Music | Stephen O’Malley @ Brudenell Social Club 28/09

As I walked to the Brudenell Social Club I was almost dreading the gig. For whatever reason that day had proved to be particularly draining and I didn’t believe an hour or so of watching Stephen O’Malley hammering at his guitar would help that. I was wrong.

As a constituent part of music, no one would argue that any individual chord change is of particular importance. Where one may be particularly enjoyable, that feeling is usually diluted by music’s tendency to repeat what is enjoyable; given how engrained this idea is, one must really admire the restraint O’Malley shows at his Recon Festival set. By holding chords for indeterminate lengths of time he’d allow us to come to know each chord individually; to savour the chord, to find comfort in the chord.

Only to then rip it out from under us.

When chord changes come few and far between, each is like a building being demolished in slow motion, especially when backed by the infamous vastness of O’Malley’s backline. Eight amplifiers for just his single guitar ensured everything was felt physically as well as emotionally.

The inevitable combination of sounds supplemented by effects pedals and whatever else he’d brought with him, meant that the chords too were distinct from the norm. Instead they were beefy, monumental drones whose textures rippled and shimmered. They were easy to get lost in, and with nothing obvious to latch on to time was made effectively redundant, making these titanic sounds eternal.

Honestly, it’s hard to overstate the impact each chord change had after a life time of being programmed to expect one every four bars, and for me this impact proved to be at the same time exciting, invigorating, and beautiful.

Daoud Al-Janabi

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