Sketches of Manchester
As is often, the best of things somehow elude the ability to describe those moments with actual words. But as this review depends on those descriptive letter bricks, so let’s try and do this eh.
Flush spoke the other day about the imminent arrival of warm spell from up North in the guise of GoGo Penguin headlining London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall, which was last night (12 November), and indeed was part their biggest UK tour yet (thankfully there’s still a couple of dates left). And the holy trinity of sound did not disappoint in the slightest, far, far from it. The phenomenally deceptive nonchalance of three ordinary looking guys strolling on stage, started with the sonic equivalent of sporadic falling flakes of snow (Prayer), that somehow seamlessly morph into the sound of galaxies being constructed down a rave themed jazz mine (One Percent).
With a score that is etherial, industrial, mechanical, organic, chaos and purity all at once, there is a godlike knitting session being cast, taking atomic yarn from a great many influences, encompassing every single note, colour, texture of what actually makes up every facet of life, time, existence, nature and science. It all has the grandeur of the loftiest concepts, whilst still embracing the most tender of moments with equal parity (Bardo), then with a tumbling Molotov of keys back to intensity (Protest), or a voyage of pure grace (Ocean In A Drop).
This equality permeates the majority of their works, as does the presence of keys, strings and drums, all washing over each other, a sublime alchemy that can only happen when each element is given the respect it deserves, and there are individual moments where each artist briefly sonically steps forward and their profound skill is allowed full attention before it metamorphs back into the collective.
There may have been just three people on stage, but their sound (& light show) drenched the entire hall with a life giving/sustaining palpable energy, that was liberally moped up by a wonderfully diverse crowd, from all grooves and ages of life. A particular shout out the 80+ year old guy sitting in front of me who was completely away in his own inner world while a the ultimate GoGo Penguin mixtape played on the ultimate sound system around him.
That’s another aspect that must be mentioned. As enjoyable as the album recordings are, GoGo are a live band, and realistically that is the only place they should be listened to. Obviously we’re not all not (least I’m not) in a position to offer the guys a residency in our kitchens where they can play in their truest form. But I don’t think there will ever be a mechanism invented that can truly capture what it is they weave of stage, so the only way to counter that, is to go to see them at EVERY opportunity.
So many wonderful ideas, concepts, emotions and possibilities spun through my own inner universe as swam with the music, as a tried to word what was happening in front, and all around me. Ultimately it felt like when I went skydiving, an senses overwhelming rush, followed by divine serenity (when the shoot opened), but this time it was through the 2001 Star Gate, intense, beautiful, so VERY full of colour, and the only way to enjoy it was leap into it.
Despite the more modern elements and aspects of what GoGo create, it’s also deeply marinaded in the history of jazz, and it made me think that had Miles Davis done a follow up to Sketches of Spain (directly influenced by Spanish folk music), he went on to spend a few some summers in Madchester… I think GoGo Penguin would be the natural result. And if that isn’t one of the most beautiful fusions of all that is beautiful in life, well of course it is. GO SEE GOGO PENGUIN!!!
Check www.gogopenguin.co.uk for more information.