Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It's fairly rare in this neck of the woods to experience a concert made up of three different performances where each one was strong in its own unique way and where, looking back, you find yourself thinking of each of them almost equally and fondly.
At Issue Project Room this past Saturday, this was the happy situation, at least for myself--I get the feeling most there, while likely enjoying all three sets, were
knocked out by the final one and I can see their point. (Mudd, at I Hate Music, has a fine take of his own.
First up, however, was the duo of Bhob Rainey and Jason Lescalleet who are on schedule for an Erstwhile release sometime within a year or so. Taking best advantage of the long, rectangular space, Rainey situated himself more or less in the middle, Jason toward the rear though still having audience members behind him. Rainey began with a series of extremely controlled, very quiet breath tones, quite beautiful in and of themselves. Jason, I thought for a moment, was engaging in Sugimoto aesthetics, simply sitting behind his devices and listening for several minutes. Unbeknownst to me, he had placed four digital recorders on the music stand in front of Rainey and they were doing their work. Eventually he stood up, gathered in one of them, turned it on back where it had begun recording and placed it on the floor near the rooms entrance. Over the next 15 or so minutes, he did the same with each of the recorders, positioning them at various spots in the room. I thought this worked superbly, a fine example, I guess, of the sort of "process music" that bothers some fans but which I really love. Depending where one sat, I imagine you'd get varying ratios of live Rainey and taped and, for me, the piece lost a bit of focus as it went on but still hit some marvelous points, especially with Rainey interacting and blending with himself and the amplified room noise. Very fine set and sets ones anticipation at a high point for their eventual recorded collaboration
Next up was nmperign (Rainey and Greg Kelley) with Sean Meehan. You sort of know what you're likely to be in for with this particular combination and it's a testament to their deep musicianship that, even when this eventuates, there's more than enough going on that the listener can continue to hear things (s)he hadn't noticed before, pick up patterns previously unperceived. So, yes, it was quiet (I'm told Sean plays loud every so often, but I've never experienced this), the three used the kind of sounds they're known for but still, it worked marvelously, full of small peaks and valleys and never causing this listener's interest or fascination to waver. Plus, crucially, it was of precisely the right length, maybe 20-25 minutes, full to the rim and then cut off.
Graham Lambkin had wowed a few of us with his "Salmon Run", quickly followed up by the very fine "The Breadwinner" with Jason, this being something of a delayed record release event. Lambkin, until the prior evening in western Massachusetts, hadn't performed live in several years and never (I don't think) in this kind of improvising situation. He did rather well. The set had a wonderful form as a whole, even as it was subdivided into several sections; it kind of read as an album, in a way. Describing it all would be nigh impossible, but suffice it to say that Lescalleet was manipulating his noisemakers with both ferocity and sensitivity (none of the floor tape machines, btw, though two smaller ones on his table with correspondingly shorter tape loops employed) and Lambkin's feeds into that maelstrom were pointed and simply beautiful, including a recording of Ave Maria and an incredible choral piece which he later said he didn't know the title or composer of, though it was performed by the Tallis Scholars (If anyone knows, please inform me). The show climaxed--and the word is perfectly appropriate here--with Jason chanting a lyric from, I would be informed later (sorta proud not to have known) from a Kiss song, "You have such great expectations." He did this un-miked and fairly quiet at first, then made himself something of a human tape-loop, iterating the phrase at gradually increased levels of both volume and rage. Not sure if anyone was keeping count, but I'd guess that he was up over 25 times, by which point it had long since become an anguished howl, before things subsided. A little bit intense. One of the many things I love about Jason's music is his willingness to include "dangerously" emotional elements, things one could easily abuse and turn to schmaltz but with which he manages to retain a real rigor and clarity of intent. Powerfully done.