Gigs, dance, art

May 21st, 2008: Boris feat. Michio Kurihara / Pissed Jeans / Growing

@nouveau casino

I had seen Growing last year but didn’t a clear recollection of what they did — exactly why I write these notes down these days. My second first impression was pretty good, a nice sonic assault that was physically commanding. I quickly got used to it and there was more to it than just sensory overload. I don’t know whether they turned quieter along the way or I just got used to it, but there were times when they almost got to sounding too nice. Stressing “almost”. Heavily processed guitars that turn more elaborate when getting deeper into it, a treat to my ears. I had to wander a bit to find a spot I liked due to the venue’s weird acoustics, but that was worth the trouble.

Turned out the spot I liked best for the Pissed Jeans was the one where I heard them less loudly; it is a loud place, so tuning out was pretty much impossible — not that I would have wanted to, though it came close. Pretty much run of the mill punkish mayhem, been there heard that. I might have liked them had they played first, but they sounded kinda boring coming on the heels of Growing.

Anyway, then it was time for Boris and I found myself ignoring my better judgment and drifting closer to the stage. Wata’s Orange stack seems to act magnetish on me, though I stop further than last time, when I ended up a few feet from it. No need this time, as she didn’t crouch to fiddle with pedals. A very pleasant surprise was that they had a extra guitar for this show, and that Michio Kurihara was holding it. At first I thought maybe there would be a quieter part with material from Rainbow — another great record — but that was not the case. This was the Smile tour, and they kept to that. The bad thing about it is that some parts of the set were a bit too close to mainstream metal for me. The very good thing about it came at the end. The worst moment for me was when they played statement after beginning it like message; that sinking feeling didn’t last more than a few seconds though.. It might be the same song, but the difference is why I hoped to get the Japanese version of Smile there — which I did.

Even though I didn’t like that set as much as the last time I had seen them, I did enjoy it a lot. Having Kurihara along was brilliant, he added a lot and his e-bow slides were just great. I would have been a bit disappointed had they not been getting more feedback in along the way, with a great moment when both Wata and Kurihara were using e-bows, and a tremendous final song. It was that long untitled track at the end of Smile, something I’m glad I got to hear — and feel — firsthand. The sound was overwhelming in a very good way, waves of feedback with a very nice grain to it. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked, as the flashing white lights and the final minute with Atsuo standing on his drums were maybe a bit over the top. Not! that’s part of the fun of a Boris gig, along with Takeshi’s guitar/bass; at least for me it’s a way to take it all both seriously and not. And Wata even waved and had a half-smile as they left the stage, which is probably the most crowd-pleasing I’ve seen her get.

No encore, to the dismay of most of the people left — a sizable part had left after the second set — but not really mine. I mean they would have been hard pressed to top that, short of playing feedbacker, which I would definitely love to hear live, but probably isn’t suitable for an encore. I bet that if I get the chance I’ll be coming as close to the Orange monolith as I can get away with, this record being one of favorites ever, definitely somewhere in my personal top three, possibly even inching before Public Enemy’s it takes a nation of millions to hold us back, it’s just too close to call.

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

May 20th, 2008: To Live And Shave In LA / Allun

@instants chavires

The opening set was kind of a disappointment. Allun features Stefania Pedretti, member of Ovo, and I was all the more interested in that other, older, project of hers because I had actually liked her cooking performance last year — I would probably not go again, but I enjoyed it. Not very interesting for me, maybe I’ve heard too many toys lately, and her daughter-of-the-cookie-monster voice tricks had the unfortunate side effect of reminding me of Ovo. I just wish the music had been more assertive.

No such qualms about TLASILA, Tom Smith is charismatic enough to dispel any just sound checking. Four different personalities and even though each was clearly doing his own stuff, it all fell in place somehow. I felt the vocals and drums provided a primal appeal, while the laptop/electronics and that weird contraption — more on that later — brought a welcome depth and richness to their sound. That weird thing was played by a guy sitting on the stage, and had me curious enough to make a couple of quick raids to the front. He was sliding longish cards through some machine, I think each had a strip of tape pasted at the bottom. So I guess that would be an analog cousin of a sampler. He sometimes let the cards slide through on their own, but often delayed or hastened their movement. These were short, a few seconds each, so he was really active selecting cards and putting them through. I had a hard time hearing some of these, but I liked the effect of those I did hear.

But that’s not that relevant anyway, what matters most is that I really liked the music, it was so interesting, with a lot going on and a striking cohesion despite the differences. I know I wrote that earlier, but that’s rare enough to warrant repeating it. The mere presence of the vocalist played a huge part, but I felt it was a structure that was nonetheless balanced, and that would have collapsed in a hurry without any of its part. Even though it wouldn’t, it would have been a different one, with the fluctuating lineups within this collective. I was pretty excited about that gig because I loved their sessions on the station, and they sure didn’t disappoint: it is indeed much better to experience this directly.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

May 18th, 2008: L’instant donné – Niccolo Castiglioni


A free gig and a respite before a planned week long stretch. And a real change of pace from my usual noisy fare, with a purely acoustic gig. More than that, some quote-unquote contemporary music, the composer being dead for more than a decade. But I guess that still counts as contemporary music in that field. The real reason I went wasn’t even because it was a free gig, but because of L’instant donné. They are probably not the best available in that big city, but they’re the one I’m familiar and comfortable with. And I’m a big believer in having gateway performers to discover a new kind of music; that actually comes from dance, and I don’t know how well it applies if it does at all, but that’s still worth a shot. I had been told by an Italian acquaintance that this composer was somewhat difficult, and I liked it, so I guess it works so far; and having seen these people play before definitely helped, especially Caroline Cren — on piano — and Saori Furukawa — on violin; these being those I’ve seen the most, with Maxime Echardour but he was only featured sparingly in a single piece out of six.

My favorites were definitely Cangianti and Undici danze per la bella verena. Part of that is probably related to the performer — piano and piano/violin respectively — but I think most of it was that the reduced instrumentation made it easier for me to wrap my mind around it all, which is related to my poor seating — a self-inflicted wound related to my unease at being at such a performance. I loved the way Cangianti went through many different kind of sounds and play, sometimes all at once with low resonant notes overlaid with high and short ones, and even more the way the “dances” weaved many different ideas in very short sections, the more balanced in a big-weights-on-long-pole way being with immediately accessible catchy stuff on violin combined with weird music from the piano.

The other works were Daleth — unbalanced in a good way with two very different halves — Intonazione, Momenti musicali and Tropi. Each had its moments, but the enlarged personnel at work in the last three made clear how poorly I had chosen my seat: the main problem was that I was directly behind the violin and cello, and hence couldn’t hear them that well. Which all the more unfortunate because what I did get was more interesting to me than what the winds were doing — too fluttery for me. And I think it’s a bit of a shame the percussions and harp were so little used. My favorite moments from these ones were some more deep resonating bass notes from the piano — the control and touch on display there pretty amazing — that were as striking as they made complete sense, a sequence when the violin and cello kind of continued each other’s phrase seamlessly, a long continuous note on the violin and some very high notes on the violin — again, this way also used in the “dances” but was even more striking in an ensemble.

Maybe I should just move on and see more of this kind of stuff from different people, especially as checking their website showed I will miss their last planned performance in the vicinity due to a scheduling conflict. But I must say I would love to see my favorite performers take on some of my favorite scores, namely Steve Reich’s violin and piano phases; the latter would require an additional piano player, maybe, but hearing Saori Furukawa play Violin Phase would probably be a treat. Unlikely, of course, but putting that wish out there cannot hurt.

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

May 16th, 2008: Radikal Satan / Les Louise Mitchels / Headwar

@instants chavires

The main act should have been Erez Martinic, but that was canceled and Headwar was added and opened the evening. Furious punk at first — my favorite part of their set — nothing special really but done with appropriate gusto, the way it should be. That felt good, and even though I tend to like mixes, the more metalish bend of the later part of their set was a bit too sane, or maybe I get bored easily.

I did like Les Louise Mitchels better overall, maybe because they are far more competent musically — I certainly hope that’s not the case. I had pretty high hopes for the saxophone part, but that didn’t meet my expectations. It did bring something, but not that much. Still a pretty good set, maybe somewhat too controlled and lacking in surprises, but efficient with a few welcome twists.

But the real surprise turned out to be Radikal Satan. I had seem them once and really liked their sound, but they played without a drummer that time and his presence here brought their game to a whole new level. They also had a pedal steel guitar player this time, but I felt her influence to be limited. The double bass and accordion and voice still mixed just as well, but the drummer added some urgency or smoothness, sometimes both. Evocative and compelling music throughout, improved by their eschewing the stage again, if only because I’m too short to have seen what was going on and could avoid distractions and focus on the music, giving in to that heady pulse. Somehow it could be dark and light at the same time, not just switching from one mood to another but having all present to varying degrees. And they even threw in some cumbia towards the end, transformed through their sound of course, but identifiable nonetheless; a treat for me these days.

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

May 15th, 2008: Pascal Battus, Thomas Lehn & Michael Johnsen

@instants chavires

Sparsest attendance in a long time, maybe ever, with a dozen people in the audience. They might not be household names, but even I had seen Pascal Battus and Thomas Lehn before, so I expected more people to show up. Their loss, it was a very nice gig.

Both started with Michael Johnsen playing a saw. Not exactly the usual way of course, there were none of the standard shifting notes. There were indeed few actual notes to be heard at all in his first stretch with it, as usual in this improv scence; but this didn’t bring about my recent dislike, either because it’s been a long enough time of because the others where not playing that exact game. Overall, I thought that Thomas Lehn was hogging a bit too much space, so maybe he should have been a bit less loud. On the other hand, he brought a kind of stable launch pad from where the others could launch their exploratory probes, but maybe he could have stepped back a few times. Come to think of it, he actually did, and I didn’t feel it worked very well, maybe the others had settled a bit too much by then.

One of the things I liked about this gig is that there were very quiet moments as well as bursts of loudness and much in between. So they side-stepped one of the big traps of this kind of music. Even though there were some moments when they seemed to be kinda fumbling around, that’s par for the course and that was mightily offset by the many times when there was an amazingly many things going on. There were a few times when it got actually dazzling and I got frustrated at my inability to keep up with it, but these lasted long enough for me to get over it and let go.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

May 14th, 2008: AIDS Wolf / Company Fuck vs. Sgure

@instants chavires

The opening set featured two wiimote wielding guys, Company Fuck and Sgure aka. Freeka Peeka. Most of it was about laptop processed voice to a cut up of sounds from which emerged a cheesy hook or two. The distorted screaming would at times make a nice contrast to that, but I was left a bit disappointed in that that particular envelope could have been pushed a bit further. The final cover of a dreadful pop hit from decades ago was promising at first but ended up surprisingly tame. Maybe not so much if I included the costume and antics, but I don’t do that.

Then for something completely different, AIDS Wolf. A short set played continuously and just too fast to let much room for experiments. The lack of breaks between songs was not particularly well handled, it was neither seamless nor done right like the BellRays used to do, more a short breaking down. I didn’t like the singer or drummer much, but the guitars had their moments, when some interesting interactions would emerge between both. Unfortunately, I felt that it was far too much under control most of the time, and each performer a bit too autonomous given that control and lack of improvisation. Efficient but I thought it was not very interesting.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

May 13th, 2008: Jean-François Pauvros & Makoto Kawabata

@les voutes

Just two guys on guitar, Jean-François Pauvros and Makoto Kawabata, but that was plenty. No opening act, but they did several sets. I don’t know how many, having left before the end of the third to catch the last train home. I was surprised there were not more people in attendance, I expected a packed venue but that was not the case. These are big names, and Kokeko have put together consistently good gigs in the past, my only gripe being there have been too few or these; or maybe they’re not great at spreading the news and I just missed many others.

The first set lasted close to an hour and was the least interesting for me. It was too close to what I was expecting, especially in the beginning, with Pauvros going with clear sounding notes and Kawabata going with a typically spaced-out sound. Well done, of course, but no surprise there. Actually there was some reversal of that towards the middle of that set, and Kawabata’s use of a bow put something of a twist into it at times. A lot of that set was played loud, which was appropriate. The music was still interesting, as they complemented each other well. A bit predictable, but still a musical trip into imaginary landscapes that doesn’t come so often. I would have liked them not to settle for so long into each sequence, but that did bring some hypnotic quality.

The second set was my favorite, beginning with Kawabata using a Tibetan bowl just in front of his guitar and Pauvros starting with a bow — his guitar sounding celloish. Kawabata eventually switching to a bow as well. Probably the quietest set overall, it was a fascinating affair, with my favorite part being the not so quite moments when Pauvros introduced some rhythmic patterns by banging on his instrument. Here it was not what I expected, which was just satisfying, while retaining the exploratory nature of the first set.

The third one alternated loud and hectic parts with quiet yet not subdued ones, and the long-term structure that was unfolding was great. The louder parts were a bit confusing at first but sometimes I could make out changes within; though sometimes I didn’t really hear more than a raging storm — nothing to sneeze at. I was not a happy camper about leaving before it reached its conclusion, but my fear of a two-to-three hour long ordeal to get back home drove me away — I’m getting good at this, as I ended up having all of thirty seconds to spare.

Hopefully I’ll get more news about the end of the set — I left after thirty five minutes, so I might have missed fifteen more judging from the previous ones — and whether they went for the rumored fourth one after that. I might be able to get a recording, but experiencing it is so much better that I’m not even interested. I might have stayed nonetheless, part of what made me tune out was the hollering guy next to me whose struggles with gravity were made more ominous by his ample beer supply. I just was afraid of getting soaked, not being judgmental; I really would be a poorly qualified judge, I’ve been there myself.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment