Live review

Steve Beresford / Thurston Moore duo at Cafe OTO

Steve Beresford / Thurston Moore duo
(Cafe OTO. 16 March 2020. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Cafe OTO embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign with five concerts on consecutive nights, opened by Steve Beresford and Thurston Moore in duo format. Devastatingly, the planned programme was banana-skinned by the pincer movement of the virus pandemic and the ensuing health directives. This concert, which also included a set from trio Crystabel Riley, Seymour Wright and Ute Kanngiesser, was ultimately the only one to take place in front of an audience before the inevitable draconian measures were implemented.

Steve Beresford and Thurston Moore. Drawing by Geoff Winston © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Notwithstanding, Beresford and Moore performed a tantalising, portentous yet delicately flavoured set. Ironically, although I’d planned to attend their ‘headlining’ set at a later time, when it was scheduled to open the evening I ended up watching it as a live stream as I was nowhere near the venue.

Beresford has been busy – as always – with three days of collaborations at Cafe OTO to celebrate his seventieth, as well as collaborations with violinist Mandhira de Saram (review). Moore continues to extend his range in a variety of sonic contexts, from his own group (review) to collaborations in duo and trio format and in co-hosting, with Eva Prinz, the publishing enterprise, Ecstatic Peace Library, which delves in to the often overlooked, borderline esoteric, key figures and publications of left field contemporary music. Which is just about where Moore and Beresford met in this fascinating improvised performance.

Their collaborative spirit and mental agility gave rise to a dialogue which crossed ominous tension with brightly disarming delicacy. Beresford confronted the piano with energetic aplomb, introducing a succession of physical and mechanical interventions within its body that blended with his fast-moving keyboard playing. Moore, seated with guitar initially horizontal on his lap, found tones and shudders, and delicate, wiry echoes which took cues from the old blues slide guitar technique as he stretched and distorted the strings.

Their explorations complemented and overlapped. Beresford set off small electrical contraptions and guided the anarchic sounds, then dragged the piano wires while Moore applied sticks between strings and coaxed jangling emanations, tapping with sticks and fingers. Briefly there were intense sound crunches from both musicians – rumbles from the piano depths and crashing chords from the guitar.

The musical interplay was absorbing and curiously otherworldly, as though stepping unexpectedly on unfathomable ground and having to find a language to address its challenges, very much an echo of the broader world picture.

All the live streams from Cafe OTO, including this one and the following four concerts from the fundraising campaign, are available on their WEBSITE, and will be well worth exploring in the era of imposed isolation, home working and social distancing. It will be a great way to keep the adventurous live music scene in good health and to continue to have that essential, vital, live music experience.

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