Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center
107 Suffolk Street, NYC
September 17, 2004
Margarida Garcia/Barry Weisblat
solo Keith Rowe
Greg Kelley/Jason Lescalleet
Keith Rowe/Sean Meehan
September 18, 2004
Dion Workman solo
Tim Barnes/Jason Lescalleet
Greg Kelley/Sean Meehan/David Daniell
Keith Rowe/Tim Barnes
$10 per night, 8 PM.
(photo by Nirav Soni)
ErstQuake 1 is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of collaborative events between Erstwhile Records and Quakebasket, both based in and around NYC.
ErstQuake 1 showcases many of today’s most exciting young electroacoustic improvisers, featuring musicians from New York, Boston, the UK, Portugal and New Zealand.
The two night, eight set program features three world premieres, two duos involving UK guitar/electronics legend Keith Rowe, with NYC percussionists Tim Barnes and Sean Meehan, as well as the trio of Boston-based trumpeter Greg Kelley, Brooklyn-based laptopper David Daniell, and Meehan.
Also featured is the duo of Kelley and tape loops magician Jason Lescalleet (based in Maine), who released a superb record on Erstwhile, Forlorn Green; the duo of Barnes and Lescalleet, who will record a CD for Erstwhile soon after the festival; and the duo of Portuguese double bassist Margarida Garcia and NYC-based Barry Weisblat on homemade electronics, who have performed numerous times in France, Portugal and the US and who have an upcoming CD due out soon on Quakebasket.
The program is completed by two much-anticipated solo sets, one by New Zealand-born, NYC-based laptopper Dion Workman and one by Rowe.
coproduced by Erstwhile and Quakebasket and The Artist Project
Mark Flaum, IHM
the show was in a large theatre space, with theatre seats on risers (apparently designed for munchkins) on sort of forming a semi-circle around the performance space, in the middle of the floor. equipment is set up on tables and on the floor. there are seats for about 150, and my own feeling was maybe two thirds full, but i'm unsure.
first set is barry weisblat and margarida garcia. weisblat i'd not heard much from before, but garcia was one of the parties responsible for an excellent cdr with mattin, so i was looking forward to this one. weisblat was at a table with an array of electronics, garcia played a thin-bodied electric string bass, a very weird looking instrument. weisblat moved between between crunchy power-plug scrabblings and swarmy electric drones, the later being the moor effective tool, to my taste. garcia had a ton of sounds in her pallette, from meaty bowed tones with varying amplification to loud thwacks from striking the body of the instrument to feedback manipulation with the bass leaning against its amp. i would call the set partially successful - there were some really great moments, but sometimes when garcia really let the bass grow and fill the space, weisblat seemed not to be able to keep find his footing. i'm interested in hearing more of the duo, in any case.
next came rowe solo. totally mind-blowing. i hate to add 'as expected' to that, but this was my third time hearing him play solo and each time he seems to up the ante. at first, he seemed to play with sot melodic sounds, allowing what seemed like a loop drift beneath slowly accumulating layers of sound. i was ready for this, as his solo set back in may featured some very melodic components. but then the layers started piling up into some serious heavy noise and sharp high-pitch stabs of feedback, and then the sound was disassemebled again for a quiet passage, snippets of song stolen from the airwaves, washing of white noise, and then not really suddenly but it's noise again, and very full. and then another quiet passage, more still than the last. so still, in fact, that the audience was uniformly willing to wait what felt like most of a minute before rowe made it utterly clear that he was finished.
next was greg kelley and jason lescalleet. greg had supplemented (and at first i feared supplanted) his trumpet with a synthesizer, and jason had what looked like a bunch of old half-disassembled tape recorders spread out on the floor, feeding two loops through two machines each, along with toy keyboards, walkmen, contact mics, and other toys. he started his apparatus going, and most of his musical focus seemed to be modifying, assembling, and adjusting parts othe apparatus to develop the music. greg added depth from his synthesizer and textures with the trumpet, with a couple mutes and sheet metal. but that's just the apparatus. the sound was at first a quiet noise, ever-mutating rumbles with tons of texture and depth. then, they seemed to decide to step it up a bit and the noise grew into a louder, harsher swarm, without sacrificing a touch of texture but pulsing with greater energy, that seemed to continue to grow through the last third of the set. finally, when everything was a giant swarm of beautiful noise, they disassembled it briefly, and greg left the stage while jason sat in the back and listened to the last of the looping, finally shutting it off and thanking the audience.
man, my typing is bad. it's 4 am. i apologize for all my errors, etc. one more set:
rowe with the same set up as before, perhaps as always, paired up with sean meehan armed with a single snare drum, two cymbals, and some metal rods. a gorgeously subtle set, possibly two subtle for a travel day after three other exhilirating sets but still so delicate, meehand carefully scraping pure glowing tones over rowes quiet meshes of noise and hum. so quiet that the unavoidable audience noises (as jon pointed out) were a fair parallel to the ambient sounds usually present in meehan's outdoor performance recordings.
overall, a great night. boarders present (please correct me if i've missed anyone) were myself, texasmile, little dwight, undo, gmby, sevenarts, fauxhemian, hek-tor the destroyer, toddburns, icefactory, bobuffs, brian olewnick, and of course jon abbey, elk, and i suppose tapeloops? thanks to jon and all the performers for a great show, and it was grat to meet those of you i hadn't (joe, wendy, matt, mike) and to see the rest of you again.
i'll say it first: day 1 was the stronger of the two.
tonight started with a solo performance from dion workman, much-anticipated due the the mind-blowing excellence of his solo 3" on antiopic. just him and a laptop in the front of the space. his music starting with a low bassy rumble, and grew into a massive layering of sounds and pulses, without some of the almost beat-oriented components of the cd, but beautifully textured and throbbing. i'm looking forward to more recordings from that man.
next came jason lescalleet and tim barnes. this was much looked forward to after lescalleet's performance last night coupled with the fact that i had not seen tim barnes in performance before. and, well, this was a pretty baffling set. i think i enjoyed it, musically, but there wasn't any moment when i really felt comfortable sitting back and just listening. i'll try to describe instead of trying to explain. at set-up, lescaleet has only one of the tape looping set-ups from the previous night, there on the floor, while barnes has a close-miked snare and a wide variety of bizarre implements to assault it carefully with lescalleet has removed his shoes. and there's a noisy slow-looping sound coming from the left, behind a row of bleachers. i was actually really distracted by that loop, slightly uncertain if it belonged there at all, though no one seemed perturbed so i guess it was obviously welcome. barnes had a tenative start, but eventually got going with all sorts of wonderful development, scraping and chittering and rubbing and all sorts of strange sounds. lescalleet seems to mess with his loop on the floor some, eventually resting a miced cup on top of the loop and letting it shake in time with the looping tape. while barnes continues to focus, lescalleet stands up and walks around behind him, moving microphones and plugging things in. eventually he walks all the way off stage to still the loop over on the right. i'm not going to be able to keep order all that well here, but the next thing that happened was barnes rose from his chair leaving a looping tape of his own sounds that lescalleet had left behind him to handle the drum duties, while he himself took a seat next to lescalleet on the side of the stage, where the latter was setting up small synths, applying duct tape to produce drones. before he finished, he got up and walk all the way around behind the audience. maybe barnes was still playing at this point? i don't think so, i think the stage was empty. and suddenly another loop errupts from out of view behind the audience, apparently behind the merch table in the back. these loops and drones continued, with occasional small modifications (including the addition of still another loop, at the back of the stage) for quite a while, with the stage sitting empty. it really seemed like lescalleet had rigged the whole stage, like at any moment he might be wandering aimlessly and suddenly produce another tape loop or other sound from wherever he happened to be. ok, so i realize that whole description was complicated, but as i said - it was a pretty baffling set. more sound installation than improvisational performance, but still very interesting.
third set of the night was sean meehan, greg kelley, and david daniell, who i'd not heard perform with a laptop (though i have a san agustin box set with him on guitar) except possibly in the antiopic allegorical power series soemwhere. and. this set was quiet, short, calm, and utterly, completely beautiful. meehans slow cymbal drones and snare rubbing was slightly more varied than the set with rowe, kelley's trumpet work was perhaps closer to what might be expected from listening to (early) nmperign with lots of breath sounds, mute control, and vibrating metal blown against or rubbing along the body of the trumpet, and daniell provided a delicate staticky foundation and occasionly chirps of careful activity. the three together where totally entrancing, filling the space without volume. great stuff.
and the final set was, to me, a mild disappointment. it's not that it wasn't great to hear rowe again, this time playing with tim barnes. and barnes, too, was very interesting, drawing on a wider sweep of his equipment than earlier but playing a sparser, more delicate set. but rowe played subtle, almost still, not as subtle as with meehan, but barnes left him larger open spaces and he wasn't interested in filling them with activity. the feeling that left me with is that barnes was exploring his tools for sounds that would match well with the stillness and continuity of rowes sounds, but too often came up with small gestures that filled too little space. i was left thinking about how eddie prevost, working to deal with that same tide of sounds, moved towards bowed cymbals objects many years ago with amm. i was pleased and intrigued that barnes stayed clear of that now obvious response, but i'm not entirely convinced that the alternatives he explored were as successful.
anyway, there's my take on night two of the erstquake. probably as badly written as last nights, and surely even harder to read even without the typos. but i had a great night, and despite what i've described as some disappointments, the music was excellent throughout. a wonderful festival. (9/19/2004)