Make it up club has been killing it for nearly two decades now, corralling the best in local artists and commissioning new collaborations at Bar Open on a Tuesday night where once a week the band room becomes a forum for musicians to test new ideas and to flex their skills of improvisation. They’ve had countless musicians on this lineup, and the curation has always been admirably agnostic. From live techno jams to post-rock and solo instrumentation with a broad cultural brush, the only unifying factor is that all the music is fugitive. As MC Lloyd Honeybrook rhapsodises, we’ll never hear these sounds again. On this night in particular his words seemed all the more convincing.
Before I get tucked in I should disclose that I regrettably missed the opening act Hextape and Sorcha Wilcox. I could, for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the the review, bluff my way through their set knowing nothing about what either act plays (“Hextape and Sorcha Wilcox kicked things off with an admirable marriage of contentious styles, forming what could only be described as music”). But I have to fess up, I’m a working man with darts to draft. Plus I’ve got no one to answer to so there’s no heads to roll. Just one to hang in shame.
I did, thankfully, make it for Clare Cooper. She was a last minute replacement for Terminal Infant but from the strength of the performance the haste of the substitution could have fooled us all. Cooper plays the Đàn bầu, a Vietnamese stringed instrument I’ve never encountered and as we all know every unfamiliar instrument is a smile from a beautiful stranger.
As I’m not abreast of my Đàn bầu I can’t authenticate how true or errant Cooper’s playing style was to the traditional canon, but I can confirm she wielded it with talent and restraint. The whole set was a showcase of different techniques, like watching a carpenter as all their efforts to saw, sand and paint produces a fine piece of woodwork. Playing it with both bow and drumsticks, the Đàn bầu articulates in two parts, the twang of the string and the sinister metallic resonance of its oscillation, and Cooper was keenly attuned to the tension created by the sound. From sharp aggressive bursts to a muted warble, Cooper executed the silences well and the pin drop crowd were all ears.
I’ve been a big Oren Ambarchi fan for a while now but I’m not up to scratch with Menstruation Sisters, one of his most enduring projects with guitarists Brendan Walls and Nik Kamvissis. What I admire most about Ambarchi is his ability to straddle the hideous and the sublime – Menstruation Sisters, on the other hand, aren’t so enamoured with duality. In fact, they are hell bent on shitting in you ears with as much mangled guitar strings molasses and gunshot snare fills as they can muster (and mustered they did last night with the PA’s under some very audible duress).
Lead vocalist Kamvissis is your definitive renaissance punk – guitarist, vocal artist, visual artist – and there’s a continuum between his visual and musical expression. His paintings recall the works of the COBRA movement: conveying the submerged trauma of a Billy Pilgrim-esque figure through primitive, childlike abstraction. Similarly, Kamvissis’ vocals, mumbled and wretched under the surge of feedback, is like primal scream therapy from the centre of the earth. By the end of the set the whole band had joined in, stopping to howl before breaking into another fractured groove. It looked like they were having a blast and it was one of those great sets where everyone stands around dumbstruck afterwards, reluctant to break the silence with anything less than momentous.
It was a privilege to experience such unique ephemeral music in such an intimate setting. But, more importantly, it’s vital to any strong musical culture that we maintain institutions like these where more challenging ideas can flourish. The lineups rotate too freely to champion your favourite genre but give it a crack one week and I’m sure at least one of the artists will really hit the spot.
You can check out future lineups for Make it Up club here.
Sadly there’s only room for one Clare Cooper on Facebook.