Gravetemple Live at The Toff In Town
Witnessing a Marco Fuscinato set can be much like standing in front of a concord turbine – sure it hurts, but it’s a special kind of pain. On this occasion, the intensity was still there, but it was interspersed with moments of silence, full of contrasts and was much more playful.
His guitar driven assaults saw him build, explore and de-construct sounds in almost a cyclic way. Perhaps he was toying not only with his gear, but with us and our spectator expectations. Because no sooner had Fuscinato made manifest a sonic booming monster, he’d cut it out, return to square one and start over, each time making a new, abstract monster for our listening pleasure.
Gravetemple headlined, comprising Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))), Oren Ambarchi, and an incredible drummer called Brad (who was filling in for an unwell Matt Skitz). Let there be drone! And there was drone! Boy was there drone!
O’Malley showed the way with his baritone electric guitar. It was tuned down, turned up, and sported a sustain that could have lasted for a thousand years – if he hadn’t been prone to strumming another chord every two minutes. It was the front end of a long, slow, ‘drowning in sonic minimalism’ experience. Stephen poised himself before each chord, and strummed while making a series of facial movements. At times, O’Malley’s expressions denoted serenity and meditation; at others, he looked to be mouthing the guitar sounds in his own style of onomatopoeia.
Ambarchi also looked to be ‘in the zone’ but regularly peeked over to the other two musicians, especially to O’Malley, who was clearly leading the show, giving Ambarchi vital prompts at almost every turn.
The trio stopped after about 20 minutes because O’Malley wasn’t happy with his sound. “One minute,” he said, before shifting a tower of amps for access to some cables. “One minute,” he said again, reassuringly. “Where are the Sunn’s?” – a bloke called from the crowd (blessed be such amplifiers). “Have you got five grand to bring them over?” O’Malley’s response making a very good point. Ironically, this seemed to break the ice, because Stephen then started talking the audience through the amp set-up, offering advice on some necessary mathematics. Almost back on track, Stephen added another commentary while re-tuning his guitar, like a chilled-out teacher.
And then there was drone, again, and it seemed to go on forever because you soon forget how it started and could not think when it might end. The slowly shifting chord progressions were loud, and we knew that it was good. The subtle harmonic changes made our tummies feel funny, and we knew that it was good. People were sitting and lying on the floor, and they knew that it was good (though one guy soon had to stand up again, for it had been a little bit too good).
While O’Malley and Ambarchi transformed the intimate venue into some kind of giant doom-drone Sybian, Brad’s pummeled drums gave a whole other dimension; the percussion sat right within this wall of sound, projecting his galloping rhythms into the surrounding dronescape. Being O’Malley’s only scheduled appearance in Australia this year, it was one not to be missed.