Gigs, dance, art

April 24th, 2008: Dälek / Bleubird / R-Zatz


It was my first time at this venue, pretty nice place, a tad too nice actually. Much better looking from the inside than the garish pink box outside would suggest. Not so big, and it was definitely not crowded tonight. What gives? I though Dälek were popular around here…

The opening set was R-Zatz, featuring a laptop wielding DJ, a guy on guitar and bass and a VJ. The video was an arty black and white affair with some coloring and inserts thrown in, not much of interest to me in there. The single live instrument did a lot to keep me around, but despite a few tunes I liked, it was a bit too scripted for me. Musically it was more electro than hip hop, in different styles from ambient to pounding. The scratch samples did not sit very well with me, part principle and part because it didn’t seem right with the kinda detached delivery.

As if to complement that opening set, the next one featured a lone MC with his laptop, Bleubird. A bit heavy on the stage banter, but that was mostly OK. And when he actually turned it on, it was really good. I liked his quoting Zappa as well — that line about information/knowledge/wisdom/truth/beauty/love — and he kept me guessing by going into different styles. The most rapid-fire delivery was not the best, that would be those times when he seemed to put all he had behind his words. A lot of energy, positive somehow, and he came across as somehow who does his thing out of a deep-seated need. Pretty funny at times nonetheless.

Very different from the darker mood brought on by Dälek, with their fascinating mix of hip hop and noisish guitar wailing. Maybe the room didn’t do justice to their sound, but it was commanding nonetheless. I love their straying from the expected stuff musically yet remaining true to hip hop nonetheless. The MC was great, commanding attention despite all the stuff going on around him, as it should be. No prettiness in there, and I’m glad for that. They struck a near perfect balance between the noise and rhythmic elements, with the result being consistently interesting, neither oppressing nor comfortable. My only problem with their set was that it was so short, but I’d rather have a gig seem too short than too long.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

April 23rd, 2008: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Origine


Well, I had been lukewarm about Myth back in September, but this time I have no such reservations. Origine was probably my favorite of all of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s efforts I have seen so far. I think it tops D’avant, because the sense of humor and mix of ancient music with contemporary winks are still there, and the dance is just better, my favorite as far as he’s concerned. As usual, the music was ancient and performed on stage, this time by three musicians from Sarband: Fadia el-Hage on vocals, Miriam Andersén on gothic harp and vocals, and Vladimir Ivanoff on percussiond and lute. I still like that kind of music, even more so as the dance was so clearly of and about today. The stage design was simple — especially by his standards — with a four paneled structure in the back featuring a small platform. The panels were backlit at times, and used for some shadow play that was all the more potent from its being used sparingly — great lighting throughout, by the way. Fewer bells and whistles, the focus was square on dance this time, and justifiably so. Shorted than his recent works as well, and that probably enhanced its intensity.

My favorite moments of pure dance were when all four dancers were involved, a very dynamic sequence at the very beginning, with a lot of quick motion, circling with outstretched arms and almost aggressive chopping — almost but not quiet, that was defused by a sense of flowing. Another beautiful sequence toward the end when each dancer in turn would flow in and out of the group — here the motions had a swaying quality and echoes of earlier moments. Each dancer had his solo parts, there were many combinations and the show was diverse with many highlights in different styles. At some points it was more like pantomime, as when a dancer played out a beating where he was both the victim and the perpetrators. But most of the time dance was prominent.

A personal favorite was a long sequence where one dancer would become everyday objects used by another — from shoes to chair to cigarette to clothes and many more, including a shower sequence where he was showerhead, soap, towel and bathrobe. It was still dancing though, and there was an understated poetic aspect to it that reminded me of Josef Nadj without the props and with a softer melancholy. It was funny as well, but to me it was first and foremost beautiful and imaginative.

I had a great time, and it felt good to see what I liked most about him come together like this at last. And to cap it off, at the very end, the back panels were showing a computer screen and finally a map; I realized the starting point was Manhattan from the single place name I read as it was zooming out: Jersey City, of all places. Small world indeed.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

April 22nd, 2008: Julien Lourau – Quartet Saigon


Another one I had been hearing about for a while. Julien Lourau probably has pretty different projects, because he’s been described to me as both innovative and mainstream-bordering-on-conservative. I guess tonight was more of the latter than the former, but my perception is probably skewed by Sunday’s aftershock. As usual in this place, they were consistently good, but there was some prettiness to the music at times that was annoying to me. It was often about the piano, and I think it’s no coincidence that the tunes that I didn’t like much were announced as his compositions.

On the other hand, there were a few fascinating moods, especially in the slower tunes, and when Lourau was on soprano saxophone. Still pretty much melodic, but with interesting interactions. I’m usually not that turned off by the mandatory soloing, I think I can blame Science Friction for my lack of interest this time. I liked the bass solos best in that department. I guess the all acoustic lineup was not best for me either, but on the other hand it was probably best for me to go in that different direction. My favorites were Saigon and Baron Samedi, both in the first set, but on average I liked the second set better; I didn’t get the rest of the first one. Overall it was nice but frustrating: whenever I was really getting into it, there would be some pretty piano flourishes to kick me out again. Even good stuff to make me want to try again, but I guess I’ll try to see another project, without that particular guy on piano.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

April 20th, 2008: Science Friction


I was more nervous than excited about this: I’ve hearing about Tom Rainey and Tim Berne for about a year, especially with Science Friction, so I guessed I was ripe for a fall. That also my first time in that place, even though I’ve been upstairs a few times. It all started bad enough: the place was packed and very hot, and the tiny seats had me feeling hemmed in, and I’m pretty much a gnome. No wonder many people left during the break. When the first set actually started, the unbridled velocity of the guitar and sax made me fear the worst, but that was short lived, and it went uphill from there, as soon as the drummer joined them. To conclude with the bitching section, I was too close to the guitar amp, and the sound was not that good: the saxophone was drowned out at times, and I could barely make out the rhodes. I did think there was some problem with it, by the way, and they confirmed that later.

Science Friction is Tim Berne on saxophone, Tom Rainey on drums, Craig Taborn on rhodes and Marc Ducret on guitar. I warmed up to Marc Ducret’s playing as the evening went on, slowly getting a clue about the finer points I had missed in his initial outburst. I’m glad I could hear Craig Taborn better during the second set, because he did pull of some very good tricks despite the technical problems. Tim Berne was impressive in many different ways, leaving me unable to pin down anything like a specific style yet with a voice of his own; he proved able to slow down or speed up at will, and didn’t seem like an overbearing leader — hopefully it’s not just my not hearing him all that much. And even though I had heard a lot of praise for Tom Rainey, he proved even better. As in completely amazing. He did so many different things, often at the same time. It really took a conscious effort for me to take my attention of his playing enough to notice the others. But that was very worthwhile because they went through moments of grace where the intricacy turned from daunting to evident, and they just sounded as one entity. Of course there were some times where it didn’t jell as well, but the peaks were so high.

I was taken aback when the first set ended, and the second was just as great. The few times when I was not that interested felt like breathers actually, before another steep climb. And anyway there was always Tom Rainey. I know I’m repeating myself, but I was in awe; he’s clearly my favorite drummer ever right now — that could change, but the few that I think even compare just don’t have his range, and I never heard any that comes close mix it all this way. Speaking of range, the performance was amazingly diverse, it even went into some dirtier experimentalish noise that made me feel right at home. Not for long, but that was a lighter moment for me. I’m not familiar enough with this kind of music to feel at home, and I’m grateful for that. It’s as close as I’m likely to come to a vacation, and it’s just exhilarating being swept in this way.

Either I’ve been very lucky, or maybe I should take more chances on jazz gigs. I mean these have made of lot of the strongest impressions on me lately. It’s not always that way, but another pattern is that the ones that really blew my mind were based in New York. My east cost bias is nothing new or surprising, but that might be a worthwhile lead to guide me later on.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 19th, 2008: Zu / Cheer-Accident

@instants chavirés

Contrasting sets tonight. Cheer-Accident came first, and I unexpectedly like their set a lot. I was surprised because their music is supposed to be too pop for me, and their prog references should have me fleeing in horror; maybe they went easy on that, or maybe they caught me on a rare day when I’m receptive to this. Truth is I was eager for a change from my usual fare, and even though they were not breaking new ground, there was enough interesting small things to keep me interested. Especially the drumming, not really blatant but a bunch of small surprises and variations; I guess that’s why I didn’t much like the few times he went with the piano instead. Pretty cohesive unit in a loose and complementary way.

Zu should have been more my kind of stuff, but I again failed to get it. I don’t know why I don’t really like them. It had never seen them live, but the effect was pretty much the same as their records: all three of them are really good musicians — the drummer may be most impressive, but not by much — they have all the right connections and references, but it’s indeed closed to me. Intellectually, I appreciate their stuff, but that’s it, I have no deeper reaction at all, and I was getting bored by the end of their set. I’m puzzled.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

April 18th, 2008: DJ/Rupture / Filastine / Playdoe / Sonido Martines / Khiasma

@nouveau casino

This time I did a better job of handling the sequence: I didn’t have to leave the first gig early, and I was far more alert up to the end of the party. It probably helped that the night was packed with good music.

Khiasma from Montreal was first to man the turntables, and he did a great job; there were not that many people there, and those who came later missed something good. He didn’t use any impressive tricks or scratch or anything, but I can’t say he was just spinning records. That would be missing the point just as much as those who claim an iPod on shuffle is just as good as a radio DJ. It’s all about the sequence, the transitions and the selection, and he gets high marks from me on all counts. The records were good and unfamiliar — no Daft Punk crowd pleaser tonight — and quite diverse. Some Maghrebi stuff in there, and I’m a real sucker for those. The guy also has a radio show and a blog that looks really interesting, even though I didn’t have enough time to do more than take a look.

The second DJ was Sonido Martines. Some cumbia, of course, and real good at that, but what really made my night was that his mix was exactly what I was trying to explain — with not much success — to friends about what’s really interesting me in that kind of music. It’s not really the traditional stuff on its own. I do like it, but I think such a gig would be a bit disappointing. What I like is to have that stuff next to more modern things, and hopefully something that mixes both and more into a living and evolving music, not just a style preserved in the past. And that DJ provided just that. I don’t know what he played, but I’d sure like to get a mix tape — or CD these days — of this guy’s work. That’s what a good DJ means to me: taking good records and making the whole lot better by going through a sequence that brings a new dimension. But really, I think nothing beats being there, so I can only hope he’ll be back — not holding my breath though, plus I’m unlikely to hear about it if he does.

Then Playdoe brought a complete change with a mix of hip hop and electronic mayhem. I’m not that fond of DJs that don’t use actual records, but DJ Fuck is pretty good at this, so it was OK. It didn’t hurt that the MC had a lot of charisma and a sense of humor. I was not that fond of the music, but the attitude was great, I mean I’m so tired of the cheesy badass hip hop thing, it used to be about partying too — though not blind escapism, don’t get me wrong — not about who’s got the most shiny baubles.

It seems my dis about not using records was just ordering some crow snack, because then Filastine proceeding to prove how full of shit I am. That set blew my mind, and I can’t say it was just because he used some actual percussions as well, because the whole thing was great. He was joined briefly by a MC who rapped in Arabic (I think), but unfortunately I didn’t catch his name. That was excellent, and that set had so many highlights in so many different ways I don’t know what was better. The beating on actual instruments maybe, it so took the whole thing to another level, visually too with these being in an actual shopping cart — that was a great touch. I bought his record, and it’s actually even better, so I do hope someone gets a clue and releases his follow up effort soon, and that someone gets an even bigger clue and does get him back around here to promote it — as in gives me a chance to see that guy live again.

Then came DJ/Rupture, with a seamless transition thanks to his coming on stage while Filastine was wrapping up. I was curious about hearing him live, being a huge fan of his radio show and to a lesser extent his blog. That felt real good indeed. Pretty much what I expected, it was all over the map in a good way, using diverse stuff — probably even more diverse than his show — with the additional dimension of mixing. Of course it’s completely different from his show, but there’s some consistency, and he even used some stuff that was familiar from his bed music. I’m real glad I got to see him live, and I think his show helped me appreciate the set intellectually while my body was busy shedding whatever energy I had left by that time — the glass shard strewn floor did put a damper to that after a while though. Adding this experience to the blog and show only made me a bigger fan of his, and I haven’t even heard him with Andy Moor yet. I hope I can fix that eventually, he told me a record is in the works and should be out in four months or so, with some touring as well. I’m so looking forward to that.

Khiasma was back on the turntables to wrap things up, probably more diverse than his opening set, but that was a proper sendoff.  By the time he stopped, I had had a great night and morning was there, with its subway and trains to get me home without the usual hassle. I’m getting used to this, so I think I’ll do it again, knowing full well it will probably not be as good as this one was.

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

April 18th, 2008: Aethenor / Antoine Chessex

@instants chavires

Part one of yet another April doubleheader. Surprising for me, which is a good thing because I’d rather be surprised. I like Monno, but Antoine Chessex on his own took it to another level. I won’t make a lot of fuss about his circular breathing technique. I’ve seen that put to not so great use before, and I’m too clueless to tell that apart from proficient use of loop pedals anyway. OK, either he did some impressive demo of that at the end of his set, or he fooled me somehow, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that his set was great. I mean this guy was on his own with his saxophone and a bunch of pedals, yet he managed to get across many different moods and sounds. At first it was all drone, but whereas some performers would stick to what works he meandered out of it. When he turned some badass feedback on, he kinda sounded like Sunn O))), and I’m not sure that’s a coincidence, what with his tack for dispelling any awe for his playing with breaks where he would just hold his instrument and reveal how much the loops had to do with it. Maybe that was not the point, because my appreciation was just reinforced by how that stressed the difference it made when he was actually playing. A very diverse set, melodic at times — and here I think the breaks helped me to focus anew instead of just wallowing in the physical experience — and often with an almost self-deprecating sense of humor that just underlined how interesting this all was, but without the pretense that can turn such performances into dour celebrations.

After this opening performance, Aethenor was pretty much disappointing. They just sounded too clean and proficient for my taste, and way too close to stuff that was done in the seventies. I’m not that fond of that decade anyway, but even I acknowledge that there was some interesting breakthroughs around there, but this just brought these to mind without bringing much of anything new. Enough said, I don’t like being that negative, maybe I just missed the point.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment