Gigs, dance, art

July 29th: E.S.T. / Chucho Valdes

@Parc floral

Grey skies and rain almost made me skip that gig, I’m glad I trusted my unreliable weather sense and went anyway. I was right, for a change, there were only a few drops of rain at the very end.

The first set was Chucho Valdes, a Cuban pianist I had never heard of. Shows how much I know, he seems to be a legend or close to it. I can understand why now, he’s a outrageously talented musician. I can also understand my drawing a blank: I know zilch about Latin music. It’s so foreign to me, way too positive. I liked it though, but I again felt that familiar uneasiness. This is not for me, so I always get an undercurrent of melancholy from such cheerful music. Adding to my unease was being seated while a lot of people were left standing. I hate that. I tend to think I’m usurping someone’s rightful place, but here it was plain as day.

So I got up at the break and went to my usual spot: in the back, out of sight. I’m here to listen anyway, not to see. E.S.T. stands for Esbjörn Svensson Trio. They seem to be quite popular. I had only heard of them once, but that was from someone I trust in these matters. I liked it a lot, even though it’s really tame compared to my usual fare. I would probably not listen to this regularly — not weird enough — but it was a welcome change. At first the piano stood out, but over the set I came to hear how it all fit perfectly together, bass and drums were just as important. These guys must know each other well to play this way. I just don’t get that from my usual experimental/noise gigs, this interplay is what draws me to jazz. Technique is probably a part of it, but that’s just the ability to do more. The point is what do they actually do with it. And these guys had a lot to say.

July 29, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

July 25th: Airs de Paris

A collective exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, featuring recent works by relatively young artists, a rarity there except for the tiny space on the lower floor. Of course, there were some of the usual suspects as well, but that’s a start. The official theme was “a translocal Paris”, which proved as meaningless as I expected. Some good stuff, but overall I was not sold on it; I just failed to see the point of the whole. Another problem I had was that I had already seen some of the works, and these were usually not my favorites.

On to the things I did like. First was a bunch of “raindrops”, actually made of glue, hanged from the ceiling of the first room by Michel Blazy. Now that I think about it, I think I liked it because it reminded me of another installation I saw a few years ago, but I can’t remember how had made it. Then there was the wedge-shaped cut made in the walls by Carten Höller. I had heard about it, but it’s better that I thought. Really impressive.

Chris Marker set a bunch of videos on TV screens in a dark room, this was an old one, but nice even though it showed its age. Maybe I liked it because I’m old enough to remember these times. There were two videos by Ange Leccia, who I usually like, but I had seen True Romance before — two screens with images of war and some Japanese TV personality — and it’s far from being my favorite of his. Ruins of Love was only slightly more to my taste — shots of a Cambodian prostitute and barbed wire at night in a flashlight’s shifting glare. Domique Gonzalez-Foerster’s video was Marquise, again definitely not my favorite, but probably the only one that had a chance to work in that setting. I always thought her work requires a measure of contemplative immersion, hard to do while standing in a heavily lighted room. Tatiana Trouve’s room was nice but, again, far less interesting than for instance her installation at the Palais de Tokyo a few months ago.

My favorite works were made by Mircea Cantor. Definitely one of my favorite artists these days. One was called Addition, and featured a sum of words spray painted in bright orange on a wall: “collective memory items + layered reality + speculative understanding + disciplinary interfusion + systematic associations + confirmed models = ?” (there’s a picture from another exhibition here). I like the openness of this work. My real favorite was a small one, again spray painted but this time in red, it showed Ann Lee with the words “I 6M ST1L7 ALIV3”. It was on the opposite wall from the classic M/M “No ghost just a shell” Ann Lee poster, which I like a lot, but Cantor’s take stole the show. It looked like it would fit better on a wall in the city than inside a museum, but of course I know better. What a blast it would be to see it outside somewhere! I think that ambiguity, this almost-but-not-quite mix of high art and mundane that I love in this artist. There’s a picture of this work on this page, the sixth one, an interview and links to a bunch of flickr pics from a show in Philadelphia last year — all from a great art blog.

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Art | , , , , | Leave a comment

July 22nd, 2007: Tambours de Brazzaville / Kekele

@parc de la Villette

Some Congolese music to wrap up a sunny weekend. I just love those outdoors gigs. Their being free doesn’t hurt either.

Kekele plays Congolese rumba, or at least that’s what the event’s website said. Pretty good, but not my kind of music. Way too positive. But they had the crowd swaying on their feet in no time.

Les tambours de Brazzaville featured 9 drummers, a bass and a guitar. They went at it relentlessly for over one hour, and their cheerful energy was contagious. A good thing as I was quite exhausted. Even when they dabbled into reggae they mercifully switched to a more raggamuffin sound quickly. I don’t think they compare to Konono n°1, but they’re pretty good nonetheless.

