Friday, April 03, 2009

Last night at Blim, plus tonight at the Western Front!

Preamble to Blim review:

Dear Western Front:

I realize that you realize that I'm a nice guy, that I steal stuff from the net myself periodically, that we appear to be entering a post-copyright era, and that I would probably not object to you using Dan Kibke's image of Jeffrey Allport and Tyler Wilcox (seen previously on my blog, here) as the centerpiece of your composite picture promoting tonight's show, shown below:

I realize that you also realize that Dan, too, is a nice guy, and no less a friend to the Front than myself. The thing is, though, these photos are used on my blog by permission from the photographers, and I really must insist everyone observe protocol and ask the photographers ("I want to use your image from Al's blog - is it okay?"). I am more than happy to send on such requests: because, you see, I work primarily with three photographers, mostly (Dan Kibke, Femke van Delft, and Bev Davies; tho' sometimes there's something from John Chedsey, Jillian King, Susanne Tabata or others), and if any of them got annoyed with me for insufficiently protecting their work, say, it would sorely hurt my blog, and mean fewer photos for folks like you to lift in the future! (BTW, The Vancouver Sun apparently did this once, which I consider far more offensive; I support the Front and like what you do, but I'm totally indifferent to the Vancouver Sun, and my answer to them, if they'd troubled to ask, might well have been: pay me).

Having chastened you thus, I will proceed to plug tonight's show at the Front, by means of talking about last night's show at Blim.

(Commence Blim review)

Jeffrey Allport and Lief Hall at Blim, April 2nd. Photo by Dan Kibke. Note: photographs on this site are the property of the photographers and are not to be used without their permission.

For their opening set at Blim last night, Lief Hall of Vancouver's former Mutators performed an ambitious set of improvised electro-acoustic music with percussionist Jeffrey Allport, electronics-guy Robert Pedersen, and, for their second piece, Bellingham's Tyler Wilcox on saxophone. Lief has apparently moved beyond the spastic shrieking menace of her former incarnation into something altogether more refined: weird, intense, unamplified screechy warbles that sort of sounded like the vocalisations of a lunatic squealing demonbaby gleefully sucking the withered teats of an angry, hissing granny. As I've seen Paul Dutton and other vocal improvisers do, she held her hands in front of her mouth in various configurations to modify the sounds, which were almost always fascinating (though I preferred her more complex "pure sound" screeches to her deeper, more singerly forays into voice, which were distractingly, um, voicelike). Chatting with her afterwards revealed that she's somewhat new to vocal improv of this sort and - like July Fourth Toilet's Jody Franklin - is approaching it from a more-or-less fresh perspective, creating the form whole for herself without really needing to be grounded in its high-art precedents (tho' I've suggested Maja Ratkje, in particular, would be useful for her to look at, and sent her links for webpages on Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Koichi Makigami and others). It's exciting to see her transition from noisy no wave spazz-punk to minimal improvised noise, and many passages with were sublime indeed (adjective used by permission of Dan Kibke).

For his part, Allport plays a drum kit like a highly sensitive alien being with no conception of hitting, striking, or keeping a beat might, having been given several years to come up with his own idiosyncractic approach ot the instrument. Allport bows the kit, rubs the skins with tinfoil, places the business end of a vibrating tuning fork against the skins, and so forth, to produce an unfathomable and fascinating array of sounds; the best "tools" he used last night were homemades consisting of brightly coloured rubber balls mounted on nail files, the "ball" part of which he rubbed on the skins to produce a deep resonant drone the likes of which I could never have imagined could be produced from a snare and a floor tom (though might have expected from an electronically processed cello, say). Pedersen's electronics were only occasionally hearable to me, as he was sitting to the side of the room that was facing my infected left ear, but when his sounds did surface in the mix - you remember the sounds that accompanied the tachyon-relayed "transmissions from the future" in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness? They reminded me a bit of those, tho' not quite so creepy.

Robert Pedersen and Tyler Wilcox at Blim, April 2nd. Photo by Dan Kibke. Note: photographs on this site are the property of the photographers and are not to be used without their permission.

Wilcox, as well, played his instrument like it might not be an instrument, breath and spit and fingers producing something that you'd be more likely to hear the wind make spontaneously, blowing through an industrial park, rather than a man produce deliberately on a horn. Quiet, subtle, and experimental in the truest sense of that word, the musicians at Blim last night made sounds more listenable and daring and carefully wrought than anything I've heard, say, Evan Parker do at his sold out electroacoustic jazz fest appearances (even if Tyler didn't circular breathe for hours on end). The fact that this wasn't some high-end art show but a gathering of mostly fairly young people, mostly unheralded by the mainstream arts community in Vancouver, in a small venue that most of the big names in the jazz and new music scene here probably haven't even been to yet made it even more special... Scratching notes in my notebook, I was flummoxed to try to come up with apt descriptors of the sounds I heard - I would probably have done better to just close my eyes and listen (which can make music of this sort into an ecstatic/ transcendent experience). The closest I could come up with was thinking back to a recording Dan made on a train from Koyasan to Osaka during G42's Japanese tour last year, that he tells me he plans to release someday as a 3" CD - particularly when Allport and, more frequently, subsequent performer Gust Burns - playing a "piano board" of some sort, a homemade-lookin' instrument that I won't attempt to describe - would hold a stick so that one end was touching the surface of their instruments (the drumskin for Allport, or a contact mike on Burn's homemade, or just the wooden surface of the same) and move their hands in a steady rhythm, one hand sliding down the stick, the other following as the first hand got to the bottom and moved back to the top, generating a hypnotic, rhythmic noise. The analog fits best there: it sounded like nothing so much as the gentle repetition of a train's wheels, turning on the tracks, lulling the listener into a peaceful but attentive trance.

Perhaps one of the things I liked so much about last night's music was that the hand motions of many of the players were represented so clearly in the sounds we were hearing? When someone plays a horn or twiddles a dial on a synth, you have to sort of have a sense of the architecture of the instrument to be able to logically connect the hands you see with the sounds you hear, but that's less so when what you're hearing is the amplified, distorted sound of someone rubbing a stick... or a drum skin, or a cymbal or a gong or such - no matter what they're rubbing it with...

Gust Burns at Blim, April 2nd. Photo by Dan Kibke. Note: photographs on this site are the property of the photographers and are not to be used without their permission.

Jason Kahn at Blim, April 2nd. Photo by Dan Kibke. Note: photographs on this site are the property of the photographers and are not to be used without their permission.

Zurich's Jason Kahn, too - who played alongside Burns and then was joined by Tyler - made fascinating electro-acoustic percussive sounds, with a large drum - bigger than the usual floor tom but the wrong orientation for a bass drum, so I'm really not sure what it was - wired to (Dan tells me) a Doepfer analog synth. He deftly manipulated cymbals and other objects on the surface of his drum with his right hand and adjusted patches and tweaked his synth with his left. It became nearly impossible to fully differentiate between the sounds he was making, and those of Burns - as everything flowed towards a Dionysian continuum of embracing, nurturing noise - but I was most impressed by his contribution to the evening, as well.

If you're feeling like you missed something, having read that: come to the Western Front tonight! (There's more than enough time before Nomeansno play - see below for the new location, since it ain't at the Anza no more). I'm not exactly sure who Blouse are or what Broken Sleep will be doing, but there will be a set between Allport, Wilcox, and Burns - with Burns, I'm told, playing a grand piano! - and also an appearance by LSDJ, aka Mark Gabriel, a local sound-collage guy whose CD on Thankless I really like. He'll be performing with "a live PA with radios and casio samplers," I'm told. Starts at 8; Nomeansno don't go on at the Royal Banquet Hall until midnight. You'll be fine.

Of course, you may already have plans to see Xenakis' Kraanerg. I respect that! Enjoy yourself...

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