Gigs, dance, art

April 14th, 2011: Djoew / Benjamin Bret / The Black Chicons / Kalicia Katakov


First things first, I didn’t really remember how much this place sucks. The sound is just terrible, and the layout means people at the bar can get loud enough to annoy me when I try to focus on the music, while they’re annoyed by the racket I call music. I guess it’s better than nothing, but not by much.

I kinda liked Kalicia Katakov. Not an emphatic endorsement, but they had the kind of melodic side I actually like, and I liked the singer’s voice too. I can’t say much more because I was distracted by my — always challenging — attempt to be socially less than inept and trying to recover from the shock of the crappy sound at the same time. I’d really like to hear them in decent conditions.

The Black Chicons are just not my kind of thing. Too straightforward rock I guess. I just tuned them out halfway into their second song. To each his own, I’m emphatically not passing any kind of judgment on what they do. I just wasn’t right for me at that time, and I didn’t even really listen.

Let’s go into the tricky parts. I was downright relieved to see Benjamin Bret being far less stressed out than when I last saw him. When I see someone I know and care about being tense, I’m usually at least as tense and basically go nuts with worry. This time I could enjoy the set — despite the terrible sound it was an improvement. I really think it was better than that other time, especially the cover, and the set hit a lot of right notes about that mock-sloppiness. Just enough to defuse the tension about playing in front of people, but not so much that it would hide the craft in these songs. Still, it’s always frustrating in that such shows only scratch the iceberg of what this guy has been doing over the years, but I was pleased with the positive response. Including someone I had brought over and who genuinely liked his music.

Talking about being tense, take the above and square it when it comes to Djoew. Because her music means a lot to me, which makes me sensitive to a lot of things over which I have no control. That crappy sound became a personal insult — nay, closer to injury. But the intensity and sheer greatness of the music was enough to overcome that. “Slowly to the west” has been etched in my mind ever since, and I even moved to the front for “all that glitters”, which is unheard of but that’s my favorite song in recent memory if not ever. Today of all days I can’t mention one cover, but her closing one felt like a release from things I didn’t even know were holding me down. There’s so much more, and she’s so talented. But I know I felt much better after hearing her play, and I’m very happy that the guy I dragged there liked her music. He’s not the first one to ask me whether she’d have a record out anytime soon. I wish I could say so, I guess I should say I know better, but “better” is so wrong in this case.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

April 13th, 2011: Toc Sine / Eli Keszler / Will Guthrie

@instants chavirés

I came for Will Guthrie, who I had seen with The Ames Room, and I wasn’t disappointed. He’s a great drummer who can make me eat any disparaging words I ever had about yet another drum solo — and that would be quite a meal. This solo had me transfixed right from the start, and that grip increased along with the loudness, but not because of it. What got me really impressed was what he did with the kick, it was fast enough to get close to the danger zone of virtuosity, but it never felt like it was speed in a vacuum, so I never got bored, far from it. There was little of the extended technique thingie at work here, but it was a constantly fascinating set, and a rare treat. I need to hear that guy again, alone or with others.

To continue with my serving of crow, now that I badmouthed extended technique, here came another drummer that made good use of these. Yes, he did bow his cymbals. But no, for some reason Eli Keszler wasn’t boring at all. He did use a guitar too, but just for an occasional resonating chord that nonetheless felt like percussion too, closer the part a gong might play than the usual guitar. It was less viscerally commanding a performance than the previous one, but almost as good as far as I’m concerned. Eye-opening too in that what I thought were tired recipes turned out to be valid tools in the right hands.

After these two shocks, Toc Sine sounded closer to my usual fare, no surprise because these two — Pascal Battus and Jean-Luc Guionnet — are familiar faces. Still, it was louder than what I expected, yet with the best of the deft touch I came to expect from them. But as I’m spoiled and expected nothing less from then, it came as less of a surprise and so left the weakest impression on me of the evening. It was merely good, and with my being so late posting this, I’m can’t remember enough of it except that I liked it, but less than the two great sets before this one.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

April 12th, 2011: Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy

@cité de la musique

I’m left with a strange feeling of an incomplete experience. Dave Douglas was good, as were all the members of his band — Vincent Chancey on horn, Luis Bonilla on trombone, Marcus Roja on tuba, and Nasheet Waits on drums. Roja was especially great. But I never really could get into their set, even though a couple of compositions were really nice — I think my favorite was called “town hall” . On the other hand I didn’t like Waits much; he’s close to flawless, but I just don’t like his style, and his solo was close to grating to me. And I felt Chancey didn’t assert himself enough; horn is rare enough for me to want to hear more of it.

I think my main gripe was that this show was labeled as a tribute to Lester Bowie, yet the set was somewhat tame. Not a museum piece by any means, but still comfortably within the boundaries of what Jazz — capital J, please — is supposed to me. Which feels wrong to me, when calling on Lester Bowie. But that’s probably because I’m not much into tradition, and whatever appeals to me in Bowie’s music is the part that is harder to pay tribute to, at least officially. At least here. I guess I just need to find another place like La Dynamo.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 10th, 2011: Glu feat. Charles Pennequin / Raionbashi & Kutzkelina / K-Branding / Olivier Benoit / Danièlle Lemaire / Sun Stabbed

@les voutes

The last day of Sonic Protest always tends to be a blur, and going to bouillon belge two days in a row after the gigs certainly didn’t help with that.

Sub Stabbed had the layers of feedback I like a lot, so that was a very nice way indeed to get me fully awake, even though it couldn’t possibly last. I like their sound, and that’s enough for this to be intended as a note to self to see them when I’m closer to functional.

I really liked some sounds in Danièlle Lemaire‘s set, and some of her singing too, the more Asian-inspired parts. But some of the rest didn’t work at all for me. Mixed feelings then, but then again I wasn’t at my most attentive, and this music seems too delicate to have registered much in my condition.

I like Olivier Benoit, so I was a bit miffed to be so hazy. Still he kept me awake and gradually more focused. He has a rare way to bring together the attention to sound itself of free improvisation with a construction that doesn’t exactly reach a narrative but feels closer to architecture except it unfolds in time instead of space. This guy regularly impresses me.

K-Branding got things louder, and that was welcome by me. I’m still not sure whether I liked the sax parts or not though. A bit of both I guess. There were elements I didn’t like, but when he switched to electronics I missed it. In a sense that confusion is a good sign. It was what made them stand out, though I’d have to check them out again to know what to make of it.

There was apparently a visual side to Raionbashi & Kutzkelina, but I just missed it as usual, except for a few blinding flashes. The barks blended surprising well into more regular noise, which is cool enough on its own, but the voice was downright amazing. At times I heard it as a slow yodeling that froze on one note and just stayed there, but with a clarity and depth that were new to me.

Charles Pennequin generally rules, so the only thing wrong with his opening performance was that it was short. Glu then took over, and they have a lot going for them. Like a charismatic singer who can boot Pennequin from the stage without looking ridiculous in the aftermath. And some of the best sounding guitars in my recent — though admittedly impaired — memory. This band delivers, and that includes but isn’t limited to mean blows. Pennequin joined them for the last song, alternating verses for two opposite yet ultimately equally dystopian visions. Very nice indeed.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 9th, 2011: Scorpion Violente / DeSalvo / Tom Smith / Lietterschpich / Goz Mongo Alliance / La Pieuvre

@olympe de gouges

La Pieuvre gathered a score of musicians that for once made good use of the huge space by forming an ellipse in the middle. At first they brought the noise by playing all together, later they went through quiet moments, even silence, and came back in waves. It was closer to contemporary music than anything in the festival, without the pretense and boredom. This was just great, but there was even better to come.

Goz Mongo Alliance went in a totally different direction. With a driving beat and accessible yet not so obvious music, it was unexpected in a different way. Truth be told, I enjoyed it at first but got bored. Maybe I’d have reacted better later, then again it was probably too danceable for me.

