Gigs, dance, art

April 2nd, 2010: Cathy Heyden – Olivier Bartissol / Audrey Chen / Christine Sehnaoui – Ferran Fages – Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga / Erik Minkkinen

@espace en cours

I’ve heard Erik Minkkinen so many times over the past few years that I always expect his stuff to feel stale, but it usually doesn’t. Granted, the two guitars on a table pretty much clued me into what he would sound like, but he’s so good at it that I didn’t mind. The sound took over that small place and I was grateful for the guidance, being so exhausted I was afraid I would end up nodding off. That was never close to happening, not because it was loud, but because it was changing.

That jolt probably made me better suited for the trio of Christine Sehnaoui, Ferran Fages and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. I had some trouble with this set. I thought it didn’t really take off, with almost too much listening and respect at work, so that I thought it was more each of them taking control, with not enough interaction. That played right into what I’m coming to dislike about extended technique playing, a focus on sounds that sometimes fails to make good use of those. It did come together along the way, and the end of the set was nice. The zither was unusual, and that got my attention, which was then sustained by the very nice use of e-bows and predictable but still cool restraining of the strings. The guitar was just too predictable for me, and I’m just so familiar with Sehnaoui’s sound that I expect more. This could turn out to be a great trio with more mileage, but I think it was a bit early. Unfortunately I don’t expect to get another opportunity to hear them, it’s par for the course in this scene.

The reason I showed up — there were a bunch of other cool gigs that day — was to hear Audrey Chen doing a solo set. I’m so glad I did, this was a great set, diverse and engaging throughout. She started with some electronics and more in the extended technique mold, both on cello and voice, and ended with a more regular play and singing actual words. In between it was a progression that never stayed put too long, but she took the time to develop each part. So the set featured less different uses of her instruments than the other times I saw her, but I liked it more. Her bowing the body of the cello was a highlight, but not by much, I liked each part almost as much. I did wish the set had been longer, but it did feel like it had run its course when it stopped, I had a sense she had been going through places with a definite sense of where she wanted to go, and she nailed it just right. Maybe an encore wouldn’t have been enough, I’m already looking forward to hearing her again, on her own or with others. Abattoir would be nice, but I guess anything else would be too.

The last set had Cathy Heyden playing with various objects — many cooking related — and Olivier Bartissol playing metal folding music stands, bowing at first then folding and unfolding them. That was nice at first, but I thought it ran too long, and got just too predictable quickly. It felt long, and it looked like Heyden had a longer list of things she wanted to use while Bartissol had to go over the same things a little too much. The end of the set was nice too, but the middle was a little boring.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

December 4th, 2009: Audrey Chen – Frederic Blondy – Michael Johnsen – Jerome Noetinger

@atelier tampon

It was my first time there, and the place is nice if a little too cozy for me in a way. It’s not a good fit for me, because I usually stand in the back, and there that’s next to the street and the noise from there often got in the way. It’s probably much better being seated in front.

I had seen each of the four performers before, but never two of them together. Frederic Blondy was familiar from Hubbub and Po-Go, and Jerome Noetinger from too many projects to mention. I had only seen Michael Johnsen and Audrey Chen once, but her Abattoir project has been a favorite of mine whenever it came up on the station, which has been quite often — that basically means more than once a week.

They did two sets, both with Michael Johnsen first playing saw, again in a very interesting way that featured none of the usual sounds associated with this instrument. Harsher, and replacing the smooth continuity with dense blocks that had another way of fitting in together. From way back, his part on electronics suffered from the same problem as what Jerome Noetinger was doing: I just couldn’t hear much aside from the occasional louder burst. That’s a shame because I really liked what Noetinger did with what I think where very short bits of voice recordings for while.

I’m quite fond of prepared piano, and Frederic Blondy was really good at it, exploiting the percussive side by hitting the strings as well as more resonating sounds that blended very well with the cello. Which was what I was here for, anyway. Audrey Chen did many different things, playing with a bow whether in the regular way or not, putting a stick between the strings, picking the chords, or rubbing those balls on the back to build up a very nice drone. She didn’t use her voice all that much though, but I think it was better that way because it wouldn’t have fit all that well with what the others were doing.

As a group, I think it worked OK but not great, but that might come from the acoustic instruments carrying much better to my spot than the rest. That meant I had a hard time hearing the latter unless the former stopped, and that robbed me of much in terms of how they were interacting. I guess I should have gone and sit in front in the light, but that was just not happening. What I could hear was worth it anyway, and I even got the Abattoir CD and a solo one, and both are great, by the way.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

May 18th, 2009: ID M Theft Able – Audrey Chen / Erik Minkkinen / Suicide Motörhead / Simon Queheillard / Chrisanthemes Forever

@espace en cours

Chrisanthemes Forever actually did two short sets outside, with the second one halfway through the event. I couldn’t really see much of what they were using, but I guess that included zither, toy piano, harmonica and some recorded snippets. I was told there was a cool visual side to their act, but I’m just too vertically challenged for that part. I thought it was uneven, with some parts I couldn’t make much sense of but with a few very nice moments as well. It felt fresh and unpretentious, with tips the balance to these sets being strongly on the good side.

Simon Queheillard used an acoustic guitar in a very interesting way. Part of the appeal was in the small motor he used on the strings most of the time, yielding something between picking and ebow that was really good and new to me, and enhanced by the way he would enhance or cut short the resonating by the way he held his instrument. All this could easily have been an empty display of mastery, but he put those sound generating skills to good use by weaving some actual good music from these materials. I don’t think I had heard him before — though he could easily have been part of a project I did see — but he seems to be someone I might want to keep an eye out for.

Acts like Suicide Motörhead are always dicey for me because the performance art side of it just goes way over my head — not seeing much of that sure didn’t help. The tape playing looked promising, but even though it had its moment I felt it was running in circles a little bit, and dragged on more than was necessary. I just can’t know whether it made sense for the people up front who could see what was going on.

Erik Minkkinen used effects and a radio, and of course the latter had me very interested. I like his guitar playing a lot, but that was something a little different which proved just as interesting. It’s all about sound for me, and the source matters less than what he does with it. That was a pretty good set, with some parts more about pure sound transformation and warping, and some others almost rhythmic — though that might be a stretch. Inventive and both consistent with what I’ve heard of his music as well as with a slightly different feel from the change of material. Even though I have a pretty good general idea of what he will sound like, there are enough twists on that baseline to keep me interested in what he’s doing.

Audrey Chen and ID M Theft Able played last and I just loved their set. Both were very adept at using the full range of possibilities that voice can have, enhanced by complementary sounds from a little effects and more. For Audrey Chen that meant her cello, which she used both conventionally and less though, dragging some ballish thing along its back to generate a rich drone. For the other it was scratching and rubbing sounds and bowing a license plate. For me the voices were key and the most interesting component, but the rest was quite good as well. I liked Audrey Chen better, both for her wider range of voice sounds and for the unusual instrument in these parts. But ID M Theft Able was really just as good, even though I thought he the license plate thing a bit too often. Then again, that’s not a big deal because the best thing about this set was that I thought each enhanced what the other was doing. That takes some listening, which I always appreciate.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment