Live in Birmingham this week were two bands who combined noise and energy with gentle and sensitive moments. On Wednesday at the mac bassist Chris Mapp’s project Gonimoblast were celebrating the release of a new double album, and they invited special guest Annie Mahtani to reinterpret and transform sounds from that record (including contributions from Arve Henriksen and Maja S.K. Ratkje) for use in the evening’s hour-long performance. A tentative start, led by Mark Sanders’ cymbal brushes, was soon followed by towering peaks of noise, Mapp’s growling, distorted bass forming the central pillar. My favourite moments, however, were when things dialled back down a little and the spectral ghosts conjured up by Mahtani came to the fore, augmented by Leafcutter John’s light-triggered swooshes and glistenings. These two musicians were often drowned out by the rest of the band, and this imbalance perhaps contributed to a disjointedness and lack of cohesion that occasionally made me lose the thread of the performance.
Friday saw Centrala play host to the final Post-Paradise concert of the 2016-17 season with a visit from Manchester-based Kinder Meccano. Reel-to-reel tape decks, a Tascam Portastudio, a zither, an old Casio synth, wind-up toys, and a hairdryer were all put to use to create music that swung from delicately magical to thumpingly raucous and back again in a fluid and engaging way. Displaying the names of each piece using homemade signs was a nice touch: a gorgeous moment of glowing ambience took the name ‘Before You’. In this duo format, much as with their other project Almost Credible Music, Cutting and Glovackyte cast a distinctive enchanting and whimsical spell; my impression on Friday night was that the music has grown strong enough to achieve this all on its own, without the theatrical devices it has leaned heavily on in the past. If anything, it was the full-on noise components that didn’t quite convince, though perhaps the venue’s PA contributed to this.
Kinder Meccano’s set was preceded by two intelligent and well-performed pieces from the duos of Neil Luck and James Whittle, and Michael Wolters and Hillary Springfield, though I think I enjoyed them more as theatre than as music.