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LIVE REPORT: Eric Chenaux at The Lexington
Eden Tizard , May 15th, 2018 12:37

Playful, unabashed improv from the guitar dreamer

Photo by Esther Campbell

Prior to Eric Chenaux's set at the Lexington, Sun Ra’s ‘Love In Outer Space’ plays through the venue’s PA, an open track both tender and bizarre. “Sunrise in outer-space,” coos the Arkestra mastermind. “Love for everybody.”

Loving sentiments are often expected in pristine packages - as if there’s a fear that we might sully love with oddness. Like Sun Ra, Chenaux rejects this fear: he wants to discombobulate as much as embrace. On stage, he is happy to ramble earnestly about his favourite music between tracks. His set is comprised entirely of latest album Slowly Paradise, but is hijacked by a playful free-improvised spirit. Familiarity with the material gives a more potent impact, a sense of true spontaneity. His unabashed serenades spar wonderfully against flatulent guitar workouts, their coexistence here make an absurd kind of sense.

“For me it’s much more terrifying to go to a dinner party than it is to go up on stage and faff about,” Chenaux told tQ editor John Doran recently. The comfort he feels during his transcendental performance is evidently hard-earned. It’s not that he’s complacent, but the divergences from song feel self-assured, in contrast to his first ever improvised set where the audience didn’t realise he’d begun.

‘An Abandoned Rose’ is one of the strongest songs, balancing squelching effects with bent-out-of-shape twanging. If the language and feelings surrounding free-improv are sometimes combative - talk of “battling with your instrument”, for example - it doesn’t feel apt here. The struggle Chenaux is engaged with is clearly one he takes a great deal of pleasure in, and by set closer ‘Wild Moon’, both Chenaux and audience are engaged in this communal transportation.