Orchestra Elastique at Café Oto
London-based improvisation collective Orchestra Elastique have been floating around the scene for the last three to four years, carving a niche for themselves with noted performances at several European festivals as well as recording soundtracks for documentaries and movies. Treading similar ground to No-Neck Blues Band and Sunburned Hand of the Man, the six core musicians evoke a menagerie of disparate influences from around the world to create an uncategorised and psychedelic sound. As with any performance at the shadowy and intimate Café Oto, Orchestra Elastique’s performance last night was to be something unique: an eight-hour marathon running from 9pm until 5am.
The evening kicked off with a short announcement from Joris Beets, the group’s spokesperson and chief trilby-wearer, quickly listing the musicians and introducing a screening of experimental silent short At Land (1944) by pioneering American film-maker Maya Deren. OE-collaborator Oliver Pash explained that the band’s new soundtrack was created as a montage of several improvisatory recording sessions. The score hovered between chaos and order, symphony and dissonance. The electronic core of the band provided atmospheric guitar and electronics, while the trumpet, harmonium and delta harp added flashes of melody and an overtly colourful timbral palette. The music reflected the film’s surreal journey surprisingly well, with Antoine Gilleron’s trumpet adding much needed leitmotifs to Maya Deren’s striking close-ups and Tristan Shorr’s propulsive drumming guiding the crescendos and diminuendos of OE’s strange brew.
After the film’s conclusion, the band started without pause. The montage-like nature of the score permeated their improvised live performance, with musicians interacting as much or as little as was necessary. At times they improvised in unison, at other times they were a noisy collage of individuals sharing a stage. Guests drifted in and out over the course of the concert, with bowed banjos and mandolins thickening the band’s sound at points. Orchestra Elastique took the audience on a far-ranging journey filled with colour, variety and tangibility.
Disappointingly, the two front men were committed to acting as men possessed, suggesting that the music was a ritualistic event: Antoine Gilleron’s improvised vocal yelps reminded of a half-baked Damo Suzuki and Bruno Humberto’s heavily animated ukulele plucking was more ridiculous than compelling. The persistent drive of the skilled rhythm section was the real highlight of the evening.
For further information and future events visit Orchestra Elastique’s website here.
Watch At Land with new score by Orchestra Elastique & Oliver Pash here: