Boomkat Product Review:
Jim O’Rourke, Eiko Ishibashi, and Joe Talia aid avant-garde enigma John Duncan unpackage songs from his remarkable grimoir ‘Bitter Earth’ on recordings made in Club Metro, Kyoto, 2017 while a Typhoon raged outside the venue. This is really quite the stunning set...
‘Red Sky’ offers documentary evidence of Duncan cementing his transition from wildly unpredictable experimentalist to a doomy troubadour with a mean line of cover versions during a set lasting just over 90 minutes. While Duncan takes centre stage on vocals, the highly attuned trio of O’Rourke, Ishibashi and Talia reliably supply backdrops that range from ritualistic ambience threaded with Duncan’s favoured FM radio signals, to swooning midnight jazz, passages of driving mixes of kraut- and psych-rock, uneasy exotica and carmine-stained, Italian library soundtrack vibes.
The pair of CDs capture the essence of the band’s last date on a three week tour of Japan. Because of the typhoon outside, the band expected it to be less than busy inside, but a packed audience - replete with steam from their wet clothes - greeted the band, including some coming for their 3rd show of the tour. Given it was their last chance to perform together, and for Duncan to “bask in Eiko’s, Jim’s and Joe’s consistently masterful creativity”, they all put on a mesmerising show that harnessed everything they’d experienced and learned together on the road one final time.
Kicking off with some 18 minutes of utterly haunting dark jazz scaping by his band, Duncan hovers in over a stark piano refrain with a devastating take on Dinah Washington’s 1960 evergreen, ‘This Bitter Earth’, the vocal and keys going toe-to-toe up your spine, and five minutes later they’ve seamlessly locked into a grizzled garage rock cover of ‘Wild Is The Wind’ by Nina Simone, and soon enough an achingly sleazy spin on Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’ almost worth the admission alone. CD 2 picks up at the set’s mid-way with a possessed take on Iggy Pop’s darkest moment, ‘Mass Production’, before steering down a dim-lit dark ambient ginnel to the set’s other peak, a spellbindingly tense but shatterproof cover of Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out’, before setting fire to The Zombie’s ‘She’s Not There’, and coming to rest in his quieter element with his barely-there cover of ‘Dark’ by Pere Ubu, and Duncan’s hollerin’, clappin’ bluesy spiritual ‘Red Sky’ to close.