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The Telescopes/ Charles Atlas/ Saint Joan @ The Spitz, London

(15th November 2002)

"This song depends entirely on that effects pedal.." CRRWSSTHHRRRPP! "..and itís playing up.." CCSHHHHHHHHH! "..tonight.." WHHSHHSHHS!! ".." CRWSHWWDHSHWOOO!! Saint Joan are coming to the end of a set thatís released musical beauty into the smoky air of a small part of London this evening. Saint Joan play flute and violin and bass and drums. And they sing and talk. Yeah, and your favourite record is a piece of plastic in a cardboard cover. Of course, Saint Joan play instruments and sing and talk, so do all bands, but when Saint Joan do it they float a wisp of lace from the hem of an angelís dress around the stage. At least thatís how Iím feeling when the chap with the flute rises from fiddling with the pedal, puts the flute to his lips and blows and the pedal blows back what heís blown, covered in glimmer. And then he blows again. Saint Joan are singing me a fairy tale at bedtime. If Iím lucky, Iíll fall asleep before it ends and the sound will be in my head all night.

Charles Atlas I mostly missed, but Iíve got the album on now (Worsted Weight, on Ochre) and home is definitely where Iíd want to be listening to it. Reclined, preferably, in the dark, mostly, under the influence, slightly, Iíd put this on after Stylusí Mynydd Preseli and before the new Sigur Ros. And Iíd begin to think that perhaps there is an antidode to modern life; Iíd begin to think of Satie wrapped in warm tones and loving quiet and Iíd begin to think about nothing.

You might be forgiven for thinking youíd wandered into a weird jumble sale. Three abreast, The Telescopes sit at tables, piles of electronic detritus arrayed in front of them, expectant. You imagine you could shout "Iíll give you 50p for the thing that looks like a gearstick" and some elderly lady would shout from the back "itís worth a fiver, that, you cheeky beggar!" Then the lights drop, the projectors flash disconnected space/science imagery onto the back wall, rhythms slide out of one of the black boxes and the three turn from vendors of second-hand technology into architects of shape-shifting slolectro. Apart from the chap at the side of the stage intently grating a fork or rattling chains, or occasionally playing some minimal melody on trumpet or trombone, thereís precious little (ha ha) physical movement but the swirling noise makes up for that. In so many ways this absorbing non-cacophony could turn into a festival of chin stroking, but the ĎScopes remain focussed and the chins remain untouched.

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