I missed the last LAMPO for not-particularly-good reasons; lethargy, weather, I forget. This one had them queuing out the front from 7pm, when I got here, after a rather expensive dinner at Big Bowl (good ingredients, mediocre penang sauce, decent brown ale sold as a stout). The light show on Michigan confused the route. As it turned out there was at least one empty seat; full but not packed, I'd say. At some point the organisers unlocked the doors but did not invite us in. They're a weird mob.
So this gig was closer to the improv I'm used to, but with many laptops and only a few instruments (a drum kit, xylophones, oboe (?)). They put some visuals on the roof, but nothing too exciting. The schtick was to play the same piece (in some sense) through twice, with the second influenced by an audience interaction / bikeshedding session in the middle. One guy opined "isn't chance the opposite of concensus?" which made me scratch my head about as much as the suggested mechanisms for terminating the chance movement. Anyway. I found it relaxing. Their blurb:
Los Angeles-based collaborative duo Lucky Dragons premiere "RSVP Partita," a new performance for Lampo that treats Lawrence and Anna Halprin's late 60's workshop-based approach to creative processes as a musical form -- folding score, performance and evaluation together into an iterative suite for instrumentalists, software and group conversation.
A collaboration between artists Sarah Rara (b. 1983, Livingston, N.J.) and Luke Fischbeck (b. 1978, San Francisco, Calif.), Lucky Dragons have been exploring the nuances of sound as a participatory medium for close to 14 years through recordings, performance, software design, workshops, and installations. Their work has been presented in a wide variety of contexts, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (as part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial), the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Walker Art Center, London's Institute for Contemporary Art, MOMA/PS1 and the Kitchen in New York, REDCAT, LACMA and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, MOCA Los Angeles, the 54th Venice Biennale, and the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others. The name "Lucky Dragons" is borrowed from a fishing vessel caught in the fallout from H-bomb tests in the mid-1950s; an incident which sparked international outcry, spontaneously generating the worldwide anti-nuclear movement.
Presented in partnership with the Graham Foundation, in conjunction the Graham’s current exhibition, Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Dvorák, Chausson, and Schubert at the Harris Theater.Mon, Nov 17, 2014./noise/music | Link
Somehow I managed to get free tickets to this from the 芝加哥中国文化 院 Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, Inc. The bloke sitting next to me with the phablet may have been there for the intended purpose, whatever that was.
Today was bloody cold. I walked up from work, grabbing a Thai from Siam on Washington and a hot chocolate from the Intelligentsia on Randolph, unfondly, for old times' sake. I enjoyed the Dvorák (Selections from Cypresses (Echo of Songs) for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, B. 152, and Nocturne in B Major for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Bass, Op. 40 (1870, rev. 1882)) and parts of the Chausson (Trio in G minor for Piano, Viilin, and Cello, Op. 3 (1881)). Schubert's bucolic left me cold. The musicians were solid; I get the impression they are based in New York. The Harris Theater is conveniently almost connected to the Metra station at the top of Millennium Park, but I had to walk back to Wabash to get the green line out to Ashland.
I paid $21.79 = $18 + $3.79 in fees to TicketWeb. I could have paid $22 at the door, and would have if I hadn't expected it to sell out. Hosted by Empty Bottle, though I heard about it from the Constellation's regular mailout. That and the freebie track Venter on Frost's bandcamp page provoked me to buy his album A U R O R A off iTunes, and a ticket to this gig.
I left work a bit early on this Halloween quasi-holiday as no-one else was left, and my brain had exploded. It had been snowing and/or sleeting the whole day — apparently more than a tenth of an inch settled at O'Hare, which marks the threshold for measurability, and this was the first such Halloween ever. I note that Sydney was and perhaps is experiencing a heatwave. The problem with my woollen jacket is that the snow sticks to it and melts in place, i.e., it gets quite wet as I go in and out of heated spaces. In any case, getting to Constellation without a bicycle is challenging: I took the Brown Line to Belmont, and with careful timing, schlepped down that street via Osmium (for a hot chocolate, very Intelligentsia hipster), and to the House of Sushi and Noodles, where the made-up-for-the-day girls ably fleeced me with their all-you-don't-want-to-eat sushi menu. I saw no evidence of the noodles that I was dreaming of. It's a strange place, like it's in a subway. The walk kept me outside for about half an hour.
