[Albert’s Basement; 2017]
Spiritual street concrète from Clinton Green/Chun-liang Liu duo Moe Chee recorded live on the steps of the State Library.
Without the ordinary musical watersheds – chord changes, guitar solos, “kick out the jams motherfucker” – what feel like points of ellipsis in the live street performance Testament of the Trinity Cassette feel momentous. A brief ducking in the stream of metropolitan chatter signposts a scene change, and a new stray snatch of conversation comes to the fore.
While the recordings appear to have been compiled in one take there is sufficient narrative to infer an editing process, as the listener is drawn to the counterpoint of the profound and the mundane. From the muffled proselytising of street preachers to thrill-less renditions of the the night before (“what was jennifer dressed as?”), Moe Chee place meaning in the meaninglessness of a thousand idle thoughts vying for conspicuity in the crowded CBD (one that could exist anywhere in the world if it wasn’t for the familiar sting of occa). There are no grand monologues here, just the vibrant hum of the day-to-day.
In the midst of the bulge the performers persist with their strange oscillations – communicating so silently with the crowd that there is never any hint of recognition from their subjects (that is, until the comparative hush of the final movements, where the sea of murmurs subsides into a more serene air of focus). This sensation strikes me as critical to the project – a 7 day impromptu performance at State library forecourt involving sound and movement. For all the movement you can’t see, sound infers it: limbs on percussion, the meditative poses of ceaseless resonances, and the swaying siren song of guest Jen Calloway.
The Mandarin phrase Moe-chee carries many meanings – ‘silent bonding’, ‘unspoken agreement’ – but it’s essence is illustrated perfectly in these recordings. Busking these performers are not, as the lines between musicians and listeners and stage and audience are blurred to reveal the strange dance of civilisation. One where your tantrum over the lack of authentic ramen on the menu reverberates off the scenes of protest out the window. Where the presidential handshake is no more purposeful than the cat shitting on freshly mowed grass.
Testament of the Trinity is a unique exercise in hands off, interactive musique concrète and another strong instalment in our city’s stellar performance art scene. Wish I got to see it in the flesh. You can get the cassette now from Albert’s basement.