I last caught up with Yellow6 live (coincidentally) 6 years ago and, coincidentally, that was also at Notting Hill Arts Club. Except in those days it was called the Arts Cafe. What is it with time and my brain? Perhaps it's reaching middle age territory that means one's sense of time all goes to pot, or maybe its the quality of the music that makes it seem only a few months ago that I last experienced Jon Attwood's long-running solo project in a live setting. I'm inclined, for more than one reason, to go for the latter explanation.
Today's gig was part of Rough Trade's free RoTa club held in the Notting High Gate venue late on Saturday afternoons, starting at 4pm and wrapping up by 8pm - before the evening session and paying punters arrive. This is great for Kent-based, tired old codgers like me. It means I get a great day's entertainment and can still get back home in time to put my feet up, have a cup of tea, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. Rock and roll.
Four acts (all blokes on their tod) were on the roster this weekend, courtesy of label to three of them (Luga, Televise and Yellow6) Distant Noise. The terrific kaleidoscopic projections behind Lewis Broad-Ashman's Luga weren't the only reason to get excited. Luga's synthetic electronic sounds were like the perfect scientific soundtrack to footage of the particle collider at CERN... which, given that's what we were watching, was a nice bit of synergy. A backwash of drifting was well balanced by bassy but mellow beats on top, and at less than half an hour the set was teasingly short.
There was an eleventh hour change to the running order that, with hindsight, was the right decision. Televise had been advertised as the headline act, but Simon Scott's project took a lower key second place on the bill. This was very ambient in the strictest sense of the word, ie it was hard to tell at first when the set actually began. The only (whispered) voice of the day had a touch of novelty value but the laptop, array of effects pedals and, of course, guitar was true to form. Standard fare then for the genre. At its best when the tempo picked up and the strummed acoustic guitar (on the backing track) was up front, this was soothing but somehow not that engaging.
Tim Ingham's Winterlight I wanted to like from the moment I read the name. Satisfyingly this more than lived up to one's hopes. Sepia-tinged film clips of speeded up train journeys created just the right eye candy for the score delivered. The Autobahn-ish opener and its tonal changes were rich, deep and involving. Ingham's self declared soft spot for (the only recently discovered) Ulrich Schnauss was evident. Switching from guitar to keyboard as the sound filled out and picked up pace and momentum, Winterlight's style was markedly more upbeat than the melancholia that typifies his associates.
The songs, noticeably shorter than the genre norm, were much 'bigger' than what had gone before and as the afternoon turned into evening it seemed right that Scott had been on before Igham. As the percussion became ever more full-on, the flickering images of brightly coloured night-time cityscapes merged to hypnotic effect. Imagine Air doing Krautrock and you'll begin to get a feel for Winterlight's original take on much explored field. Infectious stuff.
Having just appeared on Wire magazine's Wire Tapper cover CD, and satisfying though it is to know DSO was there a decade or so before Wire, its good to see Attwood's Yellow6 is finally getting the kind of recognition it deserves. Today's set comprised just three tracks - each from the latest two-disc album When The Leaves Fall Like Snow. There was no sense of being short-changed though. Katarinahissen is over thirteen minutes long, Norwest Passage comes in one second shy of eight minutes, and You Can't Be Everywhere He Said, just over eight minutes.
Self described as dalying with ambient, minimalist and Americana, this is undoubtedly music aimed squarely at listening rather than performance. Therefore, anyone hoping to see a dazzling display on the Notting Hill Arts Club's dinky stage would most likely be left wanting. But then they'd probably not be listening to Yellow6 in the first instance.
Concerned about one thing and one thing only, all of Attwood's focus is on the making the music sound the way it should. Bar a scattering of effect pedals, it's just Attwood and his guitar. And that's all it takes to produce that unmistakable Yellow6 sound. This was bold and brave. There was no hiding. No projections, no flashing lights, no distracting paraphenalia whatsoever. Just good music. Attwood needs only his skills as a musician and composer to hold the audiences gaze (and ears). It's called talent. 7/10