We had our minds blown by two vikings, a fiddler and a large church organ last Thursday night…
Australian born South-Londoner John Chantler provided the opening performance of the latest St John Sessions, patching his modular kit into the Church’s own 1950s style Mander organ. His hybrid performance set a dark droning pace with the supercharged relic booming and undulating deeply for the best part of an hour. It was funny to watch puzzled folk walk in and stare at the front of the room scratching their heads before turning around to see him perched atop the balcony beside the stunning golden artefact. Chantler never went in to hard, his peaceful performance resembled the calm before the storm.
It has to be said that there’s something rather fierce about the shadow of a fiddler. Tony Conrad’s form was projected dramatically onto a thin white veil which was draped across the room. An American pioneer of experimental film and minimal music, there was nothing minimal about his riveting solo improvisation. With the aid of a small distorted drum pad, he did his very best to break every string on his bow and violin while whirling about frantically under the brim of a dark fedora. Even after all of this, the chin-stroking crowd could never have been fully prepared for what would follow.
Ben Frost and drummer Greg Fox mounted the stage and unleashed the gates of hell. Looking like a pair of Nordic Vikings, they battled incessantly with drums, bass and machines under a visceral strobe show in what formed the crux of the evening. At one point it sounded like a sleeping beast had awoken from within the depths of the church. Thankfully that didn’t happen, what did follow was another twenty minutes of noise from Frost’s remarkable ‘A U R O R A’ LP released on Mute earlier this year. This is the plane where Metal, Noise and experimental Techno live in beautiful harmony. Long live the St. John Sessions for once again bringing us all together for a different evening music in a endlessly stunning venue.
Keep up to date with the St John Sessions here.
Photography: Conor McTernan