Vels Trio / Night & Day Café, Manchester | 15th of March

Vels Trio / Night & Day Café, Manchester | 15th of March

How it must have felt to experience first-hand the jazz culture of 1950s America. Nights spent going from bar to bar to witness such improvisational craft. To fully immerse oneself in community and feel an indelible affinity to such a momentous cultural era. While developments in musical taste, production techniques and general society as a whole have undeniably pushed this kind of guileful instrumentation out of the mainstream, Thursday offered an insight into the importance of retaining some sense of that unique epochal culture, and the ways that we can attempt to recapture and enhance it in contemporary society.

Up first on the night was Skeltr, a two-piece band utilising drums, saxophone and electronics to offer a more contemporary take on jazz expression. Rather than eclipse the musicians’ clear instrumental talent, textural electronic embellishments produced from a visible laptop on stage enhanced notions of mood and ambience that are so fundamental to this kind of music. The root fundamentals of instrumental jazz phraseology have found a counterpart in modern technologies.

Before Vels Trio began their set the venue had filled out, and it was this kind of muted anticipation that first got me thinking about the importance of these cultural experiences. To witness even the first tiny step of some momentous cultural movement. To feel a sense of unity with like-minded people and belonging to a community that values individuality of expression. It was these sorts of sentiments that ran through my mind as Vels Trio held onto transcendent grooves for what felt like lifetimes. As their dulcet synths permeated every corner of the venue, cosmic soundbites hovering over the heads of the audience, cloaking them in molten comfort.  Subsumed by this fluid soundscape that is, somehow, both so otherworldly and primal, it is hard to feel anything but a cultural nostalgia for what seems to have been not lost, but certainly bypassed in almost any kind of artistic industry where individual expression is not the chief aim. While at first, Vels Trio’s music may appear to be representative of some music-school elite, something too enigmatic for any average music lover to enjoy, it actually taps into something far more primitive. The desire to liberate oneself from pre-set boundaries and eliminate conventional limitations is something that resonates with us all.

While the music of both bands at times appears inaccessible, this is partly due to the talent and knowledge required to master it. More importantly, it is liberating and open, as it offers so much scope for expression and ingenuity. This is essentially the key point I took from the gig, and while it’s understandable that the awry and often uncanny nature of the music both bands produce can be more difficult to warm to than that a 3 chord rock and roll song, it’s vital that we continue to encourage individual expression and progress in music. This is culture in its purest form, and even by simply attending one of these kinds of gigs, you are contributing to something unabridged, uncensored and true.

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