Sunday, January 29, 2006

Concert Review: Elzweig/Perlmutter and Lower Case Curry

This is the third in a series of reviews on the LSG New Music concert
series, held at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco.

The concert was held on January 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm. Following the
standard format of this series, there were two groups performing.
8:00 pm Solos and Duos: Marc Elzweig (bass clarinet) and Michael
Perlmutter (Saxophones). With Liam Staskawicz (trombone) Star Holder
(french horn) and Jesse Olsen (trap set).

This performance comprised a number of short pieces, that were in fact
solos, duets, and a small group including all those above.

I seem incapable of walking into this series on time. As we walked up the
stairs to the gallery, Mr. Perlmutter bent over the railing and greeted
us with a long lunar note from his saxophone. As we made it to the
gallery we saw that the players were distributed around the periphery of
the gallery, playing to the surrounded audience, with all
instrumentalists eyes on Mr. Perlmutter for cues.

Following this introductory hug, Perlmutter and Elzweig played together a
short piece that was based on a Bulgarian folk song--somewhat loosened at
the seams, allowing the tune to move between rhythmic, melodic and almost
ambient delivery. Several of the pieces spanned this range.
The next piece was a solo by Elzweig, slowly presenting the sonic
fullness of the bass clarinet.

The pieces from Elzweig's solo through the end seemed to focus on
technical strategies to blowing and fingering the instruments that
generated sonic qualities unique to the instruments.

Perlmutter presented a song with the word "Birth" in the title that began
with a full breathiness through the sax, and over the course of a couple
of minutes, led through a growing presence and complexity to a final
pitched note. The gallery is a great place for this kind of piece, as it
is small enough and live enough for the subtleties of such an approach to
be heard well.

The next piece sounded to me to have Klezmer roots, but continued the
breathy blowing of the previous piece. This was followed by another sax
solo with Perlmutter tapping the valves open and closed without blowing,
creating a percussive effect not unlike the sound of a picked electric
bass. This was followed by another sax and bass clarinet duet, and a
final piece performed by all members of the group.

While this group's music was not electronically generated nor enhanced,
it shared a materialist focus on the product generated by a physical
instrument. Perlmutter stayed away from the more common squeals of an
excited sax and he and Elzweig instead gave highly-magnified views of
what are usually micro-moments: the attack sound of the valve covers
hitting the opening at the beginning of a note, and the usually brief
startup that bridges silence and pitched sound. These, together