Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet nmperign/Sean Meehan Bhob Rainey/Jason Lescalleet
Issue Project Room NYC
May 24, 2008
Graham Lambkin / Jason Lescalleet (CD Release Concert) nmperign (Greg Kelley / Bhob Rainey) / Sean Meehan Bhob Rainey / Jason Lescalleet
---------------- ISSUE Project Room presents an evening of collaboration between Bhob Rainey and Jason Lescalleet, nmperign (Greg Kelley/Bhob Rainey/Sean Meehan), and Jason Lescalleet with Graham Lambkin. (record release concert)
Mark Flaum, IHM this was my first trip to the issue project room, several floors up in a severe looking building somewhere in the middle of brooklyn. the room was somewhat narrow, with high ceilings and a screen hanging at an angle over the back wall, giving the room the impression of a strange shape. there was actually more space there in the back, but i didn't get back there to poke around. anyway, describing some of this stuff will be a little difficult, so i better get to it. someone else should describe the speakers, they were like flower pots hanging throughout the room, but i'm not sure how they were channeled.
SET 1 - jason lescalleet and bhob rainey
bhob started the set playing alone in a chair with the audience three sides around him. he also had a music stand, which didn't make an awful lot of sense at the beginning but revealed itself as a useful expedient front the right side - there were three or four hand-held tape recorders on the stand, recording the sounds bhob was making. he began the set with extremely quiet, delicate breath sounds, which carried just the slightest touch of tone riding over the breaths. every sound the soprano sax made was careful and intense, even as he slowly built up stronger tones. after a few minutes, jason walked from his table most behind the audience, and lifted on of his recorders off the music stand. he carefully stopped recording, walked to the far side of the room, and set the device on playback. raspy, grainy playback, dominated slightly be the rough sound of tape heads rotating but also carrying the careful music rainey created in the beginning minutes, and was continuing to play. this was the point where the delicate tonal portion of the opening breathy sounds became more evident, as on the second round rainey found those tones and played with matching them, chording with them, or playing against them. recalling the event timing is difficult here, but eventually lescalleet moved the other tape recorders around the room, now layered not only with the sax but also with the playback from the earlier devices. the overall effect was a room-filling, soupy soundscape with spikes of saxophone rising out, either from rainey directly or the return of earlier sounds. and by now the sax was spiking higher, loudly drowning out the tapes at times, sometimes anticipating sounds on their return. at this point it was actually necessary to watch bhob to be sure it was him playing, and not an earlier event returning. i was practically sitting in his lap, though, so i probably had an easier time of it than someone sitting further away from him and the loops. jason stopped and started loops periodically as well, mostly avoiding letting any settle for too long. eventually he reclaimed a couple of the recorders and played them back over the PA instead of their built-in speakers, further dissociating the sound location and letting them drive up loud enough to vibrate the snare, which actually fit in a pretty similar sound space to the saxophone. eventually bhob stopped, leaving the layered loops alone to continue, eventually to be reclaimed, and jason ended the show drawing the PA silent. overall the show was very rewarding, though i think it was bhob's intensity and focus that kept it ever from slipping into simplistic looping.
SET 2: greg kelley, bhob rainey, sean meehan
sort of an unusual arrangement, all three arrangements facing mostly the wall (a few audience members, bu most of the audience was on either side) but with bhob slightly in front of greg, with sean beside greg. in any event, all three faced directly forward, with not visual interaction between them. as far as i noticed all three played with eyes closed, so sight lines wouldn't have been all that handy anyways. anyway, i saw the same trio in austin back in march, and struggled to describe the show then, so here's a second try.
putting this into any sort of event order seems pointless, as all players moved between different sounds and techniques throughout. the sounds were largely quiet, but there were moments when each player strayed into louder territory, and even a moment near the end when all three let the sound grow considerably. greg played breath sounds, open valves, raspy metal-muted notes, and at times clear trumpet tones. bhob had similar breath sounds, including what looked like some sort of mouthpiece alone, and he played clear tones and very controlled squeaks. sean played mostly dowel on cymbal, but there was some rods against the drum itself, and also moments of scraping cymbal across his drum. these are, i guess, the techniques anyone who has seen these guys before (heard as well, but if you've only heard them you might not know it) would be familiar with. so to that extent, i supposed you could call the set predictable. futher, the sound space all three work in are so intricately overlapped that apart from signature tones (the dowel, for example) it was sometimes hard to tell who is making any given sound. or who isn't making any sound at the moment.
