Gigs, dance, art

September 28th, 2009: Mohammad Motamedi / Sinâ Jahânâbâdi / Hamed Fakouri / Ali Rahimi


Music from Iran, with Mohammad Motamedi on vocals, Sinâ Jahânâbâdi on kamānche, Hamed Fakouri on tār, and Ali Rahimi on tombak and daf. Good musicians, but that music is just a little too sophisticated for me, and I just don’t like this vocal style, so I could appreciate their skills but didn’t really enjoy the music.

Another hurdle for me was that they spent a lot of time soloing. And I don’t like that these days. The parts I did like were those where Rahimi would get involved, which would often spur the two other musicians to join in at about the same level, and interact in more interesting ways than playing the same melody. That was nice because I like the way the tār and kamānche sound together, these instruments are very different but mesh well, and in a way where I could still tell each apart.

Motamedi was a little apart in those moments, but I guess that’s part of the style, the singer is either strongly in the front or just stops. There were a couple on songs where the field was more even, but those sounded so different that maybe they were less classical than the rest.

Well, I usually have a hard time getting into classical music, no matter the area of origin, so I’m not exactly surprised. Appreciating it probably requires more training than I have, and I have never been interested enough to put in the work so far.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 25th, 2009: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Apocrifu

@cité de la musique

I really like the last of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s shows I saw, but I was wary of this one because of the religious theme and the bigger stage. I really like him better in less ambitious pieces. But this one turned out OK. Not great, but I liked enough of it, maybe because having only three dancers kept him from going on too long.

I did have a hard time at the beginning though. Yasuyuki Shuto’s coming down those huge stairs was a little too fluttery and ostensibly graceful for me. Then the ground-hugging solo by Dimitri Jourde was just too in contrast with the opening, and by the time Cherkaoui got into his own solo I was fearing the style would be kept too separate. But his solo was really nice, mixing a bunch of small things that didn’t fit that well into this grid. And even though their ankle bells struck me as odd at first, they did fit in with the Corsican singers somehow.

And then their first lining with books in their — they would do that later with swordish props — made for a nice break. They would mix up their arms and hands keeping the books open and moving them around, with heads sometimes jutting out as a multi-armed and headed creature. Maybe a little long and possibly easy on some level, but very well done, with made it work.

I still think there was a bit too much soloing, but there were also times with two of them supporting/confronting each other and a later even sequences with all three in sync. The message wasn’t exactly subtle — all three people of the books being blinded by those before being even more alike in their sword wielding — but that’s a minor detail to me. Even though I don’t think it was an unqualified success on that front, he did manage to bring those different styles into a dialogue of sorts, and that’s interesting.

In another case of evolution for the better along the way, the initial puppet handling wasn’t my thing, and seeing them mime pulling their own string to move their legs looked just too obvious at first, but the final twist made me appreciate that much more. Cherkaoui’s steps got more like a ponderous stomping, and his climbing the stairs a last time was golemish as he got to the top and jumped off as the lights went out. Maybe not the subtlest thing either, but there was a definite dramatic buildup to that finale in a short time, and that was a nice trick.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

September 24th, 2009: Kouhei Matsunaga / Astro / ? / Dernier Sang

@instants chavirés

Dernier Sang is Kasper T. Toeplitz on bass and Philippe Simon on violin. All that bowing and feedback made for a nice sound that grew to fill up the space — there was much of available due to poor attendance. Nice but not really eventful at first. Things picked up later on, after Toeplitz switched from regular bow to e-bow, and I liked that part, with some changes in the sound and pace keeping things interesting. The end was a bit too frantic for me though, but on average I liked this set.

I have no idea who did the second set, unfortunately. I thought this set took a long time going, but it kinda made sense with those earlier isolated sounds being piled as loops. Those different sound were interacting in a cool way, with the loops not all that straightforward. Too bad that part didn’t last longer.

Then it was time for Astro and a totally great set. At first I thought there were contact mics on those twin metal sheets he was wielding, but the modulations they seemed to control made it clear there was more going on there. Anyway the music had several layer, a rumbling bass level with its own rhythmic structure, a middle level of noise waves surging and crashing, and a high pitched layer that sometimes faded or mixed with the middle one. The set was intense and physically taxing, but there was so much going on within this music, each time I paid closer attention to a specific sound or to some structure within it, I found something new going on. I’m sure I missed a big part of what he was doing, but what I did catch made my day.

After that shock I found it hard to get into Kouhei Matsunaga‘s set. His going with a beat at first helped by being clearly something different from the previous set, but the truth is I was still stuck back there. The set was diverse and had some interesting things, but I never got into it, and I wonder why Astro didn’t close, as it was a tough task coming after him. Matsunaga plays often enough in Paris, I should be able to make up for my lack of focus.

Finally, the three last performers came back on stage for a final short set. They sounded pretty good, but I felt the interactions were lacking, though it’s pretty hard to pull of with that kind of music, and I usually need to be familiar with at least one of the performers to get what’s going on. So it’s probably me missing the point again.

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

September 22nd, 2009: Serfs / Infinite Light / Peace On Earth / A Wake

@espace en cours

A Wake got me in for a ride of sorts. I like this kind of sound, serious guitar feedback is just my kind of fare. Funny thing was whenever I would kinda step off thinking I’d heard it all before, they’d get me back in with an unforeseen twist or by taking they stuff just another step further, then staying right there just long enough for me to get bored, than yanked me back in again. And by the time I got used to it and actually expected them to surprise me, they didn’t, but it was the end of the set, so that worked too. As a live set and an experience, they’re the real deal as far as I’m concerned.

I was totally impressed by Peace On Earth, easily my favorite set of the evening. I remember seeing him a few months ago and thinking his set was quite confused. This time he got it so right the only reason I trust my impression of that set was that he told me he was not happy about it. This time he started very, well, peaceful on keyboards, altogether too nice for me, but as soon as I had this thought, he started putting a beat together, not as a push-button prepared thing, but something he fiddled/struggled with along the way, and the process itself was amazing. And went on unfolding in an increasingly un-smooth way as he went adding other layers. By then I was thinking it wasn’t really the beat in itself that was evolving as much as the way it meshed — or not — with the rest of the sound. I’m sure he knew what he was doing, and he went on moving on from that original almost poppish sound into industrial into a noisish ending. For me, the point wasn’t about where he started or ended, but the path he took me along from A to B. That journey was so worth taking, the only bad thing about it was that it put the bar so high that I had a hard time appreciating the following acts.

Infinite Light followed and I have to say I was still thinking about the previous set. His high voice didn’t help, and his consistent sound on guitar was a letdown at first for the same reason. But it grew on me. I may not be much into his sound, but along the way it got insistent enough that I shed my clinging to the previous set and got into it. Not really my kind of thing but there was something going on that demanded attention somehow.

Serfs‘ struck me as the kind of music that works better on record than live. A bit too slow for me at that time, which I could also blame on my being so tired. But I just think it’s the kind of music that I enjoy more when walking by myself, not sitting in a room with strangers. The couple of (male) chatterboxes next to me for most of the set certainly didn’t help.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 19th, 2009: Bülanz Orgabar / Interstellar Nightmare / V.I.K.I.


I came for the place first, it had been a while and it probably won’t be around much longer. Pretty sparse audience, especially at first.

I quite liked V.I.K.I., especially the first half or so. At one point I could see him bowing something that may have been a violin — or not, I didn’t see it. But most of the sound seemed laptop generated, or at the very least heavily processed. Some of these sounds were really cool, with a kind of grainy texture I’m quite fond of. I guess I grew too accustomed to it later on, I felt it was too much more of the same, and my interest drifted, a self-reinforcing process unless something blatant happens, and that’s probably not the kind of music for this. But the set already had enough to make me happy I’d showed up.

I liked Interstellar Nightmare too, probably more, actually. Bass, drums and a metal sheet with contact mics used sparingly but to good effect. Satisfyingly loud music, with a direct kind of drumming that suited me very well that day. Less experimental than what I’m used to, but the physical level of it was a pretty neat experience, the kind that makes a live setting special. I probably wouldn’t listen to anything they do otherwise, I’m just sure I’d miss the intensity.

After a quite long delay wondering whether they’d play at all, Bülanz Orgabar did play a short set. Cut short suddenly by power being shut off, actually. Which I liked, in part because I didn’t feel they were going anywhere anyway. Some good stuff on an individual level, but not much interaction. A big part of my interest in their music comes from the unexpected things that just happen. Or don’t. No two shows have been alike, and that’s the price tag for not following a script. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

September 17th, 2009: Amolvacy / Coupe Coupe

@café de paris

Not having seen Coupe Coupe for a couple of years meant I was in for a surprise. Not exactly mainstream, but the drumming was unexpectedly regular. These loops were real cool in my opinion, and made the project more interesting for me. At this point I’m getting tired of the overly experimental noise thing, and this element shook me out of that jaded boredom. The more familiar onslaught at the beginning probably helped easing me into liking it, as did the more usual noise from the others. Anyway any surprise is a good thing for me right now; the only thing I care about is that it woke me up and the rest of the show stoop up well enough.

I liked Amolvacy better though. I think I’m getting a bit weary of Aaron Moore right now, but this time he kept the clowning around under wraps and I could get what made him an interesting musician in the first place. His stuff made sense on drums and on cello, and even though Dave Nuss and Sheila Donovan were the ones who made the set cool to me, he did add something. My favorite parts were the most folk/middle-ages-ish, for the main part because the voice and tom mixed so well — with a worthwhile assist from Moore right there. It might have gotten stale after a while, but they never gave that a chance and went into more regularly weird stuff as well. I happen to like Donovan’s voice, but I like even more the way she uses it. The last song with her handling the drums, Moore playing the cello like an electric bass and Nuss bowing the violin upright was a bit too Volcanoish for me right then, but it did work at the time. Cool project.

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

September 14th, 2009: Angelin Preljocaj – Le Funambule


Early kickoff to the dance season, with a solo from a choreographer I’ve seen regularly for as long as I’ve been interested in dance. Even though it had all the markings of the kind of  “event” that usually falls short of the hype, I wanted to see this. I think he avoided that particular pitfall, maybe because the text meant enough to him.

He was saying that Genet “letter” through the show, sometimes dancing along, sometimes reading only, sometimes dancing only. I have to say I don’t care for Genet, and this one was as grating as it gets for me, so it got in the way as the show progressed. I couldn’t block it out, because it was important to what was going on. I do think it took its toll on my appreciation of the show.

Not surprisingly, overall I thought the most literally illustrative parts were the weakest, but with a few exceptions. Maybe that was because it was early, but the segue from the words about an anvil to Preljocaj engaging the long table stood out for me as a close link to the text that enhanced the dance. The knife slashing of paper rolls was at the opposite of the spectrum of both time and personal appreciation.

At its best, the dance brought an immediacy that countered what felt to me as an infuriating pose in the words, and there were visually compelling moments that stood out on their own. The best part for me was a sequence with a mirror and his arm movements reflected as if the mirror wasn’t there, until his left hand shot out and broke the illusion in a striking way. That part was just great, and for me was the apex of the show for several reasons: it was striking on its own as a play with light and vision, there was an economy of movement with greatest effect at play, and I thought it was a step away from the self-centeredness of the words, as if their target was staking his claim to reality beyond the prop he Genet’s words turned him into. The real hand moving out of the mirror frame was like a breath of fresh air to me, but that’s probably because Genet has always been boring for me. Maybe some feminist-induced impatience with objectifying was at work as well. Anyway, I loved this.

I also liked the way Preljocaj was working the limitations of his aging body into pauses that made sense. That wasn’t obvious most of the time, but the few places where that stood out made me eager to see how he will use that particular insight within his shows designed for and with younger dancers. He strikes me as the kind of guy who can turn this into something beautiful. I hope I get to see that come to fruit.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment