Vibracathedral Orchestra - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2013-04-01

Vibracathedral Orchestra has been around since the back end of the 1990s, a collective of open-minded musicians whose music has continually explored the outer-regions of drone and all things experimental. The original line-up consisted of Julian Bradley, Mick Flower and Neil Campbell, who were soon joined by Bridget Hayden and Adam Davenport.

Roughly 18 years after their inception, most of the original band is on stage tonight, with only Hayden missing from the line-up. John Godbert, who some will perhaps recognise as the enigmatic Herb Diamante, joins the band for tonight’s imminent sonic trip.  

The stage is littered with hand drums, shakers, a recorder, a saxophone and numerous up-turned cymbals. Their name makes perfect sense when you see how every instrument, every noise combines to make the music swell and throb like some insane, psychedelic orchestra. Some music is nigh-on impossible to describe, making this job a frustrating task at times yet it’s this music, the music that defies easy categorisation, which often provides some of the most exciting live experiences. Make no mistake, watching Vibracathedral Orchestra in full-flow is an experience.

The set begins with Davenport’s repetitive guitar motif, Godbert hitting the cymbals and a gradual drone emanating from the stage. Some of the audience decide to sit on the floor; hunched over, eyes closed and ready to let the music take over for a while. The sound is undeniably intense yet retains a hypnotic, eastern-tinged beauty as it ebbs and flows through the room. Loud and discordant but with a blissful, meditative core; this is the kind of music that completely clears out your mind with wave-after-wave of transcendental noise.

With the momentum building, Godbert adds some brash yet beautiful saxophone to the perpetual cascades of free-flowing sound.  Campbell leaps between kneeling over a Korg synth and laying into his violin with gleeful intensity. Bradley brings endless, brain-rattling drones while Flower vigorously shakes various percussive instruments and plays his guitar with a violin bow.

The band work so seamlessly together, instinctive interplay and a thorough commitment to the collective cause. At times the music pounds and pulsates with relentless tribal rhythms and at other times it drops into pockets of calm at the centre of the wider sonic storm. No two sets could ever be exactly alike, with the band producing a wildly organic sound that seems to extend way past the horizon with every twist and turn.

Within all the wild improvisation there’s a kinship with everyone from Ornette Coleman to The Velvet Underground. In fact if you imagine the unhinged, discordant sections of ‘European Son’ stretched out for an entire set then you’re perhaps beginning to get the idea. Naturally, things aren’t quite that simple but I’ve got to try and describe this somehow. It’s an overpowering and even exhausting sound that doesn’t let up for a good hour and a half. When it’s all over I’m a little lost for what to say/think/do but I know I’ve witnessed something incredibly special. It’s definitely been a good Friday. 

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • No comments found