Gigs, dance, art

April 26th, 2010: Dum Dum Boys / Opera Mort / Fred Bigot – Vincent Epplay – Arnaud Maguet

@salle olympe de gouges

Just a single-night Sonic Protest event, but the festival should be back this fall. That big room looked just huge at first, but it worked out pretty well.

The high stage came in handy for the video displayed in the back during the set by Fred Bigot, Vincent Epplay and Arnaud Maguet. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but even I could see it from the back. As advertised, there was a definite tripped out side to their music, but the processed voice and drum loops added a nice twist to the more predictable guitar wails. I really liked the balance within the project and the krautish longer songs. On the other hand, I thought it was getting a bit too much of the same thing by the end of the set.

The big room also allowed Opera Mort to eschew the stage altogether and play in the middle, which I think is the right setup for them. The sound was also much bigger than anytime I had heard them, and that allowed me to grab more of what was going on. I really like their music, so that alone may have been enough for it to be my favorite set in a while, but they sealed the deal by making each of the three parts quite different while equally good. The first had the most pounding beat, making clear that it was noise to dance to — what a concept. I felt the second had a colder undercurrent in its persistent patterns, while the third switched to less driving beats but with a higher noise pulse. The same way there are several layers of sound with the beats, processed voice and electronics, I could hear bits of many disparate things thrown in that brew. Totally great show.

After that blast, Dum Dum Boys just sounded too mundane for me. I don’t dispute their energy or skill, but to my ears they were just a rock band, so I couldn’t sustain much interest.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 24th, 2010: Subhra Guha


I have to wonder whether I’ll finally get Indian music at all. I’m still trying, but this time was yet another one when I just couldn’t.

Subhra Guha sang most of the set, with short bit from the harmonium player — I guess she’s a pupil of hers. I guess this performance was so centered on the voice that the melodic element dominated the rhythmic one, because I think I could follow the latter. Which may be why I didn’t like it much, as I probably focused too much on what I could follow when it wasn’t the point at all.

Of course, she’s a talented singer, but I think her style demanded a much better grasp of what was going on than I had. It’s getting pretty frustrating, but I guess more exposure is my only shot at maybe getting in someday. Quite possibly to realize I don’t really like it — judging from my musical affinities — but right now I don’t even understand enough to say for sure.

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

April 23rd, 2010: Antilles / France Sauvage / La Ligne Claire / MAH


I was not feeling too well and almost skipped this one, but I really wanted to hear MAH — Miho, Alexandre Bellenger, and Hendrik Hegray — and all those canceled gigs because of that ash thing made me eager to hear some live music. MAH was pretty good, with axes of stability from rhythmic samples and a drone-like line beneath, that got ditched progressively, but not completely. More like a change of focus. Interesting though not totally up to its potential. This may be the point though.

I guess I wasn’t in the right mood for La Ligne Claire. They bring a lot of energy to the table, and I like their DIY feel. But I just lacked the energy myself to take it all in as it should, and that made me feel I missed the mark. Happens.

I think I finally got why so many people have been praising France Sauvage for a while now. Third time’s the charm, it’s about time. I was quite impressed by their use of records as samples, but the whole thing was both driven and interesting, with a sound personal enough to set them apart. I’m officially punching my ticket for that particular bandwagon.

While I’m on the subject of finally seeing the light, I thought several times while Antilles were playing that Lionel Fernandez wasn’t loud enough. I only caught the start of their set though, I chickened out and left to catch a train home. What I did hear wasn’t their best set in my opinion. There was this relentless pounding, but something seemed missing. That when it dawned on me that I’d grown to like Fernandez’ play, which would have shocked me a couple of years ago. Maybe I’m not too set in my ways to learn something, yet.

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 19th, 2010: Chen Santa Maria / Ero Babaa / Gmackrr – Brandon Valdivia / Etienne Brunet


I think Etienne Brunet‘s set was my favorite. I liked the unexpectedly melodic saxophone with a drone background that matched well the title he gave beforehand — tinnitus. It wasn’t out of place at all in my opinion, and a brought welcome free jazz bits in the mix. I was told later it was actually raga-based, which gives rise to other interpretations.

I liked Gmackrr‘s music the first time I heard her, and I thought the start of her set with Brandon Valdivia was great, with the percussion element meshing well and adding a new dimension. I didn’t think that held that well at the end of the set though. But there’s definitely something interesting going on there.

Then another onslaught from Ero Babaa. I think I never heard the sax that well before in their sets, as if that mattered that much anyway. They did their thing, which may not amount to much musically, but they had a good sound, and the engagement it takes to make such a thing work. And it did work, so it was well worth it.

Chen Santa Maria were the most regular sounding with guitars and effects, but the set was interesting anyway. I tend to like these sets where small structures are built only to be torn down. Maybe the tearing down was a little too fast sometimes though. It’s not as much that it didn’t leave enough time than that the timing got a little bit predictable. Nice enough though.

Romaric Sobac also performed this night, but I was outside and missed all but the last five seconds or so.

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 15th, 2010: Lucinda Childs

@théatre de la ville

So much for keeping this thing up to date, but I was off from work and somehow I felt like it should apply to this blog as well. Maybe a sign this thing has run its course.

I probably was seated way too close to the stage for what Lucinda Childs had in mind, but I think it turned out to be a good thing. But more on that later.

I liked the first part better. Songs from Before is much more recent, but it’s only part of the point. Those lines with dancers walking across the stage were just what I expected, but soon they stopped and added duets that were part what I expected but also something much more involved than what I just wasn’t expecting from a choreographer I tend to associate with the abstract, and with another company to boot. It may be relative, but it was a jolt. Plus the stage setting was just perfect. Those alternating strips of transparent and reflective material made for a great sensory experience when the pace picked up. And that’s when I was glad to be so close, because for all the abstract and downright geometrical side of it, I could see the sweat and effort it took to get it done. I hope that wasn’t intentional — because few people could see that — but it’s what made this performance better for me.

Dance was more of a letdown. Being so close the film part was just out of my reach. Fair enough as the closeness was such a positive thing for the first part. But I just got that icy feeling that I was watching past history. I could clearly see what this all owed to Cunningham. And I could just as clearly see what some of my favorite choreographers owe to her. This particular piece seemed to react against its being locked into some museum room yet, but its predictability said it belonged there. I think the piece itself has run its course and is an important part of dance history. But I also think its legacy is far from settled. In my opinion, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Brice Leroux are different paths that have some relevance, in totally different ways. But still, I think they own some kind of debt to the ground this particular piece broke in its time.

Still, what about the dance itself? Well there was a lot of Cunningham’s influence in my opinion, in that it lacked room for the dancers to stake their ground, which is the negative way of stating what De Keersmaeker got so amazingly right. But it’s probably easier to transmit too. I think it was a good fit for these dancers, which is both praise for their ability to rise to the task and a questioning of the ability of such a repertoire body to take over from choreographers who have taken the idea of an individual performer a little bit further.

My words are so inadequate for what remains a great moment in dance history. But I’m from the next generation, which is already obsolete too.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

April 13th, 2010: Alexandre Bellenger

@société de curiosités

Each of the two sets began with a recorded piece, then a live one. I’m not that fond of writing about recorded pieces, so I’ll just drop a few words and move on. The first had an interesting collage effect, from the deep rumbling at the beginning to more prevalent snippets of songs, with moments of quiet outlining those strips. I liked the second better, not surprising as it featured sounds from records and turntables. It had the cycles and mechanical sounds I enjoy.

Plok 2 was performed by Quentin Dubost and Julien Skrobek. The score defined what they had to play, but not when, so there was an improvisation side in the timing. Maybe the material was stretched over too long, but I thought they spent too much time alternating. They did play more at the same time later on, but I still think they listened a bit too much. I guess that’s where the improvisation habits really showed, but the constraints about what they would play made those less relevant. I think a denser version would have forced them to shed those.

Dice piece for three samplers had a playful side but was interesting. The durations of segments for each sampler had been randomly selected during the two previous events of the series, with each segment featuring a single sound, but the performer had total discretion as to how often to play it. At times a rhythm and a structure would emerge, but the changes made them break down soon. The performers — Avril Bénard, Karine Ducours, and Edith Msika — could have kept them going, but they went with the flow and kept changing the pace. I think it was a successful experiment, and a fitting way to end Alexandre Bellenger’s series of shows here.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 11th, 2010: Thrones / Nadja / Ovo

@instants chavirés

I’m skipping one week because I’m tired of being so much behind. I guess getting so late in the first place is a sign of my waning interest, but the backlog was making that worse.

I was afraid I’d have grown tired of Ovo, but no, I still like them. Sure, the element of surprise is gone, but they’re a good live band and that’s what counts. If anything, I felt their music has grown more solid and get some more substance. It could just as well be me getting used to the vocals so that they’re no longer a distraction. Her voice is part of the appeal, but I suspect I had been focusing on it a little to much.

Nadja‘s was my favorite set. I love the way they add a melodic element without putting a dent in their wall of noise. It may make their music less experimental, but I don’t think I care. And anyway, a lot of the more extreme stuff sounds so familiar to me it’s become expected. For me at least, they strike the right balance. And it was a treat to hear them live again. The records are nice, but they’re no substitute to feeling the music fill up the space.

Thrones remains puzzling to me. It’s all good stuff, powerful with something else too. But for some reason I enjoyed the set without it leaving a lasting impression. On some level I know I should like this music much more, it has all the right elements for it. But I’m just appreciating it, without really getting it. That’s a nagging discrepancy, but the set was nice enough, so I shouldn’t be complaining.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment