RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Concert Review/ Nurse with Wound & Asmus Tietchens

img  Tobias Fischer

How long can you live on a memory? It's been more than thirty years since Nurse With Wound last visited Cologne, but time seems to have stood still. All day long, local record store A-Musik has been celebrating one of the Sound Art events of the year with extended opening times and plenty of back catalogue treasures for all those visiting town especially for the occasion. A couple of hours later, the shop's crew seamlessly blend in with the crowd in front of the doors of the Stadtgarten, where Steve Stapleton is doing the rounds with a grin on his face, shaking hands and patting shoulders. Meanwhile, in the concert hall, over the counter of a huge table filled with exquisite merchandise, I can hear organisor Till Kniola enthuse: „Oh, you came all the way from Switzerland?“ Clearly, whatever scene there is for this kind of music, it's assembled here tonight and the gig is as much about the music as it is about sharing it with anyone as obsessed about it as yourself.

Before Nurse with Wound hit the stage, however, it's up to pioneer Asmus Tietchens to sets the mood for the evening. The combination of Tietchens' analytical processing and Stapleton's emotive explosions of the subconscious may seem a strange one on paper, but not only makes a lot of sense historically (he released one of his earliest full-lengths on the latter's United Dairies' imprint) but also turns out surprisingly complementary in practise. After the light has died down, Tietchens delivers a deep and enigmatic set of cool clicks and eerie drones and it's one of the most intense sessions of this kind of music I've ever witnessed. Defying his tradition of simply premiering new work by pressing play on a CD-player, he is mixing tracks in a live-mode today and the additional adrenalin-kick adds an element of excitement and urgency to a music marked by a striking contrast between microscopic precision and epic wideness.

Underneath crystalline acupunctural dottings reminiscent of rolling glass-eggs along the rim of a silver plate, uneasily breathing basses heave and sigh, creating the illusion of harmonic grounding. Very much in the vein of his classic „γ-Menge“ on experimental Ambient label Ritornell, this is music for uneasy dreaming, and listeners are taking it in with an almost awestruck, reverential silence. Always balancing at the edge of mannerism, it is a daring journey, but the experience is as emotional as it is extreme: Even hours later, it is hard to forget the image of Tietchens standing upright behind his console like the captain of a ghost ship, setting the course of his imagination far beyond where the water meets the horizon.

Compared to this display of cinematic minimalism, Nurse With Wound are almost looking like an experimental Big Band. For tonight, the Quartet has been permanently extended by Belgian drone-aesthetic Timo van Luijk with special guests complementing the line-up at strategic moments. To the back of the band, terrifying video-material is sucking the audience into a vortex of confusion, utter repulsion and bizarre allure: Bloody organs and raw meat are slowly bursting through the walls and dripping from the ceilings, while seemingly undisturbed occupants are simply continuing their lives as before, chewing on intestine-splattered sandwiches, smearing themselves with gory goo and falling asleep on what looks to be a giant, pulsating liver. In this psychotropic nightmare, oblong objects, chairs and entire houses are rising from a silent meadow only to come back falling from the sky, rolling down slopes and shattering to pieces while falling into a bottomless pit. Circling around themes of apathy, repression and estrangement, this stream of snapshots from the ether are providing for an additional layer to the music, which the players are visibly and audibly taking into account in their decisions.

For the first twenty minutes, Nurse with Wound are treading with utmost care, providing a tactile soundtrack to the movie. Composed of dense low-frequency rumble, van Lujk's metallic Zitter-scratchings, clusters of intricately interwoven, sustained harmonics and the occasional delayed Guitar chord, the music is moving with gritted teeth and the breaks on, pussyfooting on broken glass with wounded feet. The surreal horror is matched by the uneasy equilibrium between the musicians, whose nervous retention is powering this essentially rhythmless juggernaut with a palpable pulse. It is only after the tension has reached point break that the subconscious simmering is released through a gradual surge towards a fulminante, liberating explosion of noise. Rising from the ashes of this precisely guided cacophony, a beat suddenly realligns the loose strands and the band enter into the second half of the concert, which will be defined by a blend of torrential primeval beats and the roaring wall of sound of the combined ensemble's forces.

What's immediately striking is how Nurse With Wound are managing to combine the furor, madness and unchanneled energy of individual outbursts with the guided force of a band in which each performer is contributing to the overall sound. While Timo van Luijk appears almost as if in a trance, Stapleton, Matt Waldron and Andrew Liles are strumming, shaking, hitting, contorting, bowing and bending their instruments in a ferocious frenzy, caught in the twisted, overblown vision of a Utopian rock n roll session. What could turn into complete anarchy is carefully sculpted within the innards of Collin Potter's mixing console, entering as raw chunks of noise and exiting as a swinging mass of resonance and bass thrust. Sporting a t-shirt with a digital clock woven into it, Potter is both visually and musically Nurse With Wound's anchor tonight, designing the group's physical flow as a concentrated wave, incrementally growing and ebbing in density and loudness and offering a shimmering, infinite pool of associations, metaphors and colours at its core. When Krautrock- and KRaftwerk-legend Eberhard Kranemann joins this screaming creature, goldenly glowing cascades of quicksilver Saxophone lines are spilling on top of the red-hot stream, as if Lost Highway's Fred Madison had finally found the right backing band after all.

The concert arrives at a fitting finale with the colossal Indian-flavoured stomp of „Yagga Blues“, a frighteningly distorted version of the original, meditative studio version. Just when you think things couldn't get much louder and wilder, Potter suddenly pulls the plugs and for a second, the room is flooded with a wave of silence and awestruck perplexity, before the audience violently erupts into an ecstatic cheer. It takes an hour for the room to absorbe the message that this cathartic ritual has really ended. But even if it should take another thirty years for Nurse with Wound to return, they've provided their friends with plenty of memories to feed from for decades to come once again.

By Tobias Fischer

Image by jdlennon
Homepage: Asmus Tietchens
Homepage: Nurse With Wound
Homepage: Stadtgarten Cologne

Related articles

Interview with Mika Vainio
Mika Vainio is not a ...
Juan Matos Capote: "Jabal"; Arnau Sala: "La joia d'agredir"
Broken Circuits and Audio Cassettes: ...
Tour Report/ Sindre Bjerga/Nils Rostad/Staplerfahrer
A hat of sound: Sindre ...
CD Feature/ Will Montgomery [Heribert Friedl]: "Non-Collaboration"
Delicate statements: An album no ...
Mise en Scene: Shay Nassi's White_Line duet with Heribert Friedl
Tel-Aviv based experimental Sound Artists ...

Partner sites