Gigs, dance, art

October 27th, 2009: Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band

@cité de la musique

I have to state upfront that I don’t like Kind of blue, but I hoped that the live setting would offset some of the things that bother me about this record. Unfortunately, the performance was faithful enough that my take on it is less than enthusiastic. No dis on the performers, each did his part and did it well, with special appreciation for Buster Williams, Larry Willis and Jimmy Cobb himself. The others were good too, but their taking turns in the front was so aggravating to me that I couldn’t really appreciate their play.

That part — the taking turns — is the single most prominent reason why I don’t like that record, so it’s no surprise their faithfulness was a drawback. Each was good enough on his own, but that only made me more eager to hear them interact, and that must just not part of the plan.

Another side of my dislike is that it’s so smooth as to get into sugary territory, and again this side was still there even live. Of course the bass and to a lesser extent piano and drums gained from more direct contact, but they are not exactly in front in that music.

From what I heard from people in attendance, those who liked that record in the first place were pleased enough, but being the kind of weirdo who didn’t like it but hope to get a change of mind from hearing a live take on it, those high hopes were squashed.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

October 26th, 2009: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

@théatre de la ville

I still think I should be making more of an effort to listen to Indian music in order to get more out of these concerts, but I just didn’t. But I did fare better than the last time, maybe because there was almost no singing and the music felt a little bit more familiar. And there’s not question that Amjad Ali Khan is good and I really liked the sarod. I had seen relatives of this instruments, but not with this metal plate on the neck. I like the way the smaller upper strings provided a denser background for the main melody.

I also appreciated his explanations about his way of playing with his nails instead of fingertips, which allowed him to slide along the neck for a sound sometimes a little reminiscent of a bottleneck. The sidemen really kept out the way, to the point that I couldn’t hear the tanpura at all and the tabla often were silent or mainly supportive.

That being said, it’s a quite sophisticated music, and I can’t say I got most of what was going on. Some bits of melody were familiar though. Not being utterly lost is progress, I guess.

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

October 23rd, 2009: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – Rosas Danst Rosas

@théatre de la ville

Wow. That was such a great show. And I really lucked out on the lineup because of some personal memories. I had not seen Samantha Van Wissen in a while, but I remember clearly that she was part or Rosas during my first years of seeing dance. My memories of Sarah Ludi go back even longer, as she was part of Angelin Preljocaj’s company for one of the very first dance show I ever saw, back in 1992 or so. Then Cynthia Loemij, who is my favorite artist bar none and whose performances have been one of the main reasons I’ve seen so much dance over the past 17 years. And of course Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself.

The first part took place in silence, with the four of them lying down in the back at first, rolling and filling the silence with slaps, bumps and breathing. In a way, the repeated patterns made these sounds musical in the way the everyday gestures integrated in the movements turned abstract and geometrical through duplication and repetition. Then one after the other rose and moved to a diagonal, keeping the same prone patterns. Already a great start.

The second part is my favorite of the show, and one of my favorite dance performances ever. I’d say it tops Fase and ranks up there with Rain at the top. They were sitting on chairs and again turned mundane gestures into something else, with a nod or letting one’s hand fall on their side taking on an intense charge. I loved the music too, it’s percussive quality a good complement to this fast sequence. What made it so special to me was the way they would repeat those movements with an additional dimension brought by the phasing between them. Less tense than Come Out, but with four dancers instead of two this side of the sequence got overwhelming in the best possible way, without the group pattern ever blurring the individual dancers and the specific take of each. It not just the same movements at different times, each was bringing her own way of performing those.

The third part had dancers in a line in the back — a little some parts of Piano Phase in their way of turning — while occasionally one or two would move closer to the stage standing almost still and baring one then two shoulders, with also some taking up of the turning movements. The most striking part for me in that sequence was when Sarah Ludi did just that and what a difference her hands made to the whole effect. A closed hand in contrast to the open hands of the others in the back when turning made a big impression on me.

The fourth part had a physical quality, relentlessly going in lines and especially a big circle toward exhaustion. There were more different movements there, and less of the phasing effect as many ways to pair and combine lines and circles. Again, some specific movements reminded me of other of Anne Terese De Keersmaeker’s shows, but most of all it was some more abstract elements that I think have been often present over the years. Group, sub-groups and individuals interacting without erasing the latter. Her balancing the mundane and the abstract. And her ability to reach an almost pure geometry while embracing the physical side of dance, and putting the effort and rest on display.

The latter was a part of my fondness for the final short sequence, each resting after the demanding run of the fourth, but each also echoing a part of the show. Samantha Van Wissen lying with an extended arm, Cynthia Loemij on a chair in the back, Sarah Ludi standing facing the audience, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker briefly bending her arms in front and back in a familiar gesture. I might be wrong, but I think a saw the last two nodding at each other as in the second part. Here it was really a part of the choreography, but one thing I like about her shows is that dancers usually don’t leave the stage when they’re not dancing, they stand or sit on the side. That’s important to me in the way that it breaks the illusion of ease and blurs the line around dancing proper, temporally but not only that way.

Of course a lot in that show is what she was doing then, and she has changed since. But it’s still current and I’m very happy she brings back those earlier works. I think seeing both an old and a new show in a short time increases my appreciation of both. And even though I think I was lucky to see these dancers, I’d love to see Elizaveta Penkova performing this.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 20th, 2009: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – Zeitung

@théatre de la ville

I’m really glad I gave this one another try. I thought that having seen and loved The Song last year gave me a clue or two about what to look at in Zeitung. That proved roughly correct, with the added benefit of seeing how some elements in the group parts in the second half of Zeitung were also in The Song, but also different, more assertive and expansive somehow.

I think I was overly fixated on the first half the first time I saw the show, because those new movements were clearly different. But this time I both appreciated these better and saw the rest. I still think a lot of these bent limbs and awkward postures are a break with pure lines and prettiness, but they’re also exploring balance, support and momentum. And even if the geometric patterns are not as clear, there is still of lot of that, especially when they’re not made as obvious as during the sequence involving strings. And the running arcs are familiar. So these innovations are pretty much grounded in what she did before, and having seen what came later helped me a lot in making sense of that. It’s not even a break in that she has been doing this building and changing for a long time, so I should have done a better job of figuring it out the first time. The experience also gives me yet another reason to want to see more of the earlier shows, including those I have seen. Seeing her work live and evolve is highly rewarding.

For a work for nine dancers, I thought this one was quite individualistic, in that there were a lot of section with one or a few dancers on stage, and each of them had a specific character. This has always been something I love about her work, but here it went further than usual. Which made the few group sequences stand out, especially the one with them standing in a tight shifting group.

There was another element I loved, but I don’t think it was intentional: Igor Shyshko looked hurt and didn’t seem able to bend much, so another dancer took over most of his part. But instead of having him sit out the show, he was shadowing his replacement in the slower sequences, sometimes skipping a few movements, sometimes standing or sitting on the side before going back in. This doubling was very nice, and another thing I have often seen and loved in Rosas shows: the ability to make the most out of problems or mistakes.

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 16th, 2009: Talibam! / Bülanz Orgabar / Philémon


I like Philémon‘s set overall, even though I often started drifting away from it. But each time there was a change in tone, pattern or texture that brought me back. I thought it was slower than usual, but I have doubts about that now. I really liked the low pulse early on and the additions that kept things interesting.

Bülanz Orgabar delivered my favorite set of the evening, and one of the best ones I’ve heard from them. They built up a good amount of tension, usually without drums and the faster and noisier moments where not long or hectic enough to release all of it. I liked that a lot, and that was only improved by not expecting that from them. And I thought they were more cohesive in a good — meaning loose — way. Each doing his own thing but still remaining in touch with the others. Maybe I’d have liked it even better with a final breakdown into faster chaos, maybe not.

I couldn’t really find a way into Talibam!‘s set. For some reason something their sound reminded me of Oneida, and thinking about another band is usually not a good sign. And I felt it lacked the frantic energy of other times I’ve seen them. Which I now think was more likely in my perception of it.

I’ve been to four gigs since, and each sounded weirdly slow. Records too, so that’s on me. I’m not going to post anything about those gigs or others until this fades. I was getting sick of some aspects of this blog anyway.

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

October 15th, 2009: Mangeclous / Flat Forme / EDH / GNG


One of the usual places, but a different scene, and I liked it enough to want to keep track of other Lentonia Records events.

GNG opened with a set very different from what I’m used to. Not so much the music as the attitude, as they were goofing around in a marked contrast with those serious/gloomy/angry/overweird acts. Nice music too, with some samples that put it close to avant-retard, though not that avant to say the truth. I would have liked them to go further in that direction, that would have kept me locked in longer, but it was a nice enough change as it was.

EDH was different from both GNG and my usual fare. Not that long the eightiesish sound would have put me off, but I’m OK with that now. I liked the end of the set better than the beginning, maybe because I moved closer along the way. I do like her voice anyway. And there were diverse enough sounds in that short set to have me interested in hearing her again later.

Speaking of short sets, Flat Forme’s was just as short as the previous time I saw them. I liked it better despite its imperfections, or maybe because of those. There are sounds I just love in this music, but there’s also something direct and a lack of pretense I like a lot. Maybe I just need a break from all this experimental stuff. A melody isn’t that scary, once in a while.

I liked Mangeclous‘ set less, but I liked it anyway. The voice was way too low in the beginning, which hurt the set because the rest was sequenced stuff. On the other hand, I really liked the way he put together those diverse elements — especially his voice/guitar vs the samples — and that unfortunate mix had me pay more attention to it. I have to wonder what he would sound like playing with other musicians. It could dilute his stuff, but that might also provide the  spark I felt was close but not quite there.

Cool enough gig, also the last one before I ran into a spell of hearing weirdness that will probably keep me from writing much about music until I get that speed issue fixed.

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

October 14th, 2009: François Verret – Do You Remember, No I Don’t

@théatre de la ville

I’m not all that keen about François Verret’s work, there a deep relationship to written word that makes it very hard for me to relate. But on the other hand he pulls out some really strong images that make his work interesting to me.

This one was another case in point, talkative to distraction but with compelling bits. The whole show was more like snapshots put together, but in a way that made sense. Those felt like fragments, but they were also a glimpse of a shredded whole, so that the disparate segments built up a coherent whole.

Still, the separateness felt taxing. The sequence with a fake-stumbling dancer in front of images of rooms a dilapidated building was my favorite because the dance and video fed off each other. A pendulum/lights contraption in another sequence wasn’t working as well for me because it dominated the dancer into making him a mere operator. Then again, that might have been intentional.

Anyway, Verret’s work got intriguing again, and I have to grant brownie points for pulling in Ani Kuni. Jokes aside, there were a bunch of striking images, and the overall (un)-structure of the work was great. This remains a bit too intellectual for me, but the “air” sequences were very nice again, one with fan/light coming together to both pin and liberate a dancer and another with wormish flexible pipes, one of which held a dancer who turned it into a dress.

I’ve been left baffled by his work before, but this time as the previous one, the difference was all about those fans and air generally. He has a strong relationship with words and gravity — this time it was coal and a pendulum, but his earlier integration of acrobats were more of the same to me. I can’t relate much to that. But over the last few years I’ve been seeing other things going on underneath, and those have shown me a way in. I’ve been painfully slow in going through, but I think I’m starting to get it a little more. Which is rewarding, because there’s a lot in there.

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment