sampled and reassembled into mesmeric pulses and loops, overlaid with live reading, mining the banality of information rich ephemera that swamp daily life – from numerical codes to news story headlines. His voice had a rich monotone warmth, and the dispassionate, restrained delivery served to underline a panoramic critique of the technology-drenched world with its sinister, inhuman visage glimpsed in back-projected aerial views of sprawling cities and newsreel footage. Dates, events and phrases were picked out and repeated hypnotically in his ‘Evenements’ sound-montages that included ‘Barack Obama’ from the president’s investiture, ‘The King of Pop is Dead’ from the day Michael Jackson died, and reportage from the Afghan conflict.
Moore delivered a rare solo set of songs drawn from his new venture, Chelsea Light Moving. Best known at this tiny venue for his noise fixated forays and collaborations with jazz and improv musicians and poets, this was a departure, the nearest equivalent to the ‘unplugged’ set – and was anything but unplugged! This was a complex, fractured, discordant barrage. Moore rarely allowed himself the luxury of settling. Waves of post-Hendrix distortion bled in to vocal echoes of Taking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, yet the focus on songs created a sense of disarming vulnerability with such close audience proximity. Unwrapping the darker sides of the ‘golden days’ of the 60s, the unsettling narratives of ‘Frank O’Hara Hit’ and ‘Groovy and Linda’ laid bare myths and contradictions of the era, and Moore made a dedication “to radical protest against standards of normality”, invoking Haight-Ashbury’s community movement, the Diggers and the San Francisco Mime Troupe of that era.
Chaton and Moor followed up with masterly duets, built around their ongoing series of recordings. The overload of security, technology and hype at the Olympics, Diana’s car crash death and the subway networks worldwide formed the basis of a multi-layered, fast-moving flux; violently edgy guitar crossed with compelling deadpan transformations of verbal and numerical trivia to compose additional meaning from the outwardly ephemeral.
Moore joined them for a spring-loaded trio finale – which had him manically applying chisel to fretboard and Chaton taking to a megaphone as he read from scraps of hand-held text. They encored with a roll-call of corporate giants, with Chaton chillingly assigning to each degrees of relative wealth, or greed, in ‘Vous êtes riche’. The stripped-down simplicity of the presentation stressed the extent of the underlying malaise, to round off an exceptional evening, where, to borrow from sporting parlance, each performer gave one hundred and ten percent.
Anne-James Chaton: voice, electronics, megaphone
Andy Moore: guitar
Thurston Moore: guitar, vocals