Cafe Oto, London
I first came across Viv Corringham through her fine solo release on Linear Obsessional records, Gum + Butts. That release traced four walks Corringham took across London, mixing field recordings with her own vocal improvisations to beguiling and often disconcerting effect.
Since 2011, Corringham has been part of the Monkey Puzzle Trio with Charles Hayward (yes, him) and double bassist Nick Doyne-Ditmas. ‘The Pattern Familiar’ is their second album and they were in action to promote it at Café Oto last week.
They’re an engaging spectacle, a wild mix of avant rock and, out-there vocal improvisation and free jazz. Hayward and Doyne-Ditmas play hard and heavy, while Corringham samples and loops vocal fragments to create a dense vocal collage.
Following a short improvised set – dense and flowing, recalling a Band of Gypsies era cosmic jam fronted by an army of ghosts – the band were joined by a horn section for a selection of tunes from The Pattern Familiar.
It was dense, turbulent stuff. On Negative Space Hayward’s urgent tribal funk was just about kept in check by Doyne-Ditmas’ on-point bass playing as Corringham’s growls, hoots and poetic shards snuck in and out around the restless grooves.
The horns were an inspired move, adding texture and melody to the trio’s dark clouds. On Failure, their crisp phrasing – like a ska band from another dimension – slowly decayed into a dissonant wail of soprano saxophone. Just Say Yes brought things to an exhilarating conclusion, a pummelling, oceanic tumult.
The evening had kicked off with a short set by label mates Prescott, also promoting their latest long-player, One Did. On record the trio of Kev Hopper, Rhodri Davies and Frank Byng can seem a tad clinical, but these new songs really opened up when played live.
Hopper’s bass in particular mutated into a pulsating throb that gave a funky warmness to songs such as Military Maids.
By set closer We Insist, their kinship with the great funk fusion collectives of the early 1970s was in full effect, the Head Hunters-style descending bass land synth line providing a brain-melting finale.