Gigs, dance, art

June 19th, 2010: Elsie Else festival

@instants chavirés

Too bad not many people showed up, I guess that’s another of the problems with having so much going on in June. That and maybe the lack of a big name to draw people. But the whole point for me is to hear many sets covering a wide range of music, without any clear pecking order. The Elsie Else festival is great for that, and this third edition was just as good as the previous ones. But I still think I would have been more receptive had it taken place in a less busy month.

Alexandre Navarro quickly ran into technical problems and had to switch to another amp, which was probably tough for him as his set seemed to be all about nuances within a consistent sound. As it was I felt it was just too much of the same, except at the very end when he crouched to play the pedals only. That part was nice, but I still liked better his performance in the first edition. Industrial Mechanics are a rock band, which was unexpected here, which is a good thing. A bit too mundane for me, though the more metal parts were pretty nice if a little short. Toba again used beautiful sounds, but there were times — especially at first — when these sounds were a little too much on their own. I think her music is great when she has other elements going in and out to provide a moving backdrop. She did that too, but less that in other sets, so that I loved half of her set, and felt the rest came a little short. That’s the problem with her previous performances raising my expectations to an unrealistic level. I should hear her play more than once a year, that should fix that.

Maybe I was distracted by the next guy setting up next to him, but I didn’t really got into Jackie Chan Orchestra‘s set. A bit too regular laptop noise, at least in that setting. Not bad, but not enough to keep me focused. But he deserves major props for segueing into the next set, I like that attitude a lot. Even though I didn’t like Die Wurst-Brüke Sound System Povera. Too much bells and whistles visually, it got distracting and rubbed me the wrong way. And when I stopped looking I also stopped focusing and pretty much ignored it. Maybe in a less busy time I would have paid more attention. Or another place better suited to his act. Un Escargot Vide? was great. I usually hate hearing kids voices, but this time I didn’t even find it grating, it found its place in the music and was such a part of it that even I wouldn’t want to take it out. It may be a little too pretty at times, but I’m really starting to enjoy this music. So of course he’ll be going to Asia for a while and I won’t get to hear him again for a long time.

Back to noise with ZRL and Tokage. One had a laptop and the other a sprawling array of pedals, boards and electronics. I liked this a lot, there were rhythmic subtexts as well as a very nice physical element, both in the overall sound and in some details, some vibrations that were as much felt as heard. Really nice. Sonic Surgeon started with a couple of mics and played with feedback, which was very nice. Then he went into a very eightiesish part of the set, and the beatbox got on my nerves, spoiling it for me. I don’t care much for the lyrics either, but those were easy enough to ignore. The hope-loop as horn was really nice, so that overall there was more stuff I liked than not. I guess I could hear the cosmic part in Cosmic Super Niao Niao‘s music, some sounds were something like prog meets old school special effects. That sounded weird in a bad way at first, but it made sense and the music put forth a consistent universe. Not exactly my kind of thing, but well done and nice enough to keep me interested to the end of the set.

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

June 18th, 2010: Sizero Table Experience

@cité de la musique

Wow, that was the worst concert I’ve been to in years. A lot of people seemed to like it though. At first Talvin Singh wasn’t there, he had a couple songs alone on tabla that were kind of the highlight for me even though it fell far short of what I’ve seen him do in previous shows. And that was the best part. The rest ranged from embarrassing to stinking crap in my opinion. These guys are supposed to know their stuff, so seeing that guy play guitar hero on sitar was puzzling, to put it mildly — I’m sure it was a plain rip-off. A shameful display, and that’s being kind. I’m not sure which was worse of the slowed-down Kathak or the cheesy video. The dance was so pretty and mellow — which is so totally wrong with Kathak — but the awful morphing from MLK to Gandhi to Mandela to my-mind-went-mercifully-blank-before-it-got-to-Bono.

That was the worst gig in a long while for me. The stench will be hard to dispel. Shame on you, Talvin Singh. Shame on me if I get suckered into seeing you again in that kind of rip-off exploitation of your past glory.

I really was interested in what he would learn from his stay in India. Seems it was all about making a quick buck from gullible westerners. Sad, but deserved, so I can’t really complain that much.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

June 17th, 2010: Fourcolor / Tomoko Sauvage

@instants chavirés

I missed Tomoko Sauvage a while ago and had been eager to make up for this lapse. I heard she ran into some technical difficulties, which may account for some flatter moments. But her performance was good enough for me. If that was a poor one, sign me up for the next one — please do so anyway. I loved the raw sounds of water hitting those bowls, and her contribution showed an affinity with water that brought these raw sounds to an unexpected level. It might have mined the original vein a little too long, but the sounds were very much worth it and more, even offsetting the obnoxious guy next to me who steadily pushed me further away. If that was a bad set, I can’t wait to hear a good one. I loved this and I think it’s one of those times when I both enjoy the moment and feel it can get even better. I really hope I’ll get to hear her again, she’s got it, whatever “it” is.

I skipped the next set for various dubious reasons, and maybe I should have called it quits earlier. I think Fourcolor is the kind of project that sounds better on a record than live. After the elemental immediacy of Tomoko Sauvage, this set was much to laptopish for me. I don’t mind the sound-focused set as much as it emphasis on processing. My main gripe with his set got very clear when he played a chord his laptop made sound like a wave. The first time was weak but tolerable, but it got so old quickly for me. Maybe it was too much of a contrast between his laptop and Tomoko’s mineral mastery, with both related to water but only one embracing it. I know which side I’m on; maybe I could have liked his music if he had opened for her, but I was still too impressed by her sounds to get this.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

June 16th, 2010: Jan Fabre – Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day


This was probably the last dance show of the season for me before the long boring summer. Over the past few years I’ve grown increasingly bored by Jan Fabre‘s shows, but that doesn’t apply when he writes a solo for a dancer. The twist was that it was written for Ivana Jozic but this time Artemis Stavridi performed it. That can’t be easy, but she made it hers — though I have not seen it performed by the original dancer.

Besides the intensity of these solo works, I like how they reach a delicate balance between dance and a purely visual side. Here the stage featured stacks of coal with toy trains running over and around some of them, and a bunch of bird cages hanging high enough not to be an obstruction, but low enough to be props when needed and to be set swinging close to the end. There was also a rocking chair in the front right corner, that one time moved haltingly on its own.

At first I thought the text — a suicide letter detailing a planned jump from a series bridges — was getting tedious, but the repetition and small details about the bridges grew on me. And the music included Bobby Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe, which immediately reminded me of Laura Cantrell for a reason that should be obvious to anyone familiar with her show on The Station. The text made sense on its own, and also in the context of the song, and I think it was rich enough to allow different viewpoints.

There was some of that with the dance too. It was clearly organized in parts with a kind of movement in each one at first, that came together later. But they could also be seen as forming a narrative, or rather several alternative possible one came to my mind. There was some drunken stumbling as well as whirling virtuosity, mechanical carrying of lumps of coal as well as an intense physical immediacy. And none of the teenage provocation that bored me in some of his last few shows. It all made sense in more than on way, held together by the dancer’s presence, the text and an aesthetic vision generous enough to include more than reduce. It was good to see him put his many facets together in this way, and I think his ability to again find a dancer to embody and nourish his vision shows he can still be more than the caricature into which he sometimes lets himself stumble.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

June 15th, 2010: Keiji Haino – Eric Cordier

@instants chavirés

Keiji Haino again. Well I like his music a lot, and he does so many things I think he could play several days in a row without repeating himself all that much. And he was joined by Eric Cordier playing hurdy gurdy, and that sounded very interesting. And it was, at least when I could hear what he was doing, because most of the time Keiji Haino was so loud that he was too often reduced to a drone.

So I quickly took the set as almost a solo act, but it was a great one. Well over two hours long, it featured many facets of his music, mainly on the loud side. He played guitar most of the time, but he also used electronics and used his voice in many ways and ranges — unlike the previous show where he stuck to higher notes. He even concluded the set with what I think were covers, though he makes these songs to totally his that there’s just a few words or a chord progression that somehow ring a bell, and calling these covers is highly misleading.

As a solo set, it would have been great, but I think Eric Cordier made it even better, despite his being almost drowned out too often, because what I did hear made brought depth to the music. And the beginning of the set saw them create beautiful sound landscapes that would have been well worth hearing had the show stayed there. It didn’t, and I don’t regret that embarrassment of riches at all. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity to actually hear more of that hurdy gurdy sometime.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

June 13th, 2010: Keiji Haino – Makoto Kawabata – Jean-François Pauvros


I had some misgivings about that show; these three are talented, but there’s always the ego issue to consider when those kind of personalities meet. At first I thought those fears were stop on: Makoto Kawabata and Jean-François Pauvros were bowing their guitars and Keiji Haino was playing on his own. The first two have played together several times in the past, and that 2+1 setup was just what I thought might happen.

But they seemed to find some common ground later when they played louder, and the set took off. Though I kept feeling that Keiji Haino was still a little more apart. Then again, he’s the one I like best of the three and am the most familiar with, so that might have been just me focusing on him. The second set started louder and faster than the first, other than that it was quite consistent with it. I liked Pauvros better in that set than in the first, maybe I just paid more attention.

It worked better than I feared it would, but still it wasn’t the meeting it might have been. I had the feeling they found some workable compromise to play together and pretty much stuck with it, with occasional individual forays that didn’t stray all that much, and weren’t really seized as an invitation for more by the others. It was nice, but still not what I know these guys can do.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

June 12th, 2010: Sacred drums of India

@théatre de la ville

That’s a somewhat pompous name, but they at least endorsed it during the initial introduction. I liked that one of them took time to explain a few things about the pieces they were playing, it was helpful for me because I’m still at a loss to figure out much on my own. There were five musicians, and four kinds of drums. Subhankar Banerjee played tabla, Bhawani Shankar pakhawaj, Gopal Barman shreekhol — new to me, with a nice sound if which I’d like to hear more –, Suresh Vaidyanathan gatham and Rakesh Chaurasia stood out playing flute.

Chaurasia seemed very important to me, in that he provided a more melodic otherness for the drums to integrate with. That was made obvious when he left at the end, and the remaining musicians took a solo in turn. I liked the show, but I think the limit of this kind of thing is that it ended up feeling like an introduction somehow. They are all good enough to me more prominent, and that made me want to hear more of them, but with no more than maybe two at a time, and preferably just one in an ensemble. But being a beginner this was nice to hear this as an introduction — anything more that took place went straight over my head — and it succeeded in making me more interested.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment