Gigs, dance, art

April 25th, 2009: Battant / Telepathe / The Baboon Show


I like this festival. There has been some very cool gigs over the years, and I like the theme in that it’s a great excuse to get very eclectic.

I had mixed feelings about The Baboon Show for most of their set. Efficient and pretty cool garage/punk, but a little too clean and played by the book — that’s a common issue for me with Swedish bands. Nice but lacking something to grab my attention. But they actually did that at the end, through a wonderful cover of The Smiths’ There is a light that never goes out. That was a stroke of genius, turning this cool but overplayed song into a punk tune. That was a difference-maker as it comes to my opinion of their set.

Speaking of changing my mind, I read what I wrote about Telepathe the first time I saw them, close to one year ago: “I would not go to a gig they open for them alone”. Boy did I change my mind. First I bought their record months later, and a bunch of songs were already familiar, a sure sign their performance had left its mark. It’s been a favorite ever since, especially Chrome’s on it — that’s a totally great song — but the whole record is a blast, bringing in bits and pieces from two or three decades of music and making something new. So I would go to hear them live without a second thought, it would even take something special to have me pass on such an opportunity. And I was not disappointed. If anything, I live them better live than on their record, there’s more of an edge to it, with the drumming having a lot to do with that impression. Even though the sound was not that good — some voice parts were a bit drowned out — they did keep the best of the songs and made them better suited to the live context. It’s a little different in a good way in that I think some parts of the record are a bit overproduced. The only song I did like but not as much was chrome’s on it. I would have liked a longer set, so I just reverse my misguided earlier position: I would definitely go to one of their gig without anyone opening. As a bonus, one of them told me that DJ/Rupture did a remix for them — he had them on his show for a chat a couple of months ago — and I can’t wait to hear this.

Obviously I was not at my most open for the Battant after this. Maybe that’s why I kinda tuned out the first half or so, totally failing to appreciate it. I liked the second half better, but it still felt a bit too mainstream, in the sense that I heard such things too many times. Telepathe was a tough act to follow especially on that count, so I guess I’d better not make much of this first impression.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

April 23rd, 2009: Skullflower / Vomir

@instants chavirés

Bring the noise! Vomir‘s brand of sonic assault somehow manages to be almost overwhelming yet with different threads and layers once I got used to the level. Again, I didn’t put my head in the supplied plastic bag, but it is true that keeping my eyes closed most of time did help. It’s just that moving around was better, as I could focus on different depending on where I was. On the other hand, I thought the set did run out of steam after a while, too much of the same thing in my opinion. I think a shorter set is more appropriate, with not enough time for the edge to grow dull.

Skullflower was loud too, but smoother, with less abrasive feedback. I had to get used to it but soon I could make out the many things going on underneath that surface of continuous feedback. The drummer was the most obvious agent of change, but my favorite twists were guitar based. Nothing glaring, but some meanderings I could very well have imagined. I don’t think so, though. A physical experience as well, but not to the point where it got painful or even annoying. This set was just right when it comes to length, long enough to get a feel for the sound and have shapes develop and evolve, but I’m not sure I could have sustained my focus much longer without some more drastic changes. So it was just right.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

April 22nd, 2009: Instant Space Soup / Jarvid Q / P.A.R.A. / Dolphins Into The Future / Monopoly Child Star Searchers / David Daniell

@espace en cours

Busy night, with six pretty different sets including two late additions bookending the show.

David Daniell was a very good surprise. At first I was alarmed by the combination of bottleneck and e-bow, but it turned out great. Evocative and misleadingly calm, with quite many things happening under that surface. Looking at his web site and the many people he played with only had me wonder how I could have failed to hear about him before. And he even did a session on WFMU.

Monopoly Child Star Searchers was next and completely different, layering loops over a driving beat. Some of those sounds were too synthetic for my taste, but I just loved the different lengths of some loops that created interlocking rhythms. Much, much faster than the first set but just as interesting.

The animal samples Dolphins Into The Future build his set from didn’t help me at all getting into his set. Too bad because I wanted to hear him in better conditions than the first time, but I’m not losing interest yet.

P.A.R.A. was the highlight of the show for me. From the struck bowls to the heavy reverb on her voice — that kinda had me thinking of a shamanistic U.S. Girls — almost everything was just right to make that set instantly compelling. The only blemish was a sudden stop due to a technical problem, but she could start again pretty fast. The jolt made me measure how totally into her set I had been. I didn’t expect that kind of set at all, and it was a very pleasant surprise. I hope I’ll have another opportunity.

Jarvid Q, the second skaters solo project was kind of a disappointment for me. Too much of the same rhythm, lacking the slightly off touch that made the first one interesting.

Instant Space Soup did a pretty good set to end the show, a kind of almost ambient noise, with a very interesting use of voice samples, maybe from a movie, first used against a noise background then reintroduced with the music much louder. The second time I could anticipate the lines and that kinda made it stand out even though it was no longer in the foreground. Lame description, but the memory play just was just the kind of detail that will make me love a set.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 18th, 2009: Zeni Geva / Stuckometer

@instants chavirés

Many good things tonight, including the fact that the show was sold out, which does count as a good thing because it’s good for the venue.

Stuckometer opened with a great set. I took me a little while to get into it, at first it seemed a bit too much noisish fumbling around, but that was just the time it took for me to get used to their sound. After that, I just had a great time. That drummer is pretty good and inventive, and the guitars were not bland either. Many changes and a lot of autonomy in each member of the band, but never straying so far as to feel disconnected. It even reminded me of what I like best in free jazz, less technically perfect but with a freedom of spirit that never puts egos over the music. Of course there’s the band thing at work too, because they did keep a strong sense of unity throughout.

I have to admit I didn’t know Zeni Geva before seeing them. I had seen KK Null and Tatsuya Yoshida separately though. I did hear people saying they were better “before”, but some people would say so about a new band anyway. I don’t know, but they were good enough for me this time. Powerful yet interesting, a controlled but on the edge at times. And good natured. I think KK Null was a major reason for the later, his attitude was just positive. At times the whole sounded almost too clean, but then again it didn’t matter because it was not a sign of rehashing old recipes, more like relative down times between peaks of energy and/or challenging music. Not as much of the latter as when I heard KK Null solo, but this side was present as well. It just was not as much the focus, even though it’s hard to say what that was, with this mix of metal, punk, noise and other beasts. Maybe having a good time with loud music was. At least that worked for me. Great gig throughout.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

April 17th, 2009: Prezens: David Torn – Tim Berne – Tom Rainey – Craig Taborn

@cité de la musique

I didn’t know anything about David Torn, but I’m always game for an opportunity to hear Tom Rainey, especially when Tim Berne and Craig Taborn are there too.

This performance was completely different, obviously thanks to David Torn. He and especially Craig Taborn were building a quite dense sound environment, with Taborn more subdued maybe but still present, while Torn was at times using enough feedback and harsher effects to come closer to my usual noise than I can remember in a jazz setting. Tim Berne and Tom Rainey were closer to their usual styles, though Berne was obviously less in the foreground and actually went along with the sound sculpting aspect. Torn was foremost on that front, and created some great textures, a part of his play that I found more interesting than his occasional more melodic forays.

Paradoxically, even though I’m still a huge fan of Rainey, his play was excellent as usual, but that was exacty what helped me put my finger on what bothered me about this performance. Even though there were a lot of great sounds and it had an unusual side, I had the feeling it was too locked down. Not the music, more the part that each performer played, so that even though there were some fruitful exchanges, these didn’t include any kind of role reversal and that made it a little predictable over time. So in the end I felt it could have been more free and involved more chances. Then again it was a relatively short one, about one hour, so maybe I just didn’t have enough time to get beyond the obvious. So even though I did like it, I came out with a feeling it could have gone further. The downside of high expectations, again.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

April 16th, 2009: Erik Truffaz – Murcof – Talvin Singh

@cité de la musique

I had never heard Erik Truffaz, despite seeing his name every so often, which had me mildly curious. I had also heard some praise about Murcof from people whose opinion I tend to trust, but the clincher was hearing Talvin Singh play tablas again. He had done so as an opening set for a gig in Paris almost eight (!) years ago, the first time I heard someone play this instrument live. So I went, with my usual misgivings about this kind of mix tampered by Talvin Singh’s experience at this game, hoping for the best but ready for the worst. It was neither of these extremes, and actually closer to the first.

Erik Truffaz and Murcof started the show on their own, but Talvin Singh quickly joined them. Strangely enough, I was a bit annoyed by his long solo at the end of the first song he played in. Not that it was bad, but there had been enough of a successful interaction during that song that it felt like a distraction. There were many times over the set where the whole really worked to put to rest my previous fears.

The beginning of the show was not the best for me, because it quickly became predictable, with Murcof and Truffaz starting slow, with some very nice trumpet phrases over his layers of beats and transformed instrument sounds, then picking up some speed with Singh chiming in and Truffaz adding some effects (mostly reverb and echoes) while standing in the back. Nice enough but by the third time or so it started getting a little old.

But the second half or so was really good, and I especially loved a piece Truffaz said was a Murcof composition. This one was much more interesting rhythmically, and that seemed to let each of them free to go in different directions while somehow playing more together than ever. But the whole second half of the set was really fulfilling the promises the first half had been making. Truffaz proved he could play at different speeds, without effects of with a lot, and displayed a nice sense of stopping for a while — maybe for a bit too long at times. Murcof was more or less keeping it all together, so the interesting part of his contribution was all in the details, small rhythmic disturbances adding up to good things and sometimes an unexpected sound. I thought Talvin Singh was at his best when more engaged in a conversation with the others than being too much on his own. He’s really good at interacting — so he’s probably a good listener — so what I thought was a bit of a missed opportunity was that he did that much more with Murcof than Truffaz. But I guess that the former’s role as supplying the backbone made that hard to avoid.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

April 15th, 2009: The Legendary Tiger Man / Bob & Lisa

@mécanique ondulatoire

I was not so eager to go back to this place so soon, but I was eager to check out Bob & Lisa, the core of the BellRays in an acoustic format. Not the first thing that comes to mind with that band, so I thought it would be interesting, plus this singer has so much charisma she doesn’t need an overpowering sound. It was indeed quite interesting, and highlighted that there is more to them than raw power. More teacher than preacher, but actually different from both, showing a more relaxed and intimate side. Noticeably missing was the fierceness and authority I had come to expect from Lisa Kekaula — except when she asked people loudly talking in the front to shut up or leave. She didn’t work the crowd as much either, this set was really about music and sharing. I can see why she talked about this format being a way to keep things going. Then again, I guess it’s no surprise that I can feel some closeness to a band that once printed “support live music even when it sucks” on a record, even though I certainly never needed the second part of that phrase when it comes to them.

I had never heard of The Legendary Tiger Man, and his opening song really got me into his set. A heavy dose of slide guitar for a quite bluesish song, I hadn’t heard anything like that live in a long time — too much experimental/noise gigs maybe. The rest of the set was more rock that blues though, with the blues element often gone completely, so that it felt more mundane to me. He’s definitely a good live act anyway, especially going at it on his own like this. I’m not all that interested in his music, but the energy runs high and that was a good experience. It’s not meant to be thought over anyway, so I’d say he’s pulling it off quite nicely.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment