I have to confess to going to this gig with a sense of mild dread. The last time I heard free noise it was somewhat painful and I’d built up this idea of the genre as being a kind of torturous intellectual exercise, devoid of melody, rhythm and narrative, which are all things I enjoy.
The first of three sets was a solo by Lee. This started very quietly, so much so that I became very aware of the audience as they shifted in their seats, and the sounds from outside as they pushed in. Lee was kind of hunched over a number of small machines on a desk, making tiny adjustments with various knobs and dials to produce feedbacky sort of sounds. Initially, this felt very spartan and severe, but after a while there was a noise that reminded me of a skylark and I suddenly started free associating. I was travelling through a landscape, and as the sounds changed it became more urban; I saw strange machines, factories.
The austerity of the first set was relieved by the second set’s addition of Sally Ann McIntyre’s Radio Cegeste. Sally turned more and more radios on, extending their aerials so that they interfered with each other in a soft build -up of static. She arranged them in such precarious -looking piles that simply waving her hands near them would produce variations. There was much more movement here; Sally was standing and I was reminded of a doctor tending to her patient, or perhaps a scientist at play. At one point, a phrase was played on an old record player.
All this was subtly accompanied by Lee, who moved from his machines to a drum kit and the bell bowls for the third set, wherein he was joined by Stuart Porter on saxophone. This set was quite jazzy and uptempo in feel, and perfectly completed the arc from the sparseness of the first set. I particularly enjoyed the vigorous physicality of Lee’s interaction with his instruments, all the tense energy of the preceding sets somehow amplified and released.
with apologies to Stuart: my ego was fixated on when/how Lee would use the bowls, so I barely noticed Stuart’s playing.