I got there stupidly early, at 7pm, as the doors were supposed to open at 8.30pm, which eventually became 9.45pm. In that time I had a couple of beers, and the barmaid was right: the Founders stout is superior to their porter. Ben Frost stopped off, and got told by a pair of droll groupies that the 312 on the beer he was drinking is the area code. The other room had a dance performance thing on with the bloke-to-girl ratio outsize in the opposite direction. I got talking to an alpha music geek just before they unpenned us, and so ended up sitting near him at the front right speaker for the warmup act. He talked labels. I couldn't keep up.
Cleared are a pair of presumably-local kids with some guitars and a drumkit, and a violin bow, and too much electronics. They started with washed out ambient before launching into massive, free-standing cliff-like power chord things towards the end. It's hard to appreciate what is standing between you and what you came to hear, especially when it invariantly lacked something to focus on.
At the break I ducked out for another stout, and on my return parked myself close to the front left speaker. A modern Prometheus was trying to light something with his phone. Frost played on the floor, not the stage, and was quickly surrounded by the curious. Near as I could tell nobody was dancing, but it still got hotter; his music mainlines the metabolism, perhaps. Things ground to a halt after a few tracks, and ultimately it felt like half a gig, perhaps because the house music came on at sudden power failure number two, or that some people left at the first cut-out. God knows what they were expecting. The third signalled the real end, I think. There was no audience abuse, apart, perhaps, from the strobe that provided the entirety of the lighting where he was working.
Frost evokes for me the 1990s dance anthems without the Es, and soundtrack snippets looking for a movie ala Barry Adamson. All of it put me in that sound-of-the-future mood evoked by Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre in times past. Of course their futures never came, and Frost's probably won't either; just as well, for then I would probably have to interpret things that I can presently relax to. None of it is excessively counter-intuitive, and he is gifted to be able to put a centre to this much noise. Some of it nags at me, like emotions mislabelled for a lifetime, especially when the shorter-in-one-leg mountain goat rhythms get going. These are not mammalian heartbeats.
I walked home afterwards, as the night had morphed into a clear, crisp windless thing that brought out many young Halloweenies. Some were deluded enough to think that the more outré the costume, the more peril there'd be to their virginity. I got back at 1.30am.
I trekked back up to Constellation with some ill-formed idea that an avant-garde string quartet would be something to listen to on a Saturday night. I guess I was hoping for something electric, like Fourplay, but instead got something more like the Brodsky Quartet with an American poet and an American punk subbed in for Elvis Costello. It was packed, I think with music students and faculty from the Uni of Chicago. The initial Stravinsky (Concertino) went over OK, after two Founders stouts that the barmaid preferred to their porter. The interstitial Glass (Quartet No. 2 "Company") was missing its accompanying Beckett. Dave Reminick is the punk, and his The Ancestral Mousetrap (bringing a dead man back to life and oh my god, I'll never get home by Russell Edson bringing the words) was solidly in the Brodsky Quartet mode. Their assorted mobile miniatures were micro compositions by various American composers on the order of 1-40s for mobile phone events (ringtones, etc.). Most were twee, by which I mean that they necessarily traded on musical cliché. I think I enjoyed Dvořák's Quartet F major, op. 96, "American" (ii. lento) the most. They closed with Beethoven's Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 v. allegro appassionato-presto, after what they said was their customary shot.
I had dinner at Lee's Chow Mein at Western and Diversey beforehand. They got the ambience right, I'll give them that much.
LAMPO: Rene Hell (Jeff Witscher): Bifurcating a Resounding No!Sat, Oct 11, 2014./noise/music | Link
I signed up to the LAMPO list a while back, and finally their season has commenced. Unfortunately it is very short, at only four widely-spaced gigs. The The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts is some fantastical anachronistic outfit that believes that art can be advanced, perhaps even systematically, by hosting things like this. They've got a beautiful old building in an upscale part of town that was packed to the gills and beyond with cool trendy types. While waiting to get in I got talking to Kyle, from Indianapolis, who was himself waiting for a friend who had also driven up for the day. We pondered why they didn't charge for what seemed to be an incredibly popular performance.
This is the type of music that NOW now showcases: here they call it "electroacoustic" but really it's samples from all over the map, or man-plays-laptop if you prefer. Some of it was coherent, but never for long, and I could have sworn there were some chip tunes in the middle. Rene Hell showcases some of his paranoia on his bandcamp page.
Here's the blurb:
You say yes; Rene Hell premieres "Bifurcating a Resounding No!" The latest project from Rene née Jeff draws from years of recorded sounds (acoustic instruments, field recordings and voice), collected in cities across the U.S. and shaped with various digital techniques, to make one new weird work.
There was no lightshow so all I could do was space out to the calm between the mild bouts of audience abuse. I enjoyed it, and I'm certainly going to the rest.
"Premier seating", according to Goldstar, who asked for $11 + $3.75, for this gig featuring the sometime, all time, Elvis Costello pianist. The City Winery is a faux upscale wine bar that presses, or maybe just ages, or maybe just serves, its own wine. I got sat at the end of a series of tables with a decent view of Nieve's back, which was totally OK. The real problem was that it was right next to the door to the kitchen, from which excited Spanish regularly issued, glasses clinked, and so forth. Those sitting two or more seats down the tables did not suffer from this. Also paying at the end is farcical: I had two beers — a Founders Michigan Porter and a Triple Alpha hopped-up Indiana thing, for what is now old-time's sake — and had to wait ten minutes for my change. The ploy is, of course, to get you to walk away and leave an outsize tip. As my liberty was being infringed either way, I waited with teeth gritted.
So the whole vibe was American dinnertime, with the plea to respect the other audience members and the artist by remaining quiet. It was instead a time to catch up with old friends, graze, network. I guess American exceptionalism extends upwards, downwards and in every direction. The French vocalist was not great and the songs tended to blancmange without the rest of the band and the snappy lyrics. Did Steve play Bowie's Is there life on Mars? on the fifth Steinway when they were choosing pianos for North? Were these flyover songs for flyover states? As many people would observe of me, if any of that's going to give me the shits then I should stay home. Steve, on the other hand, did prove that necrophilia can go stale.
David Bowie cover band Sons of the Silent Age at the Daley Plaza.Tue, Sep 23, 2014./noise/music | Link
... ably displacing any protesters who might wish to observe that Rahm Emmanuel is not doing a stellar job, however impeccable his taste, just for one day. The band's name is a song off Heroes, and they pretty much stuck to the Bowie of then: Ashes to Ashes, Is there life on Mars?, that sort of thing. Gail Ann Dorsey has set the standard for Under Pressure covers; no-one attempts the Freddie-all-over-the-map original. They closed with Heroes, which made me realise that they had a keyboard player (see far left in the picture). The band was tight but the mix was occasionally crap. Oh yes, the band: Chris Connelly ex-Ministry on vocals, Matt Walker ex-local-boys Smashing Pumpkins on drums, Shirley Manson ex-Garbage on Under Pressure co-vocals. I last saw her in 1996 at the Hordern, also for free. Time flies.
Of course it was just shameless marketing for the Bowie Is exhibition; shameless but still they went through the motions. A lady in front of me had a new-ish Thailand tour t-shirt that showed pre-1975 North and South Vietnam, with the border near Hue. News sure does travel slowly near the Cambodian border.
It struck me that Bowie coverbands do it tough: if they were ripping into the Beatles back catalogue they could aspire to be the next Oasis. Here the best they can do is keep up, even now.
Grégoire gestured at the Constellation as some sort of home to experimental / marginal music, so I figured it'd be worth a shot. $11.85 ahead of time from Ticketfly; could have gotten in for $10 at the door as it turned out. I had a beer at their bar beforehand, which is somewhat cosy despite the unpadded wooden furnishings. I think there are a few spaces there; the one with the minimalist piano works was quite large with seating on three sides. Two of the composers were present: Eva-Maria Houben and Jürg Frey. The setlist:
- December (2002) by Craig Shepard, which was genre drone music, impressively played by Lee.
- Go and Stop (2002) by Eva-Marie Houben.
- Distance (1) (1996) by Michael Pisaro.
- pianist, alone (2) (2013) by Jürg Frey.
The crowd was small-ish (40-50 people) and very appreciative. Some of it got noir-ish like Barry Adamson, back in his heyday, but without the backing noise; just the slicing, the pauses, the sometime paranoia.
Old Sennheiser CX300-IIs almost die, replaced by Shure SE215-CLs, news at 12.Mon, Sep 08, 2014./noise/music | Link
The cable on my never-great Sennheiser CX300-IIs was getting decidedly dodgy, and I guess I'd been pining for my dear old e2cs from my Hồ Chí Minh City days, so I gave Amazon their entirely-plausible asking price of $96.99 and waited a week for a pair of these. They sound a little muddy, perhaps a bit bass heavy, and are neither super comfortable nor particularly uncomfortable. The cable is less stiff than my previous Shures, and can be detached from the drivers. I'm now wondering if I should have plonked for the next ones up in the range. The case is much larger than the old one.
Life Out There: the House Band of the Universe at Adler Planetarium.Tue, Jul 29, 2014./noise/music | Link
I'd never been to a planetarium before, so trading on the magic of Goldstar, I plonked $13.75 down and cycled down Columbus Drive after work. The gig started at 9pm, which struck me as a bit late. Also the park between Columbus and Lakeshore was closed for Lollapalooza preparations. The band did some kind of blues / jazz thing that was beyond me to categorize. This was an accompaniment to a computer-synthesised trip around the galaxy / universe, starting from Baghdad-ish, back to the big bang, hence to the outer reaches of the sun's influence, and finally inwards to the sun, back to Earth, and then out to Titan. It was all a bit breathless. Maybe they had the old-school planterium gear but I didn't see it. Afterwards I almost dodged the rain on the ride home. The view from the Adler is pure American Romantic.
Back to the Old Town School of Folk for the Sufi gig I'd been hanging out for for so long. It turned out to be part of the Eye on India festival thing, and the band was imported from India; I'd hoped they were locals. Sonam Kalra got grilled by a local and revealed that she is from Delhi, but not that she is a dog person or her marital status. She's of the Sikh religion, and used to be in advertising. Her voice is excellent. Her band is awesome and tight: the flautist (Rajesh Prasanna), sarangi (Ahsan Ali Khan) and tabla (Amaan Ali Khan) players all stood out, and while the Yamaha keyboardist (Alex Fernandes) did not, he may have anchored the whole thing for all I know.
So I expected an American fusion sort of thing, but it turned out to be more masala, finer-grained and somewhat messy in a pan-genre sort of way. They opened with some great sufi stuff, and the first set had me quite spaced out. One element was an adaptation of Amazing Grace. The second got a bit more Western; specifically something by Ray Charles that had been taken full-circle (gospel -> jazz -> gospel) left me cold (was it Hallelujah I Just Love Him So?). They also attempted Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which annoyed me a bit as Anthem is far more in tune with their ecumenicism. (Sonam termed her project secular, which is even more approximate.) They closed with the Sufi classic Daanah Pah Daanah, which I knew from the Coke Studio Sessions 4 recording by someone else. Very sunny.
The crowd talked throughout and thinned appreciably in the second half. I'm not sure why; I got pretty much what I expected. They played the following night in downtown Chicago, at "the Temple" (corner Washington and Clark), which I didn't go to, and I also regret not buying one of their CDs. After much futzery I did manage to get The Confluence from OKListen, and Verified by Visa not only looks like a man-in-the-middle attack but did not properly verify my address. The band recorded Man Manam for the Coke Studio, which gives you some idea how good they are. Unfortunately Sonam left out her bespoke sign language. The guitarists didn't make it.
While looking for sufi music in Chicago I came across this free-but-give-us-$10 concert. Not knowing (and not being told) any better, I stumbled upon Lincoln Square, which is directly north of the school; the Chinese near the Brown Western L station is ridiculously cheap, the Köstritzer Black bier at the little München Chicago Brauhaus was tasty, the music a bit much. That part of the city has density like the cities I'm used to, and they speak litres there.
Anyway, the gig started a bit after 8pm. The Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall is quite pleasant. It's set up more like a jazz club than a recital hall, and the crowd behaved similarly: lots of chatter during the performance. The musicians were three guitarists: Zoran Starcevic and his sons Nikola Starcevic and Zeljko Starcevic (I think), who covered a range of styles that I'm insufficiently familiar with to comment on. I guess I was expecting Félix Lajkó, or at least a violin. Their riff on Deep Purple's classic riff put me in mind of Four Play's infamous efforts from 1998. Their other gimmick was for all three to play a single guitar. Lots of skill on display, but not quite my sort of music; there were two songs I enjoyed but I didn't get their names.
As for the sufi music: there is some on there in a couple of weeks' time. Probably fusion, as that seems to be what Americans like to do. In the meantime I bought Coke Studio (Season 4) off iTunes for the awesome Kangna by Fareed Ayaz, Abu Muhammad and co., familiar from the opening scenes of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
It's been a while since I went to a gig. The Chicago chapter of the Sofar internationale kindly admitted me to their gig, which ran from 5pm-ish to about 7pm. I got chatting to a sweet couple from Texas, who relocated to Chicago for school and are now expecting. The venue was pure Chicago hipster, as one would hope/expect. They had three bands in a five-song-each format: Marrow, Living in Pretend, and Future Monarchs. The last was clearly Brit-inspired, slaughtering their point with a cover of the Beatles's Martha My Dear (and not Tom Waits's).
I bought a ticket back when I thought I'd have more time than I do. Chris Abrahams on the piano was the draw, and his collaborators — Tony Buck on drums and Lloyd Swanton on bass — were also excellent. I really enjoyed the washed out ambience of the first set, while the second was a bit more insistent and harder to space out to. They pulled a far bigger crowd than I would have expected. The light show was beautifully subtle, especially a fade to black at one point.
With Dave. Someone is trying to revive the Sydney jazz scene with this cute little venue near the University of Technology, Sydney; the last time I remember seeing Vince Jones was at the Harbourside Brasserie in the late 1990s. The place was packed so we propped up the bar for a bit, got some food in Chinatown at interval, and sat near the door for the second set. I was/am still pretty out of it and struggled to get into much: I did enjoy the piano a lot though, and was a bit stunned when he played Gil Scott Heron's Winter in America.
"This is a song about finding yourself at an airport with James Brown one day and Mick Turner... Mick Turner, ladies and gentlemen... boy from Sandringham, done good..."
There comes a time in every man's life when he's listened to the Dirty Three's Live at Meredith so many times he can lip sync to Warren Ellis, and it is that very moment, when the bits have worn off those CDs, to see what the boy can do solo. I grant that a tiny circus tent on the edge of Hyde Park, and the Sydney Festival itself, is not that conducive to ruminating on new tunes, especially when one is totally preoccupied with showing that a garbage collector collects garbage, and only the garbage.
Atypically he played with a band featuring three ladies and two other blokes. I sat in a strategically stupid spot and got the Warren Ellis treatment, i.e. he faced away from me the whole time. In fact the only person I could see was the (entirely agreeable) bassist Peggy Frew, and I got the impression that his tunes were not taxing her. One lady did vocals, the other keyboards. A bloke played some kind of backing guitar and the drummer was up against it with Jim White sitting in the crowd, though maybe I hallucinated that last part.
Bernie always reckoned Mick Turner was too much of a doodler to take the lead, and he was somewhat right; however as I'm looking for that kind of spaced-out non-intrusive and not-boring thing that he carried off so well on Ocean Songs, I later blew another $85 on what's available from his online shop.
All this came at the end of an afternoon in the State Library. Their internet is still all Port 80, which precluded a commit that I've been aiming for all week. I was also very tired, and am not sleeping enough presently. Betts got parked out front of the Lands Office, in a 2hr zone next to a red CB250 with ~30,000km on it, and a bit later on, next to the adventuring kind of BMW I just don't want.
As advertised by the NOW now, John Wilton was bashing a cymbal in the drain under Sydenham Station. I think he also had some post-processing that lent it a spooky ambience.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House: Bach Brandenburg ConcertosSun, Dec 08, 2013./noise/music | Link
My Christmas present to myself. They played four Bach Brandenburg Concertos: No. 1 in F major (BWV1046), No. 6 in B flat major (BWV1051), No. 2 in F major (BWV1047) and No. 3 in G major (BWV1048). For an encore they played the final (third) movement of No. 4 in G major (BWV1049). I enjoyed No. 6 the most, perhaps because it was a much smaller ensemble and the two blokes (Christopher Moore and Alexandru-Mihai Bota) leading on violas (no violins) enjoyed themselves so much. I was sitting in the front row of the choir, which was a mixed blessing; the hunting horns pointed backwards so they tended to blot out the rest of the instruments. The couple sitting next to me told me I was sitting where Barbara usually sits, and presumably her health issues prevented her coming today. Overall I'd prefer to buy a recording and listen to it multiple times than go to this kind of concert, if only because (irritatingly) the familiar bits were the best.
Apparently I went to two previous New Music Network gigs this year: Synergy Percussion and Tangents. This one was in the Paddington Reservoir and was quite restful. The ambient noise (traffic, pedestrians, tourists) drowned any subtleties the two saxophones may have had.
Before this I went to the COFA annual exhibition. Several Tracey Emin-inspired pieces there, such as the chained lion in the semi-made bed, and the prize-winning laundry line with embroidered self-loathing. The undies looked far too clean. (GOMA in Brisbane has a Tracey Emin neon piece.) Whoever stuck some hands made from soap on the wall (also prize-winning) is very skillful but needs to work on the politics of placement. Contrary to what I'd been told, there was a small amount of glasswork there too. Apparently they have a Creative Robotics Lab now. Looks like fun.
I was going to ride Betts down to Campbelltown (specifically Campbelltown Road) with this gig as the excuse. The rain put paid to that, and I was giving Erina a lift anyway. As always they had some nice bits but it was difficult to get into the whole thing. I liked the gong as played by Bree van Reyk. They did some performance art-y bits in the middle - and I had to wonder if these came with the piece or were intended to spice up some fairly abstract sounds. The venue was the same as, very pleasant (and I do like the neon in the foyer). We had a drink and a light dinner at the cafe in between the sets.