Few performers are quite as prolific as Daniel O’Sullivan. A cursory look at his career shows, quite apart from his own three solo albums, a breadth of work that spans from the left-field prog of Guapo and the psychedelia of Grumbling Fur to collaborations with avant-metal acts like Sunn O))) and Ulver. The last time we saw him on this stage he was sandwiched between the fiery personalities of This Is Not This Heat.
Tonight he is accompanied by no less than six musicians, including a bassoon and autoharp, as well as sometime Spiritualized and Coil member Thighpaulsandra on synths. Although his collaborative work is incredibly diverse, as a solo artist Daniel O’Sullivan focuses on a pastoral, quasi-psycho-geographic psychedelia. His latest album, Folly, might be his most lush to date.
I arrive just as Peter Broderick, who will rejoin the stage to play fiddle with O’Sullivan, is ending his opening set. The soft, hypnotic folk is in stark relief with Thighpaulsandra, who starts by announcing that his will be “something different.” His outfit alone, something straight out of Flash Gordon, is enoguh to signal that. Noise from a messy patchwork of modular synths saws through the air, followed by some Doctor Who inspired sound effects. The backdrop for most of the set is a video of two naked men painted in gold circling each other with wooden rakes, underscoring the ritualistic element to Thighpaulsandra that is a clear chime with O’Sullivans interests.
After a quick costume change into some cultish white garments, the band huddle themselves to the right of the upright piano. With so many people on stage, it takes a couple of minutes for the sound mix to broaden out, but when it does there is an almost baroque quality to it. As obviously energetic and prolific as O’Sullivan is, he is also soft-spoken, announcing songs with enigmatic one-liners. “Rattleman” and “Under the Knife” set the pace for the first part of the set, with frequent instrument changes. O’Sullivan’s “song about dragons,” “HC SVNT DRACONES” is a fast-paced piano-led romp that marks the band at their most energetic.
The lushness of his latest material starts to give way to introspection, particularly in a sparse track composed only a couple of days before in his aunt and uncle’s apartment here in Copenhagen. And in “Apocryphonium” we hear O’Sullivan at his most mystical, as a huge, otherworldly voice recites the gnostic “Thunder Perfect Mind” prayer above the band.
The set ends with a long suite that will be coming out as an EP, dedicated, in O’Sullivan’s words, “to Amazonia.” The pastoral gives way to the apocalyptic in the image of burning trees. And so Daniel O’Sullivan is already moving forwards, and we’re more than ready to see him again at the next stage.