The Ampere venue is a nightclub located beneath the railway tracks near Antwerp station. Yes, you can hear the trains passing above you during calm moments. This actual event took place in Bar Volt, a smaller room within the building. It either proved a bit too small or I am not used to extremely crowded rooms anymore. The audience was different too, different from the people I usually meet. Usually at gigs I go to, people know the concept of personal space and they keep quiet during ambient gigs. Like I said, this was a whole different audience.
The evening opened with a man named Elko Blijweert who treated us to an array of drones, soundscapes, psychedelic noises and guitar licks. Unlike most of the one-man guitar/keyboards acts I know, this thing was no soothing drone-ambient gig. No, this was a massively varied performance with a surprising high rock 'n roll level, especially for an experimental noise act. I quite enjoyed it, as I always enjoy the out-of-the-ordinary.
Next up was Angels Die Hard, a quartet consisting of two drummers, a keyboard player and a guitarist. Yes, two drummers, something which immediately reminded me of the incredibly energetic Melvins gig I witnessed at Incubate some years ago. Here too energy seemed to be the keyword. It was amazing to see these two drummers play, sitting very close to each other and sharing some of the drumkit. The music reminded me of something between Alice In The Cities and Kong, instrumental rock without necessarily being post rock. Uptempo, immersive and surprising. This was marvellous, for me one of the discoveries of the year.
Around midnight, the two members of O Yuki Conjugate took their places behind a table carrying heaps of equipment, cables and little lights. The first soundscapes started to flow through the speakers, something which usually invites the audience to keep quiet and pay attention to the music. Usually. The gig itself was absolute brilliance. It was everything I could ever expect from these ambient legends, everything I hoped it would be. Even with the techno beats in the Ampere discotheque interrupting the sweet and gentle ambient sounds O Yuki Conjugate delivered a solid set, proving why they have been one of my favorite bands for the last twenty five years.
Still, I can't help but think that even the band must have felt some frustration. The dance beats and the constantly yapping audience certainly had their negative effect on the whole performance. Another place, another audience and this could have indeed been one of the greatest musical experiences of the year. Or maybe that was just my tired body and soul speaking. After all, this concert was magical, from start to finish. It will be somewhere near the top of my list so I am far from disappointed. If anything, O Yuki Conjugate is still incredibly relevant in today's ambient/downtempo/experimental scene.
Right after the O Yuki Conjugate concert we left, worn-out but delighted that I had finally seen my ambient music heroes live. I hope to see them again, preferably in a theatre or a living room, and I hope I don't have to wait another twenty-five years for that. With my mind blurred from exhaustion I completely forgot to buy me a copy of that Angels Die Hard album so I guess I'll have to go the Morbus Gravis shop next week. Anyway, Fré, congratulations and thank you for a great evening altogether.