So here we are, back at the smack clinic, for some weird folk-noise shit. The aptly named Heatsick, tonight reinvented for the evening as Liquid Turtle, set the tone for the evening as the mercury rises to a degree that threatens the sanity of the crowd, already twice the capacity of West Germany’s balcony. The health and safety officer has been gagged and bound and thrown in a cupboard somewhere and enough heat is being generated to defrost a medium sized ice shelf.
Apparently joined by a couple of stray cats from Double Leopards, Steven Warwick sits cross-legged on the stage, squeaking autisticly through a recorder as his feline co-conspirators abuse a variety of bizarre instruments, amplified through an expensive PA. Various native American tambourines, drums, flutes and whistles are assembled and disassembled through a variety of expertly deployed FX. The single song that constitutes their set is without words and, as Warwick confesses later, unrehearsed.
The audience, largely collapsed on the floor are mesmerised by the death rattle of the tambourine, the harsh squall of heavily amplified recorder and the melody fragments of a thumb piano. A bad gamelan recording Koyanisquatsi with a toy Xylophone and a Yamaha keyboard. Stockhausen abducted and held to ransom by a feral gang of primary school children.
Warwick is one half of Birds of Delay, up and coming drone noise monkeys much beloved of Thurston Moore. Heatsick, his solo project is responsible for a number of already highly sought after cassette only releases on his own Alcoholic Narcolepsy label. His boyfriend is a professional wrestler.
Next up are Christy and Emily from New York. Formerly of The Walkmen and now signed to The Social Registry, Emily plays the keyboard in the manner of the haunted Wurlitzer soundtrack of Carnival of Souls and is accompanied, on a semi-acoustic guitar, by Christy. They sing simple, limpid and very short songs, one of which featured the word ‘phosphorescence’.
After three numbers I head out to get some air, attempt to blind the music editor of the ex-Berliner with the flash on my cheap digital camera and find myself kidnapped and given drugs by a passing gang of art critics. It’s Berlin Babylon here on the balcony. The French, Italian, Spanish and German languages all fighting to be heard above the Americans, a group of whom are having a very loud conversation about joining the marines. Elsewhere a guy with an impressive perm is going on about his studio in Neukölln which, apparently, is a box inside a box and a bunch of very serious looking DJs are in earnest discussion about the merits of field recordings and a gig at Staalplaat Records.
I push my way through the throng attempting not to tread on the hands of the heat stricken audience members camped out on the floor – summoned by the dissonant avalanche of sound produced by The Six Organs of Admittance.
Perhaps in deference to the heat (he jokes that a proportion of the door will go to a fund to equip the venue with proper air conditioning) Chasny exercises some restraint, picking simple, almost countrified, figures on his Telecaster as Ambrogio’s tweaked and bandaged strat, soars and dives. When they collide and mesh it is like two tectonic plates settling after an earthquake. Plaintive, fragile vocals, shared by the two guitarists – hold the audience motionless, spellbound for the duration of their set. By the final number, which tonight goes by the name of Hot Beer, the guitars are hopelessly and irredeemably out of tune but it is a tribute to the potency and intensity of their playing that no one cares.
Chatting with Ben and Elisa after the show he told me about the time that Nikki Sudden had summoned him to a bar at 5am – sadly this is the only detail I can remember of the many stories we exchanged. Consulting my notes between enthusiastic dancing at what Elisa described as “the air conditioned drug bar next door” with Stephen, a couple of Leopards, Christy and Emily (don’t ask me which was Christy and which Emily) – I found the only legible thing I had written was the word “transcendent”.