Gigs, dance, art

November 11th, 2010: Japanese New Music Festival

@instants chavirés

Seven quite short sets by three musicians: Kawabata Makoto, Tsuyama Atsushi, and Yoshida Tatsuya. I had seen an earlier edition a few years back, so I pretty much knew what to expect. The sets are a little short for it to be all that interesting, but the spirit of the performances is just fine.

I think I liked the solo sets better when it comes to the music itself, especially Ruins Alone with its speed and technical proficiency that always left a lot of room for ideas. Kawabata’s set was fine in a quiet way, but I’ve seen him so much that there was no surprise there. Tsuyama’s set was a little too close to classic rock at times, but had its moments too.

The collaborative projects were more playful and set the special tone of these events. Of course that was most obvious during the “Miles Davis impersonation” — quotes mandatory — at the end of the Zoffy set. But I think the final vocal set of Zubi Zuva X captured that too, and was more to my liking. Akaten proved tamer than the first time I’d heard them, maybe they couldn’t find enough ingredients. Acid Mothers Temple SWR was fast and furious from the beginning, and included some classics, but I thought it was a little too short to compare with regular AMT performances. Then again, that was not the point, and that was a fun evening on its own terms.

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

November 11th, 2010: Camel Zekri & Africa Sound Kwartet Society

@conservatoire de Montreuil

The first part of that show feature the Africa Sound Kwartet Society alone, later they were joined by guests. Besides Zekri’s guitar, the quartet includes percussion, samples, voice and theremin. Not a common lineup, but strangely enough the music itself was closer to mainstream jazz than I expected. That’s not a bad thing, I can enjoy that once in a while, and it had been a while. And though good musicians, they didn’t let their skills take the upper hand, showing a restraint and focus on the music itself that I can appreciate. I may pass next time, though, it’s just not all that interesting to me these days.

Then they were joined by Yacouba Moumouni and Atau Tanaka. That was the part I liked best. Moumouni’s flute brought another element that was just enough to disturb the quartet’s routine while his skill was at least on par with theirs. I’d like to hear Atau Tanaka on his own or in a smaller band. He was drowned out for the most part, but what I heard was intriguing. I’m not really interested in those fancy controllers, but the continuity of the gestures opens interesting avenues — not unlike the theremin come to think of it — and he seemed to have ideas I’d like to hear pushed further. But there were too many other and louder things going on to pick out what he was doing, except at first and at the end of this part of the show, when he went solo for a while. My preference would be to hear him paired with another musician, but alone would probably do.

The third part added three musicians from Niger, who took the show into a different direction. Both traditional sounds from the instrument and a hip-hop feel from the MC. But I didn’t like it much. By then there was too many people on stage, and I thought the many sounds took something from each other. I think I would have liked the parts more than this particular sum.

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

November 10th, 2010: Merce Cunningham – Roaratorio

@théatre de la ville

I could only have a ticket for one of the two programs of the Merce Cunningham company, but the choice was easy: I just love Cage’s Roaratorio. That turned out to be a mixed blessing, though. First, I was seated on a side and quite close to the stage, which meant the sound wasn’t that good and I missed a lot of the soundtrack. Second, the music was so good that it was distracting and I sometimes had caught myself not focusing enough on the dance.

On the other hand, I liked the way the dance matched the music. Not following it, but there were similar ideas sometimes. For instance there were hints of Irish folk dance, but more like bits mixed in with something else, like the music had bits and phrases of Irish music weaving in and out of the dense collage.

I liked the dance itself more than usual. It was less abstract and less obviously technical than the later works, and yet just unmistakably his, and not just because of the familiar tilts here and there. I also thought it was less consistent than usual, and I think that’s a good thing. I mean it featured not just different speeds, but also very different kinds of movements. And there was a sequence with pairs where the dancers looked far more human than usual. What I mean is that is the more recent pieces the technique and virtuosity would take over and when combined with the geometry of the choreography, it gave an abstract and unreal feel. This time the dance was still technically demanding, and they are no less skilled at it, but it was less obvious, and there were moments when the strain was less dominating. The timing look every bit as precise, but without the sharp angles I enjoyed it more.

I also liked that dancers would sometimes just stand or sit in the back instead of leaving the stage. That also echoed that the dancers had been stretching and warming up in street clothes on stage as we filed in. Both put the dance within a context instead of an aloof ideal. Which I think was also a good match for the music.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

November 5th, 2010: Bertrand Gauguet – Olivier Benoit – Lê Quan Ninh

@instants chavirés

I usually like Lê Quan Ninh and Olivier Benoit, and I like this performance too. I had seen Bertrand Gauguet once before, and again I didn’t come out of it with a strong impression. I’m perfectly fine with what he did, and he actually played more regularly than is the sometimes boring norm in the improv scene, but he didn’t stand out either. The others each had a few moments when they just took hold of my attention.

The good thing is that this trio worked well together for most of their single long set. I’d qualify that by acknowledging that I thought the guitar and percussion were more involved and interacting, but that could be just me and my bias speaking. There even were a few times when I wasn’t sure who was responsible for what because the sounds meshed so well. I just love that. A nice performance, one more reason for me to want to hear Olivier Benoit more often.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

October 30th, 2010: Spokfrevo Orquestra

@théatre de la ville

I hadn’t planned to attend this show at first, but another one was canceled earlier in the season and I traded my ticket for this one. I was reluctant because I gave up on music from Brazil. I just don’t like the rhythm that tends to come with it, for some reason. But that was just me being dumb. Brazil is huge, and even if I guess they would tend to export what we expect in Europe, something else might get here.

Spokfevro Orquestra proved me that I was wrong to dismiss Brazilian music so quickly. It’s a big band — 4 each on sax, trumpet and trombone, 3 percussionists, 2 guitar players — that sounded closer to jazz than to what I expected — and dreaded. Which makes total sense. There was something else too, but I don’t know about frevo so I don’t really know how strong that part was. And to my delight I didn’t experience my usual rejection of the rhythm, because it was indeed different.

The show included some soloing, but what I liked best was that the power of the brass never got overwhelming, despite the numbers. Sometimes I had trouble hearing the guitar, but I wasn’t really focusing on them anyway, I was more interested in the percussion, as usual. The music was both familiar and different, and even if it’s still not the kind of music I’d tend to listen to — neither my area nor my era — I liked it at the time, and that was a pleasant surprise.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

October 29th, 2010: KK Null / Tell / Eryck Abecassis

@instants chavirés

Eryck Abecassis started on a twin necked guitar before switching to a laptop. Both parts had their moments, and featured some very nice sounds, especially during the laptop part. But I think I still liked the first one better, because it was shorter. I thought he had interesting ideas, but he tented to dwell on each for a little too long. It wasn’t exactly showy — despite the guitar — but I thought there was a whiff of indulging.

Tell features Joke Lanz on turntables and Christian Wolfarth on percussion. I like both turntables and Sudden Infant, so I had somewhat elevated hopes for this. I’m not all that convinced though. What Lanz did was fine with me for the most part, but I thought Wolfarth overextended some ideas. But I’ll readily admit that this project work pretty well as a unit. I suspect I wasn’t in the right mood, because what turned me away was pretty close to what I didn’t like in the first set.

Iguess my mood was better suited for KK Null. He sticked to electronics this time, and there was always something happening. More than one something, usually. There was a beat at times, but not always, and it was often besides the point. His sounds were just as creative as what the first set had to offer, but not as polished, and that translates to “better” for me. And I liked the way the set evolved over time, with new bits coming in and replacing others before they had a chance to get old. It was well done and quite controlled, but I think that part came from knowing his stuff well enough to keep things moving and interesting without having to take a lot of chances. That may be a limitation, but it’s not a big one at that level.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

October 27th, 2010: Maguy Marin – Salves


I didn’t remember I had a ticket for that show, because I hadn’t liked a show by Maguy Marin in many years. I’m glad I took a chance, because I really liked most of this one.

Even the opening sequence, with dancers coming from seats in the audience and running their hands on threads that may or not have been there (I just don’t know; I thought I saw them sometimes, but I could easily have been fooled by the dancers). That ambiguity got my attention. The four big reel-to-reel players did too, of course, come to think of it their occasional activation may have been a little too distracting, but I love that stuff.

This was another instance of a show featuring on-and-off lighting that would briefly pick out small sequences. This is getting tedious, but in that case I liked it. Some sequences were repeated, but usually not too closely. There was one with a dancer picking up shards of a plate, vase of statue and putting them together tentatively. A longer one had dancers setting up a table until one dropped a plate. My favorite had a dancer standing next to a wall with hands coming from his side to cover his eyes, then another one took his place and hands covered her ears, and finally the hands covered the mouth of the third one. I had the feeling these bits would maybe fit like the shards into a bigger picture, but I didn’t want to pursue that too much. It was fine as a dreamlike feeling, and at times I caught myself thinking of Inland Empire because of that construction. Which is high praise for me.

Another repeated sequence had dancers building a platform by throwing boards around before putting them down of a structure. These platforms became part of the show from then on, and that was a nice touch. There were too many small sequences like this to mentions, some with slight variations, some identical, and also some that didn’t come back but shared something with the other patterns. One of a varying pattern had a female figure in a bright dress taping a poster to a wall, with repetitions with two clones, and so on up to five. There were many interesting plays with repetition, expectations and variation. Some of it was there in Umwelt, but then the system was too locked down for me. This time I liked it a lot.

The final sequence had the lights on and steady, with a big table set up before the dancers went into a slapstick food fight involving buckets of bright paint. I didn’t like it much, but it did close out the show by breaking the pattern of patterns. And my dislike was mild and no match for my appreciation of the rest.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment