Gigs, dance, art

October 30th, 2008: Pateras / Baxter / Brown / The Necks

@instants chavirés

A day of pleasant surprises. The place was packed, and even though this was my second choice, I don’t think I would have liked my first choice better. The only one I had seen before was Tony Buck, and I was afraid it would be yet another gig in the regular improvisation scene style, though you never know with this guy.

The Necks played the first set, and made short work of those fears. A surprisingly melodic introduction on piano, then all three locked on a pulse, a tight percussive core that then expanded progressively. As their music grew in intensity, there would be some waves from the piano, the drums would get richer and the bass has a steadiness whose changes would be like growth rings in that tree. When their music had grown enough to fill the room — and their sound was great — they expanded it inward, not with a furious scribbling of virtuosity, but adding brush strokes here and there, going in different directions but remaining a consistent unit throughout. Great set. I had not heard them, only heard them being praised, and it turned out to be one of those times when it’s appropriate to do believe the hype.

The second set a bit more along familiar lines, but not that much. Anthony Pateras played prepared piano in an altogether percussive way, Sean Baxter was more conventional on drums but with a real commitment and energy, and David Brown on prepared guitar was probably the most conventional of the three was even that went out the window at the end. A very percussive feel throughout, which I like, and they were not afraid to bring the noise, a welcome departure from the scene’s custom for me. Another difference is that instead of playing a continuous set they stopped a few times. Maybe those clean breaks helped me see more diversity within their nonetheless consistent set. I hope their ability to bring changes and nuances together with energy will make the local improvisers challenge their entrenched assumptions.

Finally, the six of them came on stage together for the final set. That was an intriguing perspective; if they somehow managed to combine the intensity of The Necks with the energy of Pateras/Baxter/Brown, and somehow mesh their vey different sounds, that set could raise the roof. But didn’t happen. At first it sounded very much like the second set, and morphed about halfway through into sounding like the first. Because of the progression in the first set, it was a little as if each played at the same time, with The Necks eventually overpowering the others. But what I think really happened is that they all went through that progression on purpose. That was a nice set, but I wish they had stayed longer in that ambiguous part in the middle.

Anyway, that was a great gig, improving my mood to the point of making me playful enough to drop a Public Enemy reference while writing about each set.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

October 28th, 2008: Alain Platel – Pitié!

@théatre de la ville

I had serious misgivings about this show. First I usually don’t relate to Alain Platel‘s work anymore. It’s not really a dislike as much as a lack of interest. Then I heard some very bad comments from someone who had seen it the day before. And finally I read that it was two hours long, and that Magic Malik would be playing. But I also read that Aka Moon and Rosalba Torres Guerrero were there at well, and that renewed my resolve to stay focused and attempt to get it at last.

I can’t exactly say I managed that, but I didn’t get bored, even though I still think he could shave 30 minutes off it. Again, I was way too close and that meant I didn’t see enough of the stage when the ten dancers were spread out. I resent that because those group parts where those I liked best, apart from a short sequence with three dancers that were in sync at first and then moved apart in space and time.

But I guess that’s not much, and I found myself in that lukewarm state of mind again. Not much stands out in either a good or bad way, so I can’t really write about any specific part, and even though my mind never drifted off, I felt on the outside looking in. It was warmly received, as usual, and the performers were good. But to me it’s too alien to relate too, yet too familiar to spur curiosity. And though there were a bunch of good moments, none left a mark in my memory, and I suspect I will soon be left with no image, only that faint feeling of having missed the point again. Wait till next year?

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | 1 Comment

October 27th, 2008: Sensational / Spectre / Kouhei Matsunaga / Strom Varx

@divan du monde

OK, I went to another gig Saturday, but I didn’t feel like writing about it. It’s not that it was bad, but I had just an attack of gig fatigue, and that feeling extended to this blog as well. That didn’t last, but I take it as sign that I need to diversify a little.

This Wordsound event was a welcome if tentative step in that direction. Some Hip-Hop, a tad too experimental for me right now, but at least that’s a change, and in a venue where I don’t go often. I got there late and missed the first set and part of the second, unfortunately.

Despite getting in about halfway through Strom Varx‘ set, it ended up being my favorite of the evening anyway. Maybe because it was the most familiar, but it was really not that much. Definitely the most rhythmic things I even heard from him, and also with an unusually good PA. When I got in it was almost only beats, nicely unclean sounds with uncharacteristic harshness. Then the more usual layers of slowly changing soundscape came back in, but never took over completely. I liked that balance a lot as well as the overall edge, and I totally welcome his exploring a new direction.

