Pop: Totally wild

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The Independent Culture
NICK CAVE's Meltdown festival has apparently been more popular than any of its predecessors. All power to its elbow when it can persuade new audiences to encounter challenging new work. Making his third visit to London within a year, Charlemagne Palestine surrounded his red spotlit Bosendorfer piano with fewer teddy bears than before. After his opening electronic item had developed a technical hitch, he gave us another version of what he played here a year ago. He improvises constantly repeated patterns with the sustaining pedal permanently down, beginning with a simple expanded perfect fifth interval.

Dissonances are added, while the sounds gradually descend to the keyboard, before returning to mid-range. The whole performance - during which Palestine's mixture of tensed-up discomfort and sheer showmanship is manifested in occasional sidelong grimaces at his audience - lasts around an hour. The thrill of Palestine's solos lie in the sonorities produced by the interaction of wild repetition and extended resonance; tempo fluctuations add a further dimension to the flux. Preceded by the usual rambling introductions, Sunday's performance in the company of this zany original, with his cowboy hat, silky patterned shirt and jerkin, and generally outrageous manner, wasn't as captivating; neither, so far as I know, did he break any strings or leave blood on the keys this time. But Palestine remains a fascinating oddball among the minimalists.

The previous night, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, we had to wait until 10.30pm before the anonymous string orchestra appeared to play four works by Arvo Part. The evening had begun with the vacuous, horridly amplified sounds of Andre Samsonov's The Red Desert, followed by an hour's set from the moody Australian rock trio, the Dirty Three, whose main novelty was the replacement of vocals with violin. Part's music - concluding with Tabula Rasa, with Leo Phillips and Elizabeth Layton the violin soloists - remained mercifully unamplified, and conductorless. Occasional lapses in co-ordination and some overindulgent vibrato aside, these generally idiomatic and very moving performances were an appropriate purging of the earlier inanities.