23 January 2014 (gig)
27 January 2014
New year, new venue and high expectations for a rare show by one of London’s great originals – Chrome Hoof - supported by another – Charles Hayward. In the end it was a real disappointment on many fronts.
Even though they were originally formed by Leo Smee (ex Cathedral) and his brother Milo as a duo Chrome Hoof have now grown into a 10 piece band featuring such diverse instruments as Bassoon and Electric Violin alongside Leo’s bass, multiple guitars, trumpet, keyboards and vocalists who include ex-Noisette Shingai Shoniwa – altogether a powerful troupe and when I last saw them a few years back (supporting Magma at the Barbican) they made music that was intricate, complex and greatly detailed as well as demonstrating an almost religious aloofness in their hooded robes. I was expecting something similar this time around and the first couple of moments seemed to bear that out before the problems began.
Not problems with the band or the performance but with the volume and room based distortion that made all of the more subtle instruments inaudible. I could see the violin, Sarah Anderson playing for all she was worth, but I couldn’t hear it. Emma Sullivan’s trumpet was in the centre of the stage but all I could get was the occasional ‘toot’ and as for Chloe Herrington’s bassoon – no chance. The bass was massive and Alex Thomas’ drumming was superb and at the heart of everything I was hearing but the concrete box that forms the ‘Club’ at Oslo was distorting everything unremittingly.
Most frustrating of all was that I knew that the band was playing its heart out but I couldn’t hear it.
Before Chrome Hoof came on we had a set by Charles Hayward accompanying his drums with his own voice and taped and found sounds. From his days with Crass and various avant garde projects I was expecting something that would be stretching and difficult but in the end the music and the drums and the voice never seemed to join together – a great deal of effort but little return.
There were positives: the place was rammed – even on a Thursday – and the patrons were very enthusiastic while the PA is excellent (when the levels were down during the DJ set) and the staff were very friendly (they even got me a stool as I can’t stand). If they can sort out the problems with the room distortion I’d happily go back again.
Music can be loud and still be listenable but in this case it was difficult. Maybe the venue could look at similar sized venues and see what makes them different – 100 Club or Half Moon Putney for instance – it would only take a few tweaks to make Oslo a great addition to London’s live music scene.