8th Nov 2013
Cinema Soloriens is a multi-media performance of experimental and highly personal film and video images coupled with live musical rendering of soundtracks for each film. They played at Liverpool’s MelloMello a couple of weeks ago and Louder Than War’s Sean Diamond was in the audience to catch it.
One of Liverpool’s most treasured venues, MelloMello found itself under threat from closure by the city council last year. An independent creative hub, with a vegetarian / vegan menu and an organic bar, an online petition to save it attracted no less than 6,000 signatures, one of which belonged to Queen guitarist Brian May!
An unfussy, intimate beatnik hang-out crammed with old board games, bags and a grand piano, the venue also boasts a brilliant musical soundtrack and some of the friendliest staff you are ever likely to meet. The musical events held here are the stuff of legend, with many spontaneous jam / spoken word sessions taking place on the stage area at the back. It’s also a great meeting place for people of all ages and from all different walks of life. Louder Than War have posted several articles highlighting the positive impact the place has had on the community and coupled with the considerable public support the campaign attracted it now looks as though the frostbitten, grasping hands of UK austerity have just been dealt another potentially lethal blow. Hopefully, by continuing to show solidarity in the face of musical adversity it will remain this way, to lose this place would be a crying shame.
Kicking off tonight’s carnival of sound and vision is Manchester’s Paddy Steer, a one man band from the 25th century. Sat in front of a drum kit and a mind bending selection of various other assorted self-made instruments, Mr Steer proceeds to dazzle with an extraordinary half-hour set of funk, masks, glittery helmets, vocodered vocals and processed beats, filtered with a defiantly DIY aesthetic and an admirable lack of pretension. Think the dirty funk of early Daft Punk playing at the same time as ‘Over Nite Sensation’ era Zappa whilst Super Furry Animals rehearse in the background and you’re halfway there, yet somehow galaxies away at the same time. Think an unreleased episode of Doctor Who which features Colin Baker drowning in a giant jar of marmalade to the strains of Womack + Womack and you’re closer. Or maybe not. As genuinely perplexing mutant discos from the shoulder of Orion go, Paddy Steers is one of the very best. Go figure.
More “out there” cosmic shenanigans are provided by Mugstar, (see photo below right) a Liverpool band who have gained a devout cult following since their inception in 2003. An instrumental psych / space-rock outfit, their devastatingly loud intergalactic melee recalls the space pop clattering of early Floyd, the tribal thud of Hawkwind, the void-entering psychological intensity of Brainticket and the tempo changing unease of post-rock luminaries such as Slint and Mogwai, with very little pause for breath between each track. Complete with a startling light show, featuring on-screen projections and flashing images, this is a set guaranteed to make your trousers flap, your brain melt and your ears ooze rainbow coloured blood. With their albums receiving generous amounts of critical acclaim, it must only be a matter of time before Mugstar’s thrilling batch of psychedelic blues stew is consumed by the masses. Can’t afford to set the controls for the heart of the sun? Go see Mugstar live instead; it’s a whole lot cheaper, and every bit as exhilarating.
Time for the main event. Cinema Soloriens is an ongoing visual and music project which has been running for over 20 years. A collaborative effort between film maker and musician James Harrar and saxophonist Marshall Allen, a long standing member of the Sun Ra Arkestra (and leader of the group ever since the great man died in 1993), the project acts as a vehicle for Harrar’s highly personal short films set to music, with each musical passage intended to reflect the nature of the film being projected. Joined by Rogier Smal on percussion, Harrar and Allen form the core nucleus of the project with the rest of the line up changing constantly. During the set Harrar and Allen alternate between several instruments creating a heady mixture of dissonance, beauty and intensity. Themes of nature, birth, dreams and magic are prevalent; represented by images of streams, mosaics, flowers and a wild, flashing clip of a man intoning what appear to be spells who may or may not be Sun Ra. At one point the projector breaks down, forcing the band into heading in what Harrar calls “another direction”. Around this point we are treated to some bewitching keyboard work from Mr Allen which seems to reflect the uncertainty often caused by disruption perfectly.
(Photo right: Soloriens. Marshall Allen (left), James Harrar (right)).Occasionally the chatting at the back of the venue from punters not watching the gig at the front of the venue became a little tiresome, particularly during the quieter musical passages and the wilder visual moments where you just wanted to completely lose yourself in the beauty and horror of the experience, although you could also argue that this counts as a reaction of sorts to the games being played out in front of the eye. There have been several accounts of people walking out of this performance seemingly unable to cope with the vast array of emotions and feelings being projected from the stage, something which I certainly don’t recall occurring tonight.
On the whole, this was a truly one of a kind, out of body extravaganza of words, pictures, music and poetry; the like of which I have never seen before. The project ends on a high, with a jazz, blues and rock number sung by Harrar concerning an antelope (I think). A wild sensory overload of cosmic delights, this was a unique night of music which I wish more people could have witnessed. If done correctly, blurring the lines between dreams and reality can be a good thing. The proof is in the pudding.
All words by Sean Diamond. More work by Sean Diamond can be found in his Louder Than War archive.