I wouldn’t have minded Kouhei Matsunaga playing longer, that set seems really short. Intense as well. What I liked best was the parts when a pattern was built up then interfered away. Pretty diverse stuff, often at the same time or in close succession. Some complex rhythmic patterns, but again what I like was more about the overall trajectories and transitions than any one isolated part.

I didn’t like Spectre much, and felt his set was too long for that reason. Some pretty good bits, but kept on too long for me. That’s not really surprising, my taste runs quite to the old-school with DJs, and he went into directions that just are not my kind of thing, so I never found a way in. To each his own.

I had a bit of the same kind of problem with Sensational at first, when he was on his own. A solo MC is often a bit frustrating to me, and it took me a while to catch on to his flow. Then again I realized it’s not my kind of music. But then he was joined by Spectre and Kouhei Matsunaga, and it got better for me. At first I had a hard time figuring out what Spectre was doing, and I felt it was not really taking off, but I got into it and the three of them together delivered a pretty good set feedind off each other. I didn’t stay into it until the end, but that’s really because I’m still in overload mode, as they were getting better all along.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

October 24th, 2008: Ian Nagoski / Po-Go

@instants chavirés

Almost a week without anything felt so long. Then again, late October has been a time for huge blunders for me in the past few years, so I played it safe.

Po-Go features Pascal Battus, Frédéric Blondy, Bertrand Gauguet and Dan Warburton. I don’t remember having heard Gauguet before, but the others are pretty familiar. The set was a bit too long in my opinion, but managed to cover a lot of ground. It started with a lovely dronish sound from Blondy’s piano, then went rhythmic and through a lot of different vibes. There was of course some of the usual patterns from that free-improv scene that have been annoying me so much lately, but here they didn’t seem to be all that prominent, maybe I didn’t get riled up because I thought that ensemble just worked, for no particular reason. Maybe Warburton played a part in that, because he always seems to bring out the best in whoever he’s playing with, even though what he does might not be most impressive to me.

Ian Nagoski impressed me. His music is really my kind of thing, I’m a certified sucker for layering of sounds. At first it was a single sequence with heavy spatializing, but that didn’t last — at least from where I was seating — and he proceeded to stack simple sounds to create a fascinating environment. I heard things that might not even have been there, fleeting audio glimpses at times. There was usually a kind of pulsating line and a few additional sounds patterns weaving in and out. Weaving was actually an idea that kept going through my mind during the performance. The basic back-and-forth of mixing sounds generating a sonic landscape akin to an intricate tapestry. That does make sense to me. And there was a fully satisfying depth to his sound, something full-bodied and physically engaging. I’m so glad I came there to experience this, my first choice would have been another gig but I got stuck at work and that turned out to be a blessing for a change.

Another reason why that one impressed me is the CDRs he was selling. I have only listened to one of those but it’s just as great as I hoped: recordings from South-Eastern Asia dating back to the 20s-40s. I also got one of percussions from the same area but dating from the 60s-70s and some Malaysian pop from the same period. He had more great stuff to sell but I didn’t have enough cash for more. But still, how could I fail to be impressed by that guy: I dig his music, and he puts together reissues of exactly the kind of music that I love even though that gets me alarmed stares at work. I wish I had a way to get more of these, those early 78s from Laos and Thailand are great, and even though those from Viet Nam were a bit disappointing, I chalk that up on being more familiar with that country’s music. I’m sure he has amazing gems in his collection from the places I’m most fond of musically: Northern Viet Nam and Okinawa. I guess I should have talked with that guy about it, but that was just too close to the time of Quiet.

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

October 18th, 2008: Arnaud Rivière

@instants chavirés

A short set, but a good one. This time Arnaud Rivière used his battered turntable and mixing board, with not that much of the latter. I have to say I didn’t like much what he did toward the end of his set, with the mixing board alone, but that’s also because I thought the turntable part was great. There was some compelling immediacy to this, and today there was more range in his sounds with it, and it probably just happened to suit my mood. It felt a bit weird to have nothing else after that, but I like those short and intense sets a lot.

Interestingly, this time I was standing in front and had a clear view of what he was doing, which was a first. I think that may have shaped my reception of it, including my prefering the turntable part. That would be pretty stupid, but I can’t rule it out.

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

October 17th, 2008: Corrupted / La Chatte / Zeek Sheck

@point éphémère

First day of the in famous carousel series. I probably won’t go to all four because of other gigs, but maybe three, and at the very least a second one. All three bands had some video in the background, but I didn’t see much of that except at the end of the last set. Comes with being vertically challenged.

I guess that was most of a loss with Zeek Sheck, who have a strong visual component in their performance, with elaborate masks and costumes. Another thing I could only get a glimpse of was a kind of white spider. Or maybe not, I could not see much of it. The music started pretty well with drums, percussions and related samples. Weirdly enough, the parts more centered on the guitar were those I didn’t like. These sounded a bit long and uneventful. I liked the faster parts, but there was not enough of that for me to really like that set. Then again, I’m pretty sure it would have made more sense with the video.

The second set was La Chatte. Eightiesish samples rubbed me the wrong way, and the vocalist’s voice didn’t improve my mood. They stuck to that sound throughout the set, so I didn’t like it. Not my kind of stuff, that’s all.

Corrupted is more like it. Again some video, which I could actually see during the last half of the set or so. I was expecting something different from Tsurisaki Kiyotaka, these were images of a demonstration in Palestine (maybe), and some military parade and Japanese flags. A couple of corpses, of course. The set started with a quiet and long intrumental part without drums at first. I like their sound, but this was a bit too long and pretty. Then a louder part with voice before going back to another quiet section and back to loud again. A bit too much prettiness even in the louder parts, which was distracting. But I did like the set, especially the end when it all dissolved in a storm of feedback. I like sludge a lot, and it was a treat to hear this live, because they have a great sound, and because I don’t have enough opportunities. And because I just like Corrupted and had never heard them live before.

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

October 15th, 2008: Nasser Martin-Gousset – Comedy

@théatre de la ville

My dance season is opening at last. I was a bit wary about this show because of its title, but I liked it a lot, and though being dance-starved probably played a part, I think it was a small one, just enough to offset being too close to the stage.

The stage was set up as the living room of a upscale mansion with a couple of big light blue sofas. The opening segment had a series of would-be burglars interrupting each other when they were trying to open the wall safe hidden behind a painting, then the lights were turned on with guest arriving at a party, all with an upscale sixtiesish feel to it. No dance involved, but that opening sequence was great at setting up a mood, a sophisticated athmosphere with some lingering tension underneath. It did remind me of some movies I saw when I was a kid, but that was so long ago I couldn’t name any of them and had no specific memory; someone who has probably would have a very different experience.

All of these themes would be around throughout, but through dance itself. The movie theme was reinforced by having black and white shots of the dancers projected in the back then, and of course by the end title gimmick at the end — that had also been used in his earlier Peplum.

With this introduction out the way, the four musicians started playing — a lot of Brubeck stuff, not my cup of tea, but consistent — and the dancers started moving in a close group, a slowed down sequence of early party banter turned almost abstract. That was another constant: there was very little acting, because what came closest had something else too, so that it remained about dance throughout. A lot of pure dance as well, with the transition usually seemless, and a lot of different groups, often involving only part of the dancers.

I really felt the party evolve as these things do, with excitement building up then drunkeness and weariness settling in. But what was great about it is that this feeling was conveyed through pure dance at as much as through the more illustrative postures. Then everyone left the stage for a sequence where the dancers figures appeared in black on the colored screen that was previously the back wall. That sequence had an almost cartoonish feel as a huge cartoon outline of a diamond was taken in turn by figures wielding progressively more outlandish weapons.

After that break the dancers and the musicians came back, but the mood was noticeably darker. There were changes in the music as well, with my favorite dance sequences to a more dronish music, not live this time. One feature all dancers taking a couple of steps then stopping bent forward with an arm outstretched for a few seconds, then back again. This was the kind of suspension of reality I expect more from a Lynch movie than the previous references. Then all went back to normal as before, but with more tension and darkness. I did get a bit disturbed by the use of the Beatles’ tomorrow never comes, but that was because that instantly got me thinking about PE’s psycho of greed, which was not appropriate and broke the spell for a short time.

Eventually the guests left and after a few surprises the dancers came back on stage carrying placard with the black and white shots of their faces shown earlier to the strains of Mancini’s Pink Panther theme. I liked that touch, another transition, this time out of the show. I’m really impressed by how this choreographer manages to be enough of a director to blur the lines. I have seen better things as far as pure dance is concerned, but it doesn’t matter to me. I liked it a lot as it was, and that’s all I need.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment