12 Points festival – Day 2 review
Round two at 12 Points brought bands from the grandes dames of Europe to Dublin, namely Rome, Berlin and Paris, but the music was box fresh and cutting edge.
Opening up the evening’s three sets were the Lisbeth Quartett from Berlin, lead by 23-year old saxophonist Charlotte Greve. This is slick, crisply executed music played with guile, and Greve gets a beautiful tone from her instrument. This sounds and feels like a band playing together, rather than a collection of instruments, with little recourse to charts throughout the set. The band perhaps play it a little too safe – or maybe it just seems that way in the context of the anarchy-like atmosphere that some of the other 12 Points acts bring to bear. But when this quartet push themselves out of their comfort zone and throw some fuel on the fire, such as on set-closer Red from the quartet’s forthcoming album 2, the fluidity of the communication and the subtle interplay at work is very effective and exciting.
The organisers at 12 Points seem to have made a conscious decision to make the middle act the most intriguing. They tend to be the act that on paper sound the oddest, and here lies the greatest potential for fireworks (or, indeed, damp squibs). Happily, Parisian outfit Metal-O-PHoNe (there is a tendency among jazz acts to hyphenate like they are soloing with punctuation) were definitely of the fiery variety. An unusual trio of drums, double bass and vibraphone, the band’s set was almost scuppered by technical difficulties in micing up the vibraphone, but a compromise was reached that didn’t give Benjamin Flament his full range to play with, but still made for some terrific music.
Mention vibraphones, and people perhaps think of gentle, contemplative music making – not here. Bluesy, swaggering bass lines from Joachim Florent reel around the band like a mean drunk looking to pick a fight, the mettalic edge of the vibraphones punching through, while drums hold the shape down and deliver their own bit of complex, rhythmic darkness. There is enough groove here to run a locomotive on, and Metal-O-PHoNe make music with an intensity and an aggression that is difficult to match. Musicians watching this band immediately want to go home and practise (two members of Ambush Party made no attempt to contain their enthusiasm in the front row); those who don’t play, probably want to start.
And so the gauntlet was very much thrown down to headliners Neko, a band led by guitarist Francesco Diodati who call Rome home. They opened their set with a challenging, free jazz exploration, with guitar and saxophone scrabbling over towering, identical lines of notes, while drums lent colour and spine, and the bass beautifully dropped in just enough notes to keep the audience guessing.
A full set of this type of music, after the earlier feast for the ears, would have been too much to take for most people. The band, though, completely changed tack and built up beautiful melodies on shimmering open chords, encouraging the bass and saxophone to venture out into the open spaces. This was expressive and highly emotive, an excellent counterpoint to the tension of that earlier Parisian shower. Neko decided to play the entire deck of cards, and slipped a set closer from out of their sleeves that had a rhythm with as much in common with drum and bass and dub step as jazz; which is exactly as it should be. This was muscle and rhythm sharing space with melody and craft, trading licks and riding shotgun on sheets of sound; very adventurous, very ambitious and very good indeed. And the free jam session in the Foam cafe after hours wasn’t half bad either.
Two down, two to go. Roll on tonight.