Live Music + Gig Reviews

Mamer @ Luminaire, London

23 March 2010

Mamer, seated centre stage, makes a mix of traditional central Asian and modern world music. The western China export (and one of his three companions) plays dombra, a style of lute from his region, but he’s backed by bass, drums and guitar. His voice, a deep rumble that calls to mind the bass drone of Tuvan throat singer Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, juxtaposes timeless emotions with a musical arrangement otherwise easy on western ears.

His atmospheric debut album Eagle trod a fine line between the gait of his country’s nomadic way of life and a slightly countrified Americana. Live, the album pales, for Mamer is adept at emphasising nuances and teasing out an authentic, though dark, atmosphere.

The dombras and wind instruments combine to conjure naturalistic, grassland sounds while the bass player adds, of all things, kazoo. The second dombra player doubles up as translator when Mamer’s low rumble explains a point. For his part, the drummer bats cutlery about. Nothing with these players is allowed to be straightforward.

Feather on strings. Baritone tells it as it is in Chinese. Second fiddle translates they’re from shinzou.Deep voiced one in duet refs in Kaigal-ool, whom they’re surely aware of. Horse gait but also more adventurous, storytelling.Occasional sampled classroom/assembly sounds ref in DTB who went b4.Bass boy swaps his oh-so-chinese instrument but lead guy in plad now has an open string thing that looks like a manufactured igil. A bit. But sounds like a violin. A bit.

Mamer played: Opening + Cradle, Man No. 4, Two Rivers, Minstrel, Kebin Kebenek, Running Antelopes, Proverbs, Eagle, Sulu, We Are Going to Hell

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Mamer @ Luminaire, London