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LIVE REPORT: Áine O'Dwyer & Księżyc
Matthew Foster , December 1st, 2015 18:05

Matthew Foster reports from Cafe Oto in London

Photo by Dawid Laskowski

Let's take a typical, crumpled human being, and guess that they’re at Cafe Oto tonight to reconnect with humanity in some small way after spending too many months covered in cobwebs. Purely as an experiment. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is a coincidence — this review is for home use only, do not distribute on oil rigs, or make copies for your remaining, incredibly patient friends.

Anyhow. Our main character in this entirely fictional set up falls instantly in love with Áine O’Dwyer, dressed as an 18th century scullery maid and wielding an accordion like an axe sliding through your soft head. This unhealthy infatuation stems mainly from the way she moves the squeeze box in line with every breath — eyes closed, zoning out of the room, every wheeze amplified and caked in reverb, the cacophonous, thoroughly fucking insane world outside reduced to the movement of a human diaphragm and a concertina.

O'Dwyer is probably not sure what sounds are going to come out of this thing with each press of the finger, but all eyes are on what those paws (one half-painted green) will do next. Soon, she’s hugging a chunky radio set, and singing in line with the static it picks up — it starts off tentative, but by the end of each phrase she’s belting it out. Then we’re on to O'Dwyer flanked by two harps, a desk fan on the floor hurling her hair into the air, turning her into a backlit banshee — a terrifying sight for the average wuss, which of course, our entirely non-existent hero is not. Much. She ends the set by apologising for both herself as a person, and then, for the amount of time it takes a bowl spinning on the harp to stop making noises. People are great — that’s the key lesson to learn here.

Right, main attraction time, says a person who isn’t real, as these five Księżyc characters take the stage, preceded by substantial legend. They’ve carefully covered the place in candles — and look a little surprised to be playing to a packed room, somewhat ridiculously given the full-on magic that pretty quickly transpires. The first and most obvious point to hurl into the universe is that, dear Lord, Agata Harz and Katarzyna Smoluk are utterly, life-shatteringly compelling as frontwomen. Their voices carve holes in the night, veering from a neutering cackle to a silky, comforting purr — sometimes within ten seconds of each other. At various points tonight the pair vanish into the audience — at one glorious moment they’re chucking a giant green balloon full of LEDs into the fray, at another they’re marauding with torches — as the sombre platoon of Robert Niziński, Remigiusz Mazur Hanaj and Lechosław Polak fires out pulses, drones, synth washes, and mournful, desolate clarinet for the pair to pick over.

Much of the time Harz and Smoluk are stood centre stage, with a faintly bemused look about them. There’s a sparseness to the arrangements that lets the two voices breathe, and, whether running delicate fingers across a mic’d up wine glass, shrieking to the point of lung collapse, or having their voices looped and chucked around the room like confetti, the pair are the obvious fulcrum around which the rest of this stuff moves. But move it does — sometimes we’re floating in the ether with ghostly synth lines stretched to the limit, sometimes we’re tapping feet to a Casio impression of a harpsichord and wondering why pop culture doesn’t draw more heavily on the 1600s.

The language barrier, by the way, is irrelevant, if not a bona fide plus. For all we know, every word is dedicated to what a complete prick you are, only in Polish — but this music seems oblivious to cultural pigeonholing, and not that bothered about time and place. Księżyc are wonderfully out of step, and they make the kind of music that feels as though it’s always been there in your head, just waiting for the fog to lift. And if you were, say, a shrunken person living mainly on tomato soup, bran flakes, and the salt from your own tears, that might be just what you needed tonight. For example.