Gravitational waves greet Michelson Morley playing live as they return two years on from Aether Drift, Dan Messore now fully in the band, the Indigo Kid guitarist who in a way performs a Christian Fennesz-like role in a quartet that thrives on open improvisation contoured by effects triggered by leader/composer Jake McMurchie and Andy Sheppard Hotel Bristol drummer Mark Whitlam.

McMurchie, on tenor and later soprano saxophone, is best known for his successful and ongoing tenure in Get the Blessing. Michelson (pronounced “Michael-son”) Morley sound very different, Whitlam, an exciting source of rhythmic invention, playing a bit like recent Robert Plant/Strobes drummer Dave Smith although the context here is a quieter less thunderous sound, the volume ramped up towards the latter part of the set. It could have got much louder to even better effect, Whitlam’s playing enhanced by unobtrusive use of a Kaoss Pad.

With tastefully bleached out moving image graphics, a visual melancholia occasionally drawing on starkly mono industrial iconography projected on a screen behind the band live mixed by Cinestar’s Jo Mayes, the best part of the set was the avant riff-led section initiated by double bassist Will Harris who like Whitlam plays in the excellent Moonlight Saving Time. When Messore took a drum stick to his strings, scraping new slithers of resonance to slide and smear over the ensemble sound, we were entering a parallel dimension.

Playing music from the yet to be released Strange Courage – expect it on Babel around May – here too there were songs “of death,” as McMurchie glossed resolutely cheerfully. ‘Tamer as Prey,’ clip above, early on like a lot of the wide screen band vision delved beneath the sonic legato patina to excavate meticulously a treasure trove of hidden detail, Messore and Whitlam somehow during the Vortex performance entering a Food-like space and then much later in the set emptying the larder to make way for some chilled minimalist Terry Riley-like fashioning. 

Opening for the Michelsons Lithuanian pianist Dmitrij Golovanov during a slightly over-long solo set played music from his 2014 album Me, his technically accomplished style navigating a journey that had as its starting point after an initial improv a Schumann-esque flavour and later divertingly Satie-like repose to reach its final destination in the head tiltingly crouched-over abandon of Belonging Band period Keith Jarrett, great unadorned flecks of acoustic sound cascading around the room only briefly disturbed by the barking of a dog outside among the skateboarders in the square that Golovanov somehow responded to, concentrating hard and conjuring a musical response befitting of the very fine instrumentalist that he showed himself to be. 

Stephen Graham

Michelson Morley top l-r (band Facebook page pic): Dan Messore, Mark Whitlam, Jake McMurchie and Will Harris