Holger Hiller

Wim Mertens

Minimal Compact




live review




London ICA

WIM MERTENS not only played the grand piano but leaned right into it as if seeking to bite off the black notes. Around his neck he wore a large white towel lest a bead or two of sweat should drip from his brow into the workings of the magnificent instrument. His music, from The Power Of Theatrical Madness, evolved into a format once both imposing and polite. Befitting a Sunday it was solemn and, at heart, swinging.

Minimal Compact entered like a group hellbent on delivering. And what they delivered was a set of unexpected twists and turns, songs stretched and worked into numerous shapes and angles. Six people between them broke noise with synths, trumpet – harmonica, searing guitars, sweeping vocal harmonies and a genuinely penetrating whack of multiple percussion.

From their collars to their bootstraps they oozed an engaging confidence. They had poise and purpose and a sound that sparkled as much as it surprised. For the first half of the set it all got quite wild and euphoric but then things suddenly descended into a lull. Songs dragged their heels when they should have galloped, vocals became lacklustre and tired. Finally, with a gargantuan gasp of metal funk, they signalled the end.

With a bassist and drummer from London and a keyboard player found in a Tokyo street (with a penchant for wrapping her hair in luminous green socks – who cares if she can play!), Hamburg's Holger Hiller stepped on stage in a large brown overcoat.

Pivotal to the set was the film; visuals which were synchronised so precisely to the music that the overall impact became staggering. Holger's vocalising lips were, at one point, matched by a vast pair of bright red lips that appeared on the screen and danced in exaggerated mimicry, scenes and images sprang forth which bonded to a strangely cinematic quality within the structure of the music.

The bulk of the material was from last year’s widely acclaimed, but seldom bought, LP 'A Bunch Of Foul In The Pit'. That collection, which had paled a little with the passing of time, was brought forcibly back to life. This band thumped!

Besides constructing this gem of an audio visual connection, the Hiller boy displays an awareness of pop music and its relationship to a wider culture that gets plain scary.

The astonishing conclusion – Holger Hiller treten Hinterbache!


mick sinclair

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