but i want to say this set was more successful than the set in austin. and the reason actually helps me put my understanding of how they work into better perspective as well. in austin, partially because of the room and partially because of my distance from the players, the sounds from all three fit into what i would have to describe as a single plane of sound. this isn't a problem in itself, but in that case the audience sounds were distinctly of another plane. so not only did the music not provide as much dimension as i might have liked, any movement from the audience was a distinct distraction.
last night, however, the space is a lot more intimate, in my case the musicians were basically right in front of me. and with that, their sound seemed to have much more dimension. it's hard to explain exactly what i mean by that - not just that there was more direction to it, but sounds arrived in layers that sometimes overlay and sometimes did not. audience sounds simply arrived as another layer, not distracting me at al.
and, something these guys are very good at, the ending was perfect. sound was there, sound stopped, and the show was over. it was short, i think less than half an hour. but another very rewarding set, though possibly less so the further one sat from the action.
SET 3: graham lambkin and jason lescalleet
the room was darkened. the fan was on, starting the set with it's sweeping sounds. jason and graham had tables set at a right angle, both covered with gear of various sorts. i'm not really the person to identify most of it, but jason had a laptop, some other computer or monitor, a portable turntable, some sort of old-school PA, and several other toys. graham had less - a big mixing board, a cd player, and possibly a sampler, though it was just as likely all of his pre-recorded sounds came from cds. he also had a microphone stand. at the beginning of the show, jason was at his desk, and graham was at the back of the room. the early sounds were synthesizer molasses, full of scratchiness and murk but at times they touched a 'digital music' reaction that left me a little worried about the direction of the set. that didn't last long, though, as layers started to build deeper, and eventually graham returned from the back of the room to bring dribbling, drippy water sounds. or did those come from the water bottle jason was playing with? i know graham was responsible for the large sections of classical music that he brough out over the soup of sound jason was still brewing, but other than that it was difficult to trace any of the sounds to the actions that created them. when he played it, though, he took the opportunity to return to the back of the room while the song played out. another moment that was easy to identify was when he grabbed the mic stand and pulled it close, only to turn away before making a sound, directing his attention back to the mixing board. he did this two, three times, before finally allowing a sort of bodiless roar loose into room, gently rising above the sound that was filling the space. at some point jason was slowly dragging a silver bowl with a contact mic across the floor, then lifting it and draping it over the turntable, now spinning. how did it sound? exactly like a silver bowl with a contact mic draped over a portable turntable. i don't think there was a record on the turntable. again, somewhere here, graham started a classical track, loud enough to bury the rest of the sound and give graham a chance to walk back to the back of the room. i think jason used these moments to set up different pieces of equipment, but he might have just been enjoying the music. this time when he returned, graham set to work on his chair, dragging it across the floor with a mic on top, magnifying the vibrations and messing up the carpet. i think this was the point where he picked up one of jason's tape recorders. he went on to do quite a bit of dragging things across the room, including i think the tape recorder, dragged by the chord of the contact mic attached to it. to be honest, keeping things in order is nearly as hard as attaching sounds to sources. there was probably also another classical piece, and at some point graham was in the back of the room exchanging some sort of greeting with someone from NNCK.
but the heart of the performance came from jason, in the later quadrant of the performance, while concentrating deeply on the monitor that made him turn away from his desk and somewhat towards me, jason began to sing. at first it was difficult to hear him, buried as he was in an stew of sound. he slowly raised his voice, keeping his focus even as he moved across his desk to address other sound sources, and eventually i was able to understand the words "don't raise their expectations". so i was wrong, everyone else told me it was "you have great expectations". eventually he was nearly yelling, rising like an operatic area over the sounds i couldn't really describe that are we the foundation of the piece.
i don't know how anything i've said here could describe how completely arresting this entire set was. there were laughs, there was deep sincerity, and there was a deep sense of 'i wonder what this will sound like'. i was at the set, i heard it all, and i'm still wondering. just a fantastic listening experience and a great show to watch. i don't think i could say any more that would help understand it. (5/25/2008)