On my way back I caught part of a sunset, hilly clouds on the horizon spoiled it, but an opening framed a reddish green sky. I know that makes no sense, but it did at the time. These skewed perceptions are what I love about exhaustion; listening to Boris at last – Feedbacker probably helped.

July 22, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

July 21st, 2007: The One Ensemble / Nalle


Some contrast with yesterday: even though the venue is an actual garage, this was a quiet one.

I liked Nalle a lot. Kind of a psych folkish bend, I mean that in a good way. Very evocative to me. It made me think of walking in mountains in the rain, which took some imagining while sitting in a garage in the summer. The singer is excellent with an amazing stage presence. A name to remember, I hope they come back for a longer set.

The One Ensemble was a bit of a letdown after that. Maybe I was just expecting something weirder from Daniel Padden. Expectations are often a burden this way. But there were some very good moments nonetheless. These people know what they are doing, but I guess Nalle set the bar too high for me to really enjoy it. Even though both bands share most of their lineup, the One Ensemble looked tame to me; my favorite moment during their set was when the singer from Nalle clapping from the front row. Maybe they should have kept her around in some capacity.

July 22, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

July 20th, 2007: Otto von Schirach / Strom Varx / Evil Moisture / Cicerobuck


So much for my wanting to take a break from experimental noise stuff, here I go again. On the other hand, it turned out to be a pretty good move, as my recent dabbling in jazz probably made me appreciate it more. I found myself enjoying most of it, and I’m pretty sure I would have been much more jaded a mere couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t care much for the opening DJ, the records were weird enough, but I didn’t think he was adding much to these. And with that material, playing two or three of them at the same time isn’t changing much.

Then came Evil Moisture, and I have to say I was expecting to get bored quick, having seen him too many times. Was it him or just my ears having been cleansed by my recent experiences? Anyway I really liked it and think it’s the best performance of his I attended. Still harsh of course, but with some underlying cycling complexity I never noticed before.

Another great performance by Strom Varx, in the dark as usual but at times there was a beat. I had been told it would be hip hop performance, but I didn’t believe it. I’d say I was right, but I guess I can understand where that misguided comment came from. Beats are not enough to qualify, though. And of course these beats were mangled most of the time. Anyway the tag doesn’t matter, the result was real good. Still a tad too brainy for me right now, but the sound was awesome. This guy definitely knows what he’s doing.

The final performance was by Otto von Schirach. Pretty rousing mix of breakcore, death metal and plunderphonics. I don’t really care for the circus of costumes and jumping, but their cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry was a real treat. Unfortunately, it was a short set as the show started late and going on would have been inviting the cops to the party.

July 21, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

July 19th, 2007: Glenn Ferris


I had been told this guy was said to be good, so I went and checked him out. The fact that he’s a trombone player was a factor as I had never seen anyone play one. He is good. The lineup included piano, sax, bass and drums, but I didn’t like the piano and drums: I’m not saying that they can’t play, I just don’t like their style.

They mostly played Ferris‘ own compositions, which were pretty good, especially the first one. As the theme of the festival was a tribute to Coltrane, they threw in a couple of his compositions — Blue Train and impressions — as well as Afro Blues. Their takes were enjoyable overall. I think my seeing Vijay Iyer earlier this week made it harder for me to like what the pianist was doing: I couldn’t help thinking how it didn’t measure up to that standard, especially when it was his time for a solo. But the sax and trombone more than made up for it and it was a very pleasant couple of hours of music.

I didn’t stay for the third set, I just chickened out and went to catch the last train. It was the first time I went to a “classical” jazz gig — meaning sounding like what I called jazz before delving into free. I don’t think I’ll be a regular at these, but a few a year wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully I will learn to listen to this and get more out of it: I’m still struggling at this point.

July 20, 2007 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

July 19th, 2007: Annette Messager

@centre pompidou

I went to this exhibition with low expectations, as I never really liked her work. It remains way too organic for me, and I have a problem with her choice of material, but there was a few rooms that I really liked. My favorite was Casino, the one that got her a prize at Venice a few years ago. A big sail-like sheet of thin red fabric was set on the floor, and I could make out shapes beneath it. Then a blower in the back sent air underneath it and as it was billowing lights went on and of under the fabric, showing some of those shapes to be lights and others to be inflatable organish things. Black masks hanging to cables came down from the ceiling and came to rest of the red sheet for a while, then back up again. I don’t know exactly how long the cycle lasts, maybe around 5 minutes. Anyway it was a welcome change from her usual puppetry for me. Movement, lights, indistinct shapes, no words in sight… more attuned to my simpleton taste.

July 20, 2007 Posted by | Art | , | Leave a comment