I loved Lietterschpich. I didn’t care at all for the visual part of it, but the slow doom-like pace combined with noise electronics instead of guitars made my day. And as if that engrossing sea of frequencies wasn’t enough, they threw in some of the best voice processing I’ve heard in a while, starting from the predictable cookie monster and taking it all over the place and beyond. That’s a great band, they seem to be part of a fascinating scene I just need to explore, and they’re nice people to boot. And yet, they weren’t even my favorite set of the day.

Weird. Tom Smith performed solo, and I was not as much disappointed as strangely uninterested. Again, the space didn’t help for what should have been more of an intimate set, especially the whispering end that I just couldn’t hear because of the background noise. But even without that I don’t think the laptop soundtrack works. It made his performance canned somehow, and that’s beyond weird from this guy.

DeSalvo did an event of a set that was my favorite of all the festival. It may not be that experimental, but it was never lazy and they displayed such a contagious commitment that there was no other time than now as long as they played — and they played on the floor, ignoring the stage, and that made perfect sense. Yeah, there was a part that echoed a past I knew, so maybe I’m just showing my age. But there was no nostalgia at all right then, the very though is so out of place as to be meaningless. Total instant. Perfect.

I had never seen Scorpion Violente, and I didn’t expect something so powerful yet catchy in a way. Maybe the beat is what makes their music sound slightly dated, but there’s another, raw, side that keeps a finely honed edge that cuts through those references. Another band in the here and now, with music that works on several levels, the rare kind I would like to hear more of live, but that I could probably listen to by myself.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 8th, 2011: Sightings / Radikal Satan / Wolfgang Müller & Frieder Butzmann

@olympe de gouges

The performance by Wolfgang Müller and Frieder Butzmann looked like a lecture — complete with video issues — but for the most part without the boring side. For the most part because it did go too long for me, at first the spoof was all in good fun and their demeanor carried the day, but it did get old for me in the end. And the boiling water/short-circuit was one of the annoyingly predictable bits. Though its being predictable and annoying was part of its appeal. It’s a fine line, and I never could be sure which side they were on at any given moment.

I still feel the place was wrong for Radikal Satan. Too big, too square, especially as they were in their core lineup without the drummer. It was still an intense performance, but even though it was special for me — it was how I chose to “celebrate” my 40th birthday — and I focused as much as I could, blocking out the background noise and the empty space behind me took a toll. That was my favorite set of the day, but having seen them in smaller places, I can’t help resenting the space for leeching the intensity.

Sightings would seem to have been better equipped to handle that venue, but I still think it took a toll, preventing them from building up as they could have. I’ve heard better sets from them, as this one had a stop-and-go side that undermined my enjoyment. But the end was so good, when they had Tom Smith join them his charisma instantly changed/charged everything. That made it all right, but I still think the venue didn’t help.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 7th, 2011: Ramleh / Club Moral / Astma

@instants chavirés

Astma ended up being my favorite set of the evening. Maybe because it was the one that didn’t always work all that well. I loved the beginning, but I felt it ran out of steam along the way. Or maybe I just didn’t like the direction they took later. Either way at least it wasn’t predictable, and the drummer’s vocals were the most striking thing I heard that day. I hope to hear them again, in that lineup or another as they seem to be quite active.

Club Moral came heavily hyped, and they certainly proved worth it. They’re much better live than I expected. Part of that comes from the DDV’s charisma, but for me the best was the synth sounds, those were amazing. The downside is that they seem to have a recipe and don’t really stray from it, so that by the end the whole set kinda blurred together. Still good, but limited in that sense.

I had the same problem with Ramleh, only maybe worse. That was a little too efficient for me, and their sound was so consistent that I had to look at them to notice when they introduced new elements. In this kind of music, they’re extremely good. But there’s just one kind, and they don’t really play the exhaustion card either, so that got a little tedious for me.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment