Gigs, dance, art

November 24th, 2010: HüBeBlo / Sean Baxter

@instants chavirés

I heard later that Sean Baxter wasn’t happy with his performance because of some feedback he couldn’t control. I wonder what it would have been had he been happy because I loved this set. The head of his lone tom resonated with the loud feedback, with the vibrations strong enough to move a bundle of sticks and even a couple of metal tubes. There was also a cloud of paint flecks at times, fallen from a plate he would bend and scrape on the tom. That’s for the visual side of it, and it was arresting. The feedback sometimes overpowered the rest of the sounds, I guess that’s why he wasn’t happy about it. He kept stepping on metal plates while dragging those objects over the drum, of just letting them bounce along with the vibrations, with a single mic close to the tom picking up the sounds. Between the bent/torn plates, the sticks, the pipes and more regular scraping, there were different tones at work, all feeding the resonance. After a while the loud feedback was a kind of background drone for me, which I don’t mind. I just would have liked him to use the plates a little less, I did get used to that part along the way. Still, if that was a failed one, I can only hope I’ll get to witness a successful performance.

HüBeBlo features Carl Ludwig Hübsch on tuba, Claus Van Bebber on turntables, and Jaap Blonk. Now I really like Jaap Blonk, so maybe I was a little too focused on him to appreciate the others as I should have. But the group worked very well, and they displayed great listening by picking up where one was going and catching up in a hurry. There were more than a few times when I was struck by how well Blonk and Van Bebber could build off each other. And Hübsch’s play was eye-opening when it comes to an instrument I plead guilty to underestimating. Though I’m not fond of the clarinet mouthpiece experiment. That was a very nice set, and even though I’d go hear Jaap Blonk alone any day, it’s even better when he performs with musicians who can build something this way.

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

November 21st, 2010: Rahul Sharma

@théatre de la ville

I still don’t understand much about Indian music, but I keep going in the off chance the proverbial light bulb goes on. No such luck this time, but Rahul Sharma plays santoor, and I like discovering an instrument. I like this one a lot, a kind of dulcimer he played both by striking the strings and often by moving the curved hammer back and forth for a very different sound. Mixing both modes brought out the instrument’s rich possibilities. Though I must say my favorite notes were the lowest, and he rarely used those, though I certainly took notice whenever he did.

He played alone first, then was joined by a tabla player — and a forgettable tempura — but I was squarely focused on the santoor, which is telling because I’m usually quite a fan of tabla. I think I wasn’t as lost as usual rhythmically, but that’s probably because I didn’t try as much to follow the rhythm. I’m under no illusion when it comes to my understanding of this music. I still don’t get it, but at least I got to enjoy the sounds. I know how inadequate that is, but I just can’t do any better.

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

November 17th, 2010: Aidan Baker / Noveller / Unfact

@instants chavirés

I didn’t like unFact much. The notes were a little too crisp and loud, with just too much space in between. That’s not that cogent, but that’s about what I thought at the time. Just an instinctive reaction, a matter of taste really. It’s just not my kind of thing.

Noveller‘s music, now, is my kind of thing. It may get a little too far on the pretty and melodic side at times, but I just love those loops. Their piling builds up and the melodic phrases weave through and sound different by interacting with the other loops. There was a part with less melody and more texture, but I didn’t think it worked as well, in my opinion it should have went further in that direction to saturate the space. I can’t say I was disappointed, but still I would have liked to be surprised a little more. As it was the set was a little to close to what I heard on the radio. Maybe next time.

Aidan Baker knows more than a few things about filling up the space around him. That was another good set from someone I like a lot, assertive and inventive within a familiar framework that somehow never feels stifling. I may have a pretty good idea of what he’ll sound like, but what he does within that sound always has something new, there’s always something else around the corner. His music demands attention to avoid being overwhelmed the dense textures, but it rewards it generously.

December 4, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

November 16th, 2010: Yasuko Yokoshi – Tyler Tyler


I ended up sitting in the last row because I gave away my much better situated seat the next day to go to a gig. Maybe that played a part in my not enjoyed is as much as I could have, but I liked the bird’s eye view. I couldn’t see much of the facial expressions of the dancers, but I had a nice perspective of the group sequences.

I don’t know anything about Kabuki, I haven’t seen a single performance. So I guess a lot of what Yasuko Yokoshi aimed at went over my head, because I couldn’t help but pick up on the ironic treatment of the music — and didn’t like it much, by the way, especially the prettifying of Cat Power’s American Flag.  With those two out of the way, I did like this show. The contrast between American and Japanese dancers wasn’t that marked, as evidenced when they acted as a group with those shiny silver fans. Their clothes and parts were different, and I guess the latter was in part playing on each one’s strength, but there was common ground too, and the American dancers went beyond the usual moves, so I guess the same held true for the others. I know I missed half of it, but what I did get was interesting.

Even on the “western” side of it, there were things I liked for their own sake. I loved the relation of the dancers to the ground. The way Julie Alexander went down early on with a sweep of her legs and skirt was something I’ll remember for a while. But whenever a dancer crouched or lied down, something interesting was going on. I probably would have missed that had I not been sitting in the nose-bleed section, so maybe I should start going twice to dance shows, just to get that different view.

The group sequences were very nice, especially when they would move in sync then differently but with echoes that made me think they might have just been doing the same thing with a delay. I guess I could have tried to figure that out, but I was too caught in the flow of it to pay attention to that at the time. The fans were a focus at times, but at others they didn’t seem as important to me as the hands. There I wish I had been closer to pick up more of the wrist gestures. I only got tantalizing glimpses from up there.

Overall, I liked the show despite the music, even though that was what first made me eager to attend. I think I understand the intent of the soundtrack, but I still don’t like it. The slide whistle was grating for me, and then I made a conscious effort to ignore the music. There was a little too much irony at work there for me, and in parts of the dance too. But it only spoiled it a little, and the dance was usually interesting enough for me to just not pay attention to it.

December 4, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment