Sunday, September 18, 2011

As a kind of addendum to AMPLIFY:stones, we had two evenings of three sets apiece at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, featuring various combinations of Taku Unami, Taku Sugimoto, Moe Kamura, Takahiro Kawaguchi, Radu Malfatti and Annette Krebs.

Friday's first set was another festival highlight for me: Malfatti/Sugimoto. Not that anything was particularly unexpected--Radu kept to his exquisite low, soft tones augmented by the occasional finger tap on his bell or mute, etc. while Sugimoto held an e-bow almost motionless above his strings, generating a hum that had to have been inaudible beyond ten feet or so. But it was just perfect, a fine example of commitment tied to execution. Indeed, the Malfatti experience: hearing him in a number of situations and talking a good deal with him, was an enormous and special pleasure. Kawaguchi was up next, solo, standing behind a table strewn with small objects, some of a mechanical nature. He constructed a mini-environment, first grappling with a small motor from which a metal rod protruded, that rod becoming a magnet (two magnets?) with a polarity that served to repel a magnetized disc while keeping it floating alongside the rod, rotating against it and generating a drone. If that makes sense. In any case, fun to watch. He had a bag of what seemed to be the innards of egg timers, which he wound and set on the table, perhaps 30 of them, plunked a wine bottle amongst them, arranged small flashlights and occupied himself with similar activities, many of which I'm doubtless forgetting. It paled after a bit, for this viewer/listener. He ended by simply leaning back against a wall and waiting, hands folded across chest, for about ten minutes, listening to a buzz. Lastly, Krebs/Unami in which, true to the form he'd established over the previous two weeks, Taku constructed a set, this time a mock music performance with mic stands (rolled paper serving as mics), amps (cardboard boxes), etc. He brought out a long broom, "wired" it to a speaker and conscripted David Kirby to wield it, which Mr. Kirby, lavishly attired in a dark magenta three-piece suit, did admirably. A box served as a drum set for Cat Lamb and bass (push broom) duties fell to Kjell Bjorgeengen, each similarly plucked out of their chairs. Unami joined the audience to witness their performance. Krebs, all the while, was generating fairly minimal noises, including samples of a slightly drunken friend (in German) as well as winding cellophane tape around herself and the set. It was....funny, more or less enjoyable, uncomfortable, unusual.

The final evening began with the duo Saritote (Moe Kamura and Taku Sugimoto) who played what were easily the most tuneful, "straightest" music of the festival, very lovely miniatures, often only a few seconds long. The melodies were spare and clear as was Kamura's pitch-perfect voice, very fragile and quite beautiful. At one point they played Satie's "Vexations", Sugimoto playing the melody at first single-note, then chorded, after which Kamura would sing her own obbligato to the line; lovely, a very crystalline, fine set. Unami and Kawaguchi were up next (splash zone in effect) and, well, constructed another fairly elaborate scene involving a tall ladder, chairs, the inevitable cardboard boxes, chairs, twine, garbage bags, candles, flashlights, fans, etc. all arrayed over about 40 feet of space from stage-center to a far wall. Taku cowled himself as he'd don at Stone, moaned a bit, answered a cell call. When they were well-satisfied, Unami switched on a sound-generating device for some loud thrumming and they left the room briefly, Kawaguchi returning a few minuted later to shut matters down. It's the type of thing that could be really awful but they pretty much manage, somehow, to pull it off. Not my favorite sort of thing, but....Finally, 35 or so sets after it had begun, Krebs/Sugimoto closed the curtain on this edition of AMPLIFY, playing a fine set in which Krebs' sampled voice (a male reading a poetic text) played against Taku speaking, in Japanese, describing his initial meeting with Annette some 13-14 years ago, each also contributing small sounds from their instruments. It worked gorgeously for a good 15-20 minutes, meandered a bit, came back together and, appropriately ended with the pair sitting in silence for a good while.


The festival, day in, day out, was one of the stronger ones I've ever attended, almost every event offering at least something of value, many sets turning out to be spectacular. Its arc, from the opening hints of Wandeweiser, through the Rowe and Unami phases, the Malfatti waves, back to Pisaro, ultimately the Japanese crew, provided a layered continuity that was invaluable. Hats off to Jon (and David Kirby for the amazing sound system) for another job exceedingly well done.


robert said...

Thanks for all the reports Brian; a bit of solace for those who couldn't be there.

If you were so inclined I wouldn't mind hearing more of your thoughts on the more theatrical pieces. The reports I've read have been from people universally into that form of performance and I'd be curious to read some analysis from a more critical perspective.

Jon Abbey said...

I don't think there's much "analysis" to be had either pro or con unless there was maybe a professional theater/film critic in the audience at some point (Glenn Kenny was at some sets, but I don't know if he saw any of the Unami ones), but good luck. 'leroysghost' on IHM knows a fair amount about the Kiyoshi Kurosawa-inspired area that Unami was working in for a lot of these sets, so hopefully he'll post more on IHM after he gets back home, you could ask there too.

FWIW, Radu and Keith, neither of whom is a big fan of that way of working in general ('STOP TALKING AND PLAY'), both were impressed with Unami's contributions that they were here for (mostly different ones), to one degree or another.

to me, Unami is always very musical somehow, even when there is little to no sound. this festival was a huge challenge for him once the two initially separately curated fests (1-15, 16-17) got pushed together, 6 sets in front of a largely overlapping audience over the course of 12 days, a challenge which for me he ended up meeting pretty brilliantly.

Jon Abbey said...

also, I thought the musical content opposite him was often great (Rowe, Malfatti, Nakamura, Krebs) and even his solo seemed carefully calculated in terms of sonic output, as was discussed a bit on IHM (Yuko specifically).

yesterday's set with Kawaguchi was the closest to pure theater, very little sound until near the end, but it worked extremely well in between the two Sugimoto sets IMO, fantastic contrasts.