Live: Michael Tanner, Delphic Vapors, Bob @ The Blue Boar in Poole, 01/03/11

Whereas the first two Houschka nights utilized rather stark contrasts in their line up, the third in the series felt slightly more fluid and themed. It’s not that the acts were particularly similar, but the night itself progressed very naturally – opening with the abstract guitar improv of Bob, dismantling into the more aqueous jams of Delphic Vapors, before breaking down entirely into the crackling, nostalgic ambience with a closing set from Michael Tanner. So, still plenty of variety on show here, just without the abrupt transitions of last time. By no means a bad thing.

Bob kicked off the night with some improvised conversation for two guitars. Interaction between the two players was strong, and both reacted sharply when steering the music into new speeds and dynamics. Not all of their ideas were particularly stimulating, but this was more than compensated for by the collaboration’s more energetic movements, with bizarre and dissonant patchworks that melded both guitarist’s contributions together into an ultimately convincing whole.

The guitar duo of Delphic Vapors was rather mercurial in comparison. Sound was constant, blurring into drones with more intricate activity occasionally rearing up over the top. The atmosphere was expertly manipulated here, tipping into aggressive patches that somehow rose out of the music’s tranquil beginnings, and while the music felt devoid of direction at points, Delphic Vapors were always quick to rectify this and find their way again.

But it’s Michael Tanner that impressed me the most. Bringing to mind Philip Jeck’s contributions to “The Sinking Of The Titanic” by Gavin Bryars, Tanner’s music sounded discovered instead of composed, with a disarming warmth oozing out of the vinyl crackle. Something about it felt heartbroken, rich in the echoes of old romance and the sadness of loss, with the delicate clink of chimes left to ring out over recordings of the sea and beautiful choral hymns. Best of all was how this performance worked so effectively within its venue – gentle waves of sound that flowed right into the corners of the Blue Boar’s maritime-themed cellar.