Orchestra Of Spheres are one of my favourite New Zealand Bands and I feel deserve to be playing much bigger venues than the rather small Lyttelton Coffee Co venue they played this night. I have all four of their funky Afrocentric world music albums, with their latest, Mirror, just coming out recently and perhaps being their best to date. I arrived at the venue 30 minutes after doors open to a still nearly empty venue with Delaney and Bruce still sound checking their gear on the balcony out back of the venue where the bands are going to play. The idea is cool, with the harbour lights glistening in the background but the reality is there is little room out there and even though there are two big doors out to the balcony, the view from inside the venue is very restricted and the bands play on the deck with no stage so only those at the front get to see, which is pretty usual in these small venues. Still , the crowd is small enough that perhaps more than half are out on the deck. Although advertised to kick off at 9pm, I hear one of the guys say they will start at 9:30. Once Bruce and Delaney have finished their sound check, I actually get into a conversation with Delaney about his recent gigs in Wellington and his many up coming recording projects as well as a conversation with both Delaney and Bruce about Radio with Pictures, a TV music video program we all use to watch in our youth.
This night Bruce and Delaney are going to preform together, this is an interesting prospect as they actually inhabit quite different musical spheres. Bruce Russell, of course, is one of the members of legendary NZ noise merchants The Dead C and I have seen him live a couple of times creating his improvised guitar driven drones. Delaney on the other hand usually playes down and dirty blues infused Americana folk surf in various permutations. Of course their set is a freewheeling improvised set Bruce setting up his feedback drenched drone which he then manipulate in various ways while Delaney strums along with is distorted guitar noodlings and an occasional distorted beat from his effects pedals. It kinda works better if you can just close your eyes and let the noise wash over you, which I find difficult to do when standing and surrounded by others. There were times where the two sets of sounds kinda blended into a throbbing crescendo, but other times it was just two guys doing different things and with no actual physical interplay between the two(they had their backs to each other and heads down in concentration) it was hard for me to know how much each was doing was in response to what the other was playing. Interesting set.
My back has been particularly uncomfortable over the Christmas period and standing still in one place makes for an unpleasant situation, so I needed to sit for a while to ease things. Delaney did two longish solo numbers of his bluesy rockabilly which was pretty cool while I sat and listened inside.
After the usual break while Orchestra Of Spheres set up, I positioned myself in the crowd on the balcony to await their set. The band came skipping through the audience jingling bells and other things, dressed in the strange costumes they like to wear and set them selves behind their instruments as they set into playing a song I recognized from one of their earlier records. The band are infectious, groovy and their music is great and I was tapping my feet throughout their hour or so set. I certainly recognized many of the songs, including their cool take of Sun Ra's Rocket No 9 and was surprised they did not do so many from the new album, although they did play one song I recognized off the new record, although I'm still getting familiar with all of it. They are a very danceable band although there was not much room for much more than wiggling on the deck but they played well and although I didn't think it was the kind of magic gig you rave about for months after, it still was an enjoyable night and worth the long drive to see them play.