Graham Stephenson/Richard Kamerman Devin DiSanto/Nick Hoffman Tim Albro/Aaron Zarzutzki Ian M Fraser/Anthony Saunders
Friday, June 18, 2 PM
Michael Bullock/Seth Cluett/Sarah Hennies
Friday, June 18, 8 PM
Ian M Fraser/Anthony Saunders Reed Evan Rosenberg/Ethan Tripp Matt Krefting/Gabi Losoncy Jonathan Borges/William Hutson
The AEU, in conjunction with Fridman Gallery and Shared Shapes, is very happy to announce this immersive showcase festival, packing quite a bit of music into a 28 hour period.
Mark Flaum, IHM so this past weekend was the first official festival of the american electroacoustic underground, an organization too nebulous to qualify as loosely organize and kind of sort of sprouted from this board once upon a time. more specifically this festival recognized past and future pairings from the erstwhile records sublabel AEU. eight duos over two nights, plus an extended trio matinee on the second day.
the starting set was two of the original members of the AEU, richard kamerman and graham stephenson. graham performed on trumpet, and he started out melodic but soon moved on to breathy, bubbly sounds and low droney sounds. richard used metronomes and ran his fingers along a series of long wind chimes hung from a stand. richard also spoke, two extended readings that he had prepared for the night. the first was about the creation of the AEU, starting with a long IHM post by bhob rainey about the ways improvisation developing in america was unique and separate from the other scenes around the same time. the second reading was more timely still - relating his personal reaction to the Pulse shooting, and then reading the names of the victims. graham managed to match the gravity of the moment with subtle textures and whispers, and the room was wrapt.
the second set was the three exercises duo of devin disanto and nick hoffman. they set up across the table from each other, both with a variety of noisemakers. nick used a mostly his laptop but had some foil and other crinkly things as well. devin had a great deal of strange variety, though the featured parts were a punch clock, a button bell, and a switch that generated noise. nick seemed to be paying attention to devin's actions carefully, building a soundspace around him including white noises, intricate textures, and random-feeling digital noise bursts. devin's focus was quite different, though - he approached his performance like an office worker performing diligently. first stacking and binding punch cards and tallying each quantum with a noise and a bell. then diligently punching them all with more noise and bells. his focus never wavered, even when the box of punchcards fell from the desk during a transition. a surprisingly tight and responsive performance given the a-musical focus of half the presentation.
more in the morning. oh and richard's text in full can be read here at least for the time being.
the second half of day 1 is the haziest in my memory, mostly because 4 hour bus rides aren't supposed to take 7 hours and i'd actually never seen any of the performers live before. forgive me if my details are particularly poor.
the third set of the night was the duo of tim albro and aaron zarzutski. tim shares a recent erstAEU cd with tyler keen, and aaron's duo with graham stephenson was part of the initial batch of 3, but i have a feeling this was their first time playing together. tim had a guitar on a floor stand in the middle of his table, facing about 3/4 away from the audience and directly towards a small amp. he also had some sheets of metal, other objects, and a mixer on his table. aaron had sort of two separate sets of gear, a wooden block with a speaker cup and bowls and other little things, and then a folding table with some mysterious sort of home-made synthesizer, a little box of buttons. their set was full of textures, with the feedback of the stationary guitar modulated by the metal sheets, aaron's objects cracking and buzzing and his synth making strange burbles and bubbles. I particularly liked how decisively aaron set aside the wood block equipment to focus on the synthesizer. good set, and one i wish i could hear again because there were a lot of sounds i couldn't place at all.
and the final set of the night, anthony saunders and ian fraser. they're recent additions to the erstAEU roster, though anthony has been active for years (often as explosive improvised device, but under his own name and some other projects too) and ian has released a couple tapes recently and had a duo outing on the great homophoni digital label run by aeu co-founder david kirby. their equipment for the show was polarly opposed, with ian working mostly from his laptop with a couple of pedals and a mixer alongside, while anthony's table was almost entirely filled with a substantial synthesizer with a complicated spaghetti of patch cables, along with a few pedals of his own and other gear. this was the noisiest set of the first night, but it had a certain compactness, where both musicians seemed to recognize when their layers of loud textures and crush were just right and then back off abruptly, saunders even tossing down the little box that seemed to be seeding the rest of his sound. then, without quite resorting to silences between, the two would build again with different sounds and in different directions. and no point did they quite let loose into free noise, but the energy was enough to carry off a cathartic closure to the first night of music.
so after trekking up to mid town for levain cookies and then mistiming some trains from brooklyn, i missed the first 15 minutes of the trio set. however, it was a long performance so i still caught plenty of music.
sarah hennies performed on vibraphone to the left, mike bullock played double bass and had a synthesizer on a low table not too far from him on the right, and seth cluett had a table in front with a variety of electronics and gadgets. each of them explored both extended, droning sounds such as sine waves, blended vibe rolls, or slow bowing of the bass. each of them also used more pointilistic sounds, plucks and muted strikes and noise splurts. it was easy to drift into the sound and lose track of which sounds came from which musician, or even from the the synth that was left on its own, or the electric toothbrushes seth eventually abandonned buzzing away on a separate table. about 2/3 of the way through the time, there was a shift as seth drew out a roll of packing tape and began peeling tape from the roll with loud hissing crackles and lining the tape along the floor. he walked along the tape, his careful steps matching the precision of the sounds around him but also using his feet to keep the tape taut so the sound was good and loud. as he progressed back to the front of the stage, mike also took a bit of a walk, first adjusting the synth slightly then picking up his bass and playing his way out the door and onto the street outside. in the meantime sarah was so focused on the sounds that she didn't completely notice what the other musicians were up to. seth tracked his steps pulling the tape up from the floor with a muted re-enactment of the original sound, and mike made his way back to his corner and pulled a patch cable from the synth on his way, ending the repeating figures that had continued while he was outdoors. a few minutes the three of them wound down to complete silence, just a couple minutes short of two hours total.
after that we broke for dinner and gelato, i guess i missed a gathering of aeu members but if i understand it correctly they mostly discussed craft beers and had to rush for food. one more evening to go!
the evening set started off with a bit of a surprise: tucker dulin at the front of the stage invites everyone to get up and take a walk with him to a small park down the street, where his duo with ben owen would be taking place. so a gentle stroll on a perfect evening leads us to a small paved park space, with the west side highway on one flank and traffic scuttling on either side to listen to their quiet performance. tucker sets up his gear very carefully on a small cloth, while ben connects a series of guitar pedals to battery packs and then to speakers built inside cardboard resonating chambers. tucker rubs together wood blocks wrapped in sandpaper, rolls dried chickpeas in a metal bowl, whirrs a jump rope in the air a comfortable distance from the audience, and plays quiet sine waves on his phone to interfere with the acoustic drones from his other instruments. the slide whistle in evidence was not played, alas. ben's sounds are harder to piece together from all the equipment, but quiet breathing drones whispered out from his cardboard speakers despite all the competition. manhattan played truck engines, car horns, reggaeton, and at some point an anti-trump rap song to accompany the performance. it was a pleasant challenge to keep track of the music inside all of the environment, but it also made the brief lulls between rolls of traffic seem all the more magical.
the second set was unpredictable too, the duo of reed evan rosenburg and ethan tripp with their first live performance following the recent release of their album medium rude. in fact you should probably go listen to that album now before reading the rest of what i'm going to write here. ethan set up on the stage in the dark, with amplified objects and his laptop beside him. reed's gear was in the front center of the audience, a mixer a couple pedals and a chunk of aluminum foil, but as ethan started to make sounds read was outdoors, suddenly striding in wearing a dark hood and sliding on his knees up to his equipment. he answers the rumbles and crackles coming from ethan with less subtle, noisier blasts including some literal blasts from bang-snaps he hurled about erratically. the result was heavily atmospheric, like being up close to a fire with none of the heat. about 20 minutes into the set, reed broke out into throaty shouted vocals that seemed to me as much about cold fire as the music. apparently they were excepts from a khanate song, though i can't remember what parts i understood anymore to repeat them. an explosive, energetic set that never overwhelmed the texture and detail of the sound.
after this set, there was a bit of excitement across the street as anthony saunders intervened to prevent a drunk from starting a fight. high drama!
and then the duo of gabi losoncy and matt krefting. this one is really going to be hard to convey. the room was dark, but the big mural on the back wall had sort of a cloudy, curtainy feeling like the room maybe extended further than it did. and matt, dressed in dark colors and exceedingly tall, stalked back and forth between two long tables, adjusting tapes without even facing the audience. he seemed to be tending infernal machines in some dark cavern. gabi, on the other hand, did no stalking and never faced away from the audience. in fact she sort of faced over the audience, staring above us with her phone in her hand and a serious but hopeful expression on her face. occasionally, slowly and carefully, she touched her phone to produce some difficult to identify changes in the thick cloud of echoing broken piano and droning noise hiss. otherwise, she stared out steadily, maybe maybe fighting back a smile now and then. the effect was theatrical but also compelling, forcing me to figure out how the sound and her stillness really made sense together, and what matt was brewing in the dark that she refused to know.
following this set, the drunk from before was escorted by police into an ambulance and carted away. he'd accumulated a new cut on his face, but we were all to busy with the music to know what that was about.
and then the final set of the festival, and probably the one i was most looking forward to. all the chairs were pushed back so the audience gathered around two travel racks full of pedals, pushbuttons, and gear facing each other on one long table. jon borges (of pedestrian deposit, emaciator, vasculae for those unfamiliar) and bill hutson (of clipping, but that's not as relevant here) began the set by trading bursts and blasts of detailed, controlled noise. gradually, carefully they expanded these events into a massive and powerful wall of noise that filled the room and probably the block but never buried the detail and texture of the sound. powerful stuff.
so that was the music. the festival was still a lot more than that, so many friends i see so rarely all coming together for music that's always been at the core of what brought us together. saw some good friends perform live for the first time and saw some favorite musicians in new contexts as well. thanks to jon and the fridman gallery team for making this happen, and thanks to all the musicians for making it something memorable and important. oh and i finally got to meet bw, after maybe 7 years of missing him at shows and around towns. (6/23/2016)