Live reviews

Phill Niblock, Rie Nakajima and Thurston Moore at Cafe Oto

Phill Niblock, Rie Nakajima and Thurston Moore

(Cafe Oto, matinee 6 May 2023. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.


Phill Niblock, Rie Nakajima and Thurston Moore. Drawing by Geoff Winston. All rights reserved

This hastily arranged afternoon gig, on Phill Niblock’s brief return from travels, brought together three formidable kindred spirits in arts and improvisation, selling out in four hours. 

Niblock, celebrating nine decades, whose recent inspired Cafe Oto matinee combined sounds, music and film, set the bar (reviewed here). Rie Nakajima, always striving to break the mould, bringing music, sculptural concepts and performance together with unconventional sound-making devices joined him, together with Thurston Moore, who not only pushes the potential of the guitar in unexpected directions, but is also a publisher and advocate of the arts and music in its more uncompromising guises.

The session comprised three pieces without a break, as Moore informed the audience, when he paused after the trio’s opening salvo to explain, “We’re going to figure out what we’ll do next … We have lots of ideas!”

Kicking off, Nakajima’s wobbly hand-held perspex sheet wafted gloopy sound, while Moore, seated, clicked fingers on the fretboard of his horizontally placed guitar to a backdrop of the constant rush and roar of sea sounds, courtesy of Niblock’s laptop. Metallic ringing, a tapping on the guitar strings, then the dramatic evocation of whale sounds from Nakajima’s massive bamboo flute. Guitar strings strained upwards, watery sound flowed, enveloping the space. Nakajima dropped pebbles, clanking, in to jug, and scraped a hand-held wooden box. The clang of a virtual bell echoed around the room in to which Niblock insinuated layers of industrial humming and pulses to round out the proposition.

The short, second trio piece had Moore active, performative, drawing feedback and scraping the guitar across the floor, the grating abstractions blending in with a variety of lower-key cacophonics from all corners. 

The finale was a collaboration between Niblock and Moore, with one of Niblock’s films of light catching the undulations of a rippling water surface, primarily black and blue in colour, projected behind them. Modulated, light industrial pulses slowly escalated to intense, rib-shaking volume with drones, hums and micro-vibrations manipulated as the film presented subtly changing patterns of light on the unceasing wave movement.

Another great, one-off afternoon performance at Cafe Oto – and power to Cafe Oto’s proverbial elbow as they celebrate fifteen years! 

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply