Gigs, dance, art

WFMU Marathon

It’s that time of the year again. Time to give back to the best radio station in the world and make sure it keeps broadcasting. They are listener-supported, and that means us.

Despite the though economic climate and last year marathon’s failure to reach the target, they managed to keep putting great music out there for us to hear, giving much-needed exposure to many of the musicians I’ve written about, and many more I wish I could hear live. And as if it wasn’t enough, they also are the main force behind the free music archive, and have launched two alternate streams, Ichiban for 50’s/60’s rock/soul and an alternate UbuWeb stream for further confusion/enlightenment. As if the programming wasn’t enough.

So if you’ve enjoyed any of this in the past, go over here and pledge! They’ll even send cool stuff your way. Those DJ premiums are very much worth checking out, most of these are comps lovingly put together by people with an extensive record collection and even more extensive knowledge. Rare gems galore.

Though for me the best thing I get from my yearly pledge is having the station around. I’ll soon be out of a job, but I saved all year for this and nothing will stop me from giving back a little for all they’ve brought me over the years. Priorities, people.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Life, Music | Leave a comment

February 26th, 2010: Frédéric Blondy – John Butcher – Peter Evans – Paul Lovens – Clayton Thomas

@instants chavirés

It was nice seeing so many people in attendance for a change. I had seen all of these musicians before, but never together. It worked pretty well, though I tend to think they didn’t stray that far from their respective comfort zone. Paul Lovens and Clayton Thomas seemed to feed off each other very nicely though. Frédéric Blondy was often drowned out, the good side to that is that they all played loud. All too often these free improvisation musicians use the same approaches, avoiding anything that might sound like the way their instruments usually sound. None of that here, and John Butcher even went with a few melodic phrases — overall he was probably the most wide-ranging of the five. I felt Peter Evans was quite different from the others, but he had a knack for making his music mesh with the others anyway.

I liked the way they would pick what one was doing and build on that or take it in another direction. Lovens seemed to be more of a driving force early on, but it balanced out as the set progressed. It was a nice set, but I still think it didn’t break much ground. They’re all good, it was indeed nice to hear them go at it this way, but there wasn’t any moment that stopped me cold. Good set, a little short of great — but I think it could easily have been.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 24th, 2010: Signe Lidén

@société de curiosités

More drones! I really like that, so I just had to go. The technical side of the resonator setup eludes me, but I like the results. Signe Lidén did two sets, she described the first as quiet and the second as less quiet. I guess there’s truth to that, in that the second was definitely louder and featured more changes.

I think I liked the first set better though. The drones had time to claim the space around me, and when two or more piled up, their interactions unfolded gradually in a very satisfying way. Granted, not much going on, but may small things that made my day.

The pace of the second set was faster, with more of a difference between sounds and a few twists I liked a lot. At the end of her set, she placed a metal grid over that big metal drum and played that to generate higher pitched sounds that were completely different from the backdrop of drones yet matched them somehow. Very cool sets, I’m glad I dragged myself over there.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | 1 Comment

February 22nd, 2010: Deflag Haemorraghe/Haien Kontra / Howard Stelzer

@instants chavirés

Maybe they didn’t expect many people to show up, anyway Mattin and Tim Goldie took up most of the space. I’m usually not a fan of Mattin’s performances, but this one was really good, albeit a little long. I didn’t care much for the theatrics, but it was loud and they used that and silence to great effect. Those loud outbursts of noise would give way to a silence that still remembered the latest blast and there was a very nice tension when expecting the next one. It was the first time Mattin lived up to his considerable reputation in my experience. His screaming “I’m so free” and randomly covering people’s eyes and ears didn’t make sense, but they felt right in context.

I just wish they had been faster about it, because I liked Howard Stelzer‘s set a lot, and I felt a little cheated by how short it was. He uses tape as a material and I’m all for that, and he built up a mechanical drone I’d have liked to hear longer. It reminded me of my favorite installments of Dan Bodah’s dronecast series, only better because it was live and more dynamic, with the drone changing along the short set. There’s something very physical about tape that I love and he seemed to use that very quality in his music. The set was way too short in my opinion, though I could listen to this kind of music for hours, so I’m biased.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | 2 Comments

February 20th, 2010: Spykes / Regression / Faceneck

@instants chavirés

At least Faceneck gets points for energy and engagement. I’m not sold on what they’re doing from a purely musical standpoint, but the way they went at it felt real good. That means something for me, I’m not bored to the point of dismissing those who seem to care. Might make me a sucker, but that’s still better than a cynic in my opinion. I don’t thing they’re bringing anything new, but if they’re living it, I say more power to them.

Regression is a really interesting project. More so to me than Wolf Eyes to me, maybe because I’m a latecomer. There were some highly interesting sounds, with texture to them. I mean it’s sound you could get a hold of and it had weight. More clay than mud. Something still shifting but with a mind of its own. And Nate Young got the upper hand in that struggle. Good set, made me think I should reappraise Wolf Eyes.

No such questioning with Spykes. Nice set, skilled with several instruments including a pipe contraption with twin outward pipes, but that looked squarely on the showy side, my main gripe with Wolf Eyes come to think of it. But I think I would have respected it more had he done the whole set with it. Still a little too smooth for me overall.

There was an encore with Young and Olson. I really liked that, it felt free from any solo project pressure and short of Wolf Eyes expectations. These guys have a lot to live up to, that’s just unfair. They have done so much in many ways, and are still at it. I was critical of Olson’s performance tonight, but I’m still deeply appreciative of his overall contribution. The same goes for Young. I keep the spot judgment about this particular evening in perspective, and that makes my opinion insignificant squared.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

February 19th, 2010: Valerio Tricoli / Radu Malfatti & Klaus Filip

@instants chavirés

I knew I was taking a chance, but it was too intriguing to pass up. Maybe my hearing just isn’t good enough for something that quiet, but I didn’t like the first set. Klaus Filip was mostly getting sine waves out of his laptop, but more on the low side and quite faint. Radu Malfatti managed to get a clear and deep sound despite the low volume. My first problem is that having basically a single ear working, most of their stuff was out of reach. What did get through seemed new and interesting at first, but after five minutes or so it got to being just more of the same and I just lost interest.

Valerio Tricoli made it worthwhile. The start of his set had very good use of tape, with loops and play with speed and direction. It had been a while since I’d heard someone make such good use of the cycling potential of a tape loop. He didn’t stick to that though and added his mixing board and voice. He switched sounds a couple of times more, actually. But I probably only noticed that with some delay because it went along with the flow of the set. I think there was quite a range in the kind of sounds he used and how he brought them along, but most of it fell into place in a bigger scheme. I liked a lot of the material, and I liked the way he used it as well. As far as I’m concerned, a very good set.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

February 17th, 2010: Hofesh Shechter – Uprising / In your rooms

@théatre de la ville

Seeing for the first time work from a choreographer I had never heard of but really like is a great feeling. Hofesh Shechter brought that to me, and I hope he’ll become a regular over here. Especially because even with this small sample size, there were already hints that he’s building something. In your rooms quoted movements from the slightly earlier Uprising, and in a way that made clear it was intentional. There might have been a little too much post-modern distance, but it was nicely rendered harmless by the physical engagement and the drumming. Not exactly a promising choreographer, he’s already delivering on those promises.

Uprising started a little too close to expectations with its aggressive interactions, but that went away in a hurry. There were a few striking individual moments, like the guy running with his arms outstretched but bent a little — that was used again in the other piece — but what I liked best were the group dynamics. Groups would form, split or meld seamlessly for most of the show, but each dancer kept a separate identity and that made the groups morph along. The way dancers crossed the stage, often in a sliding crouch, gave a sense of getting a glimpse of a bigger world, and doing that with such simple tools impressed me a lot. Another favorite moment involved shoulder movements on a lighted line in front of the stage.

The lighting was really good in the first piece, but it was even better in In your rooms, a crucial part indeed, and Lee Curran deserves a shout out. The light brought groups in and out of view, again giving a sense of snapshots of something wider going on, because they were already in motion and didn’t stop before disappearing. At first there was a screen in front that enhanced the effect, but it did work just as well without it. That feeling was made possible by the dance itself, which used a lot of repetitive back-and-forth elements, or longer term cycles, in both cases it was easy to imagine this going on both before and after. At times the whole stage would come into view, usually for bigger groups that also displayed Shechter’s mastery of those. All those dancers would only rarely be doing the same thing, and most of that seemed to be setting up the subgroups splitting into variants, with a fluid membership that didn’t break the rhythms at all, adding another dimension to it as the overall distribution of movement evolved. In contrast to the first piece, the dancers were much more interchangeable parts here, but that didn’t hurt because it was consistent with the off-on-off lighting. The individuality did come through, but over the long run, in a subdued way. Maybe as proof that there was no set boundary, there was also a full lights on part with a dancer drawing a line across the stage, then others stepping on the stage then retreating. Still that off-on-off thing though.

There’s so much more to these, and I already wish I could see In your rooms again because I’m sure I missed a lot. This one feels like a statement to me, and maybe I can look forward to him revisiting it in the future. In the meantime, I’m eager to see more of his work, hopefully next year.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment