Gigs, dance, art

December 22nd, 2008: Erik Minkkinen / Zach Hill / Berthold / Helicoptere Sanglante


There were so many people there I was close to bolting. Maybe I should have, there was far enough people for it to be a success, and these crowds make me uneasy. I was there though, and the prospect of hearing Erik Minkkinen made me stay.

The crowd was so dense I missed about half the set of Helicoptere Sanglante, and probably the one I would have liked best judging from the distorted voice I heard from the outside. Too bad, what I did hear well was good enough, but I could not shake the feeling I missed the good bits. The end of it was a bit tame by his standards, nice electronics but I kept waiting for a cathartic blast that came earlier. I guess that’s what I get for being such a loser.

Berthold was kinda interesting. A rather punk set despite a more metal beginning, I’m sure they can get beyond these labels. They didn’t keep those promises this time, but they’re a name I might want to remember nonetheless. Good enough at what they do, but they can probably do more. Again, the joke’s on me for expecting more varied stuff. I did enjoy their set anyway, so it’s not even a disapointment. More like a reason to check them out another time.

Even though Zach Hill was headlining the event, I didn’t like his set. Too much drumming, and coming from me that just means I was not in a good mood, no surprise with how packed the place was. Impressive as a performance, but there was just too much of that, and I got tired of it.

Erik Minkkinen was last, and even though most people were outside at the bar, I don’t think that’s the only reason that was my favorite set. Harsher that what I heard from him lately, but that was welcome. A bit spacey at times nonetheless, but there was a relentless drilling into the material that just compelled my attention and made for a direct experience. I didn’t like the base sound much, but what he was getting out of it just had me won over. It’s not about that, it’s all about the changes he can bring to it, and even though I always think I know what he can do, he often manages to surprise me. This was maybe not a big surprise, but time flew and by the time he stopped I just had to acknowledge how good he is. That was well worth the wait.


December 27, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

December 18th, 2008: Instant Donné – Stéphane Borrel / Noriko Baba

@instants chavirés

I’m still catching up on post about long past events, so this is probably going to be superficial. Yet another gig after so many seemed overkill at first, but it promised to be very different from what I’ve seen recently, and I had not seen Instant Donné for over six months despite my best intentions, so I had some catching up to do on that front too.

After the show, they explained they wanted to give more time than usual to performing works by composers that don’t get much play. I like the idea, so I hope they do stick to their plans to do this again. It’s much better than throwing in a single short one among a bunch of others, and having two means I have more of a chance to like part of it. I’m just too ignorant about contemporary music to get it every time, so I can use that extra shot. This one pretty much proved the point.

They started by playing Heurs, then Selon and finally Entrefaites by Stéphane Borrel. I expected to like the first one best, because it was for viola and percussions, but I didn’t. Too much of the expected tricks, so I got bored by its predictability. The second was for solo piano, and I liked it better but that’s because of Caroline Cren, as the music itself still sounded pretty tame. I liked the final one — for flute, percussion, violin, viola and cello — better, because even though it was still quite conventional, it did defeat my expectations a few times. Still, not much to keep me interested.

It was a much different experience with Noriko Baba’s music. En haut et en bas — for harp, violin, viola and cello — was probably my favorite, with its unconventional sounds, high notes and playful gimmick whose interventions and variants were really neat. The harp was really great, totally going against the prettiness that sometimes looms with this instrument. Harmonieux Forgeron was just as good — no surprise here with my being such a sucker for prepared piano — and again the title made complete sense, as the sounds did evoke hammering in a pleasant sounding way. Sol-itude — for prepared cello — again transformed the expected sound of the instrument, but less so than the previous ones. Finally Pseudoscope II featured the most instruments — flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion — and was the one with the most different things going on, but maybe the one I liked less, though I still liked it quite a bit.

I’d sure like to hear more from Noriko Baba. Her way of using unusual sounds from the instruments is something I like all the more because she’s not using electronics to do it. And I liked the way she sometimes used a sound or phrase that could be gimmicky but instead turned into a thread to follow through changes and variations, making the music both imaginative and solid.

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

December 17th, 2008: Emio Greco / Pieter C. Scholten – [purgatorio] POPOPERA

@théatre de la ville

Now that was much more like it. I do like Emio Greco as a dancer, and I think he was there, but I like this one much better than his solo I saw last week. I was only marginally better seated, but it was less of a problem because a lot of the action took place a bit further back on the stage.

The opening sequence with dancers laying guitars on the ground in the front wasn’t reassuring, but it seemed to take off as soon as this was done. One singer — dressed in black at first, then in gold — six dancers plus on fully dressed in black and ski mask — I think that was Emio Greco, but I can’t say for sure.

Having several dancers on stages opens up different possibilities, and in this case it was having each one having a slightly different personality on display — through the costume, but mainly through movement. The most obvious instance was when each dancer in turn would emerge from the group and face it on a side of the stage before joining it back again. Each one was different, I guess from what I read it was related to a cardinal sin, but I didn’t catch that reference and didn’t even try. This pattern was less obvious later but the idea was very much in there.

The dark figure was hovering in the back for the first half or so, but that kinda played into that scheme. Eventually he made incursions in the middle of the group, but always remained clearly separate, through his costume, his trajectory and his movements. The second half also had the other dancers grabbing guitars and actually playing — or at least fooling me into thinking they did. Not my favorite moment dance-wise, but the music was indeed compelling. The dance got back to being good quickly though.

Of course with six electric guitars I had to think of Rhys Chatham, but that was different, and that’s when I realized the Michael Gordon responsible for the music must be the one I know about — again I could have been fooled, but that would have to have been intentional and I think he’s not enough of a household name for that. This time the song from Eraserhead was briefly played in its original version before segueing into the Pixies cover. Nice reference again, but Michael Gordon would probably have done a better job of twisting it than the Pixies.

The music sure was more my kind of thing than during last week’s show, but I do think the dance is what made the difference. More diverse and just more interesting because of the variations between dancers. I really liked this one. So I hope I’ll get to [heaven] next year.

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

December 15th, 2008: Caterina Sagna – P.O.M.P.E.I. 2e fouille

@ theatre de la bastille

It had been too long since the last time I saw Caterina Sagna‘s work, so I was looking forward to this, maybe a bit too much. Three male dancers dressed in white on a stage covered in white fabric. That same material was raised in the back to serve as a screen for black and white videos featuring a girl, a woman and the older Viviane De Muynck. I tend to like this actress, but she often goes a bit too far in the larger than life direction, and here it got quite extreme.

The dancer used the white cloth several ways, going under or getting wrapped in it, but the part that interested me was how they were dancing closely alike in the beginning but gradually got to take on a different style, each somehow related to one of the female actress in the videos. Too bad this process was made so explicit by the words.

I would have liked less talking. And less humor as well. The slapping sequence a short time into it was one of the lows for me. It reminded me of shows I didn’t like this year, most featuring that kind of slapstick humor. I still found enough dance in this one, but barely so. I liked the overall progression of the thing more than any single part. Indeed I can’t think of any particular sequence that I liked for itself. Kind of a disappointment from a choreographer I usually like.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

December 14th, 2008: Ich Bin / A.H. Kraken / Joelle Leandre / Gol & Charles Hayward / France Sauvage / Claus Van Bebber & Michael Vorfeld


Final day of Sonic Protest, in a relatively new place. It’s huge and cold, but maybe the latter will improve with use. I was really exhausted by then, and having heard so much in that week pretty much spoiled the experience on that day. The long waits between sets didn’t really improve things.

Claus Van Bebber and Michael Vorfeld go the event started, and unfortunately it was the kind of improvised music that requires more focus than I could muster there and then. I still liked what Van Bebber did with his three turntables, but I would have to hear him in a smaller venue to appreciate that better. Vorfeld’s percussions just struck me as too conventional — in that particular genre — and I just couldn’t pay enough attention to override that first impression. This one’s definitely on me.

It’s the second time I see France Sauvage, and again I was just not in the right frame of mind. The electronics, screams, drums and all should add up to music I like though. I didn’t because it seemed to me to be something I’ve heard many times before. I’d just like to hear them properly before giving up.

Gol & Charles Hayward were probably my favorite set of the day, at least if I focus on the first part of it. From an introduction with Hayward wandering around before settling behind the drums, it built up from separate sounds to a cohesive one with many changes and things generally happening. The second part was frustrating before they kinda got settled and took far less chances. Or maybe I missed the details and the too steady drumming fooled me. Anyway I thought they were underachieving in that second part.

Joëlle Léandre has a very impressive way of being one with her double bass. Her play is quite straightforward for improvised music — no tricks beyond occasionally slapping the box — but I actually appreciated that. She already does a lot without adding those anyway. She might not be breaking new ground, but she’s so good at what she does that it didn’t matter. I had never heard her before, so maybe I would get tired of it in the long run, but I’ll worry about that if and when.

A.H. Kraken took the day in a totally different direction. Solid punk rock with all as it should be, just low brow enough for me at that time. Definitely weird seeing them in such a clean arty space, but they didn’t seem to care about that and the crowd did go wild. Nothing particularly stood out for me in their music, but I was down to basic perception anyway, and it felt just right.

I guess I should have left early during Ich Bin’s set. It was quite fun during the first song, but it grew old amazingly quick. One trick pony. Their looks and generally their set fit the concept real well, but it was just too monotonous for me. People went real wild, I just went real bored.

December 20, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

December 13th, 2008: Berg Sans Nipple / Die Goldenen Zitronen / Salmigondis

@point ephemere

I guess it was not my day, as I managed to miss Ero Babaa‘s set while grabbing a bite. It’s OK though, I’ll have other opportunities. And the rest of the gig was good enough to dispel any bitterness.

I was pleasantly surprised by Salmigondis. They’re a relatively new band, and I run into some of them from time to time, so I didn’t expect much, especially so close to the end of the festival. But they were quite impressive. A bit too much of everything, but that impression may have more than something to do with my being a bit overloaded by then. I definitely intend to check them out with fresher ears.

I had never heard of Die Goldenen Zitronen, and they were just the best surprise of the festival for me. Maybe I could say they didn’t stay punk forever, but there was indeed some of that just beneath the surface. Not tame by any means, and with a communicative enthusiasm. They looked happy to be here playing, not taking themselves too seriously and bringing a touch of good natured humor as well. Some of their music hints at the eighties, but that didn’t even bother me, because both following decades left a trace as well. Good music, good live band and a great attitude.

I thought I would be bored by Berg Sans Nipple, but I was not at all. On further reflection, I remember seeing them a couple of years ago and liking their set a lot. It’s just that the records don’t hold up to their live performances, which feature a lot more drumming. And this one was just driven, an intense set with an overflowing energy that kept my overall weariness at bay.

So it turned out to be a great gig, even though I missed one set. One more reason to be glad I took the pass, because I would probably have skipped it otherwise.

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

December 13th, 2008: Reines d’Angleterre / Noël Akchoté

@maison des métallos

I might have well have stayed home. I really loathe this place, and having the gig take place in the lobby didn’t help any. To make things worse, a delayed train got me there too late to hear Alvaro. That didn’t improve my mood, which combined with my general weariness pretty much spoiled the whole event for me.

I had never seen Noël Akchoté live, and his set spent covering Kylie Minogue. I don’t really know her music, so I guess I was bound to miss the point, but even though he’s indeed a very good guitar player, I thought the whole thing got tiresome about fifteen minutes into the set. Too much of the same, and I can only wish I’ll get a better opportunity another time.

I liked Reines d’Angleterre much better, but the poor conditions were annoying in that the balance sounded off. Ghédalia Tazartès’ voice just deserves better, and what could have been an interesting electronic background got just too mushy and hard to make out from most places. I finally got close enough to hear the whole quite well just as the set ended. Another missed opportunity, or maybe that’s two for the price of one because what I heard of his new record made me curious about what El-G is doing as a musician.

The only set I really did like were a bunch of kids who were playing when I got there. Nothing ground-breaking, but there was an immediacy that got through my foul mood.

OK, even the tags join in the fun. El-G and El G are not related, at least not that I know of. But wordpress doesn’t seem to accept the hyphen as a meaningful difference.

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