People who view the New York No Wave scene as one of the last truly exciting chapters in the city’s cultural history can buy as many compilations and artist’s monographs as they like, but nothing beats an opportunity to time-travel. Earlier this month at The Kitchen, New Yorkers jumped at a chance to spend two hours back in the early ’80s — a time when drive-by shootings and burning cars were daily staples of downtown life, but also when a late-night walk down 19th street just might land you in the middle of a dialogue between a professional ballet dancer and an army of electric guitars. Think Punk!, an evening of music and physical performance by choreographer Karole Armitage, cast a younger generation of New York Noise-makers in a recreation of Drastic Classicism, an explosive collision of classical ballet and No Wave punk…
Archive for March, 2009
An Extremely Drastic Case of Déjà Vu: Karole Armitage and Rhys Chatham Revive Underground Dance Classic in NYMonday, March 30th, 2009
Recorded in Brooklyn, at the heart of the winter of 2008, and completed upon the arrival of the first blooms of spring, Choral offers a rich and unique listening experience. If Mountains’ music is often lumped in with the “ambient” category, this term is surely way too reductive; the associations of elevator music that it calls to mind, or, at best, of airport music (ie., Brian Eno’s seminal Ambient 1. Music for Airports, 1978), do little justice to the complexity of the New York duo’s experiments. Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkam’s first met in middle school; far from following the path beaten by Eno, they have been roving immense sonic landscapes ever since, jumping from the dizzying peaks of noise to the fertile valleys of American folk and, with Choral, arriving at a crossroads between the hypnotic drones of a Phill Niblock and the heady loops of a Steve Reich.
The cover of Figs, Wasps, and Monotremes, Rob Fisk’s second offering under the Common Eider, King Eider moniker, presents the outline of a corpulent fig, cross-sectioned to reveal a hidden kaleidoscope of seeds. Fisk’s music has always meshed beautifully with his visual practice, but this image is a particularly apt metaphor for his sound: delicate and linear, but with shocks of wild profusion.
Matt Mondanile and his co-conspirators are certainly working a lot of bikinis in a twist these days, blowing up the blogosphere as the DIY forerunners of a new “beach pop” phenomenon. The hype surrounding Ducktails and Real Estate is well deserved, but dwelling too much on the “drinking a pina colada in black Ray-Bans and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt” aesthetic undermines their breadth and talent as musicians.
Infinity Window is a bit of a game-changer. Not that there’s anything drastic about them, but listening to their atmospheric lull is bound to effect you. Try putting on “Artificial Midnight” on a late, dark Saturday afternoon with your friends, like I did, and see the change. If your friends are anything like mine, they’ll sink into the couch and won’t budge an inch. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t traveling.
United States postal worker by day, musician and co-founder of the mythic Tetrapod Spools label by night, Mark Tucker is finally beginning to earn his due as one of America’s lesser-known outsider heroes. Batstew, his 1975 debut, is now a cult collectible, and De Stijl’s 2006 reissue of the album has expanded his fan base beyond the more obsessive collector contingent. With new reissue “In the Sack” (1982), Tucker’s second album, De Stijl reopens Tucker’s slanted and enchanted universe to the public.
Noise is not for most people. It’s a challenging form of music and involves, by definition, intrusive sounds that one resists instinctively. One way to come to an understanding of the genre is through the live setting, where, as with a rock show, there is a bodily confrontation with the performer and their visceral squall. The live form of noise raises many ambiguities because the goals of the performers are not always clear: sometimes they seem confrontational, sometimes indifferent. So, what makes the live performance good or bad? I find myself considering this while taking in a collaborative, improvisational noise show in Brooklyn this past weekend.