Monday, February 06, 2006

History Post: EMPTY HOUSE COOPERATIVE in Melbourne, Australia

During the Thalia Zedek summer tour of Australia, Empty House Cooperative did a show on a day off. It was DMC and his viola & toys, Thalia on clarinet, and two special guests from Australia, Pete Cohen of the band Sodastream on upright bass and singing saw, and Mick Turner of the Dirty Three, who played guitar. It was an honor and pleasure to play with them. The review below doesn't mention Pete, except that there was a double-bass, so I will tell you that his bowed, banged, and gentle-fingered bass playing and singing saw playing was an awesome addition. Mick Turner has been an inspiration in the Dirty Three, and with his work in Tren Brothers, Boxhead Ensemble, and solo. The photo of the show is by Australia's own "Iron Chef" - Julian Wu.


REVIEW: Reported by Gallo - from Fasterlouder website.

Thalia Zedek improv with DM Curry, Mick Turner @ Gertrudes, August 1, 2005.

Existentialist arty wank or beautiful, poignant and timeless music?

This was the definitive question I had to ask myself about the Empty House Co-operative’s latest instalment. Tonight was improv night down at the old Gertrudes bar in Fitzroy and boy, did it live up to its name with collaborations between bandmates Thalia Zedek and David Michael Curry along with Dirty Three’s own Mick Turner on electric guitar.

For those at Gertrudes who had the preconceived notion that this event was another tour gig opportunity for Zedek to spread her wings, strap on her electrics and blow the audience away – then they were sadly mistaken at around the 50 minute mark of the ‘jam’ between the three aforementioned artists which saw them play classical instruments ranging from double bass, cello to viola and fiddle, to what I believe was Zedek’s oboe or clarinet, combined with a good dose of spiritual and haunting theremin providing the background score to the progression.

And I state the word ‘progression’ because for the best part of about 80 or 90 minutes the band set up, got comfortable and let the music flow with no real stop in between. There was always a constant playing whether it was Turner’s guitar or Curry’s viola – the band improvised to the very end and had this old reviewer mesmerised and quite captivated at their ability to hold the audience for the entire set.

Maybe it has something to do with the reputation of Thalia Zedek as one of the early pioneers of the experimental/alternative
rock movement in which artists such as Dirty Three, Mogwai and Cat Power would follow and embrace. Or was it the fact that the audience wanted to know why Kurt Cobain had held so much admiration and respect for her ability to create beautiful but dark and intense mood music over her 20 years in the music business.

Throughout the course of the evening’s set it was as if the performers were locked in to some kind of twilight zone or parallel universe – which allowed them to shake off their inhibitions and be free. The sound I was hearing was right in the middle of the barest of boned Dirty Three progressions with the sparse guitar offered by Turner combined with Neil Young’s evocative and brilliantly emotional score for the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man.

This improv night was pure and deep. It seemed to reach inside the hearts of both performers and audience, allowing every single person in the room to stop, listen and think. Be both introspective and retrospective about whatever was on their minds at the time - it allowed the crowd to feel the music and not question its intentions.

Even though at times it would make some sections of the crowd restless due to what they thought was a boring monotony of doodling existentialist arty wank – this was not so for me and after some careful consideration I would have to quite easily choose the beautiful, poignant and timeless option on this occasion. This event was truly special stuff and really something to savour for a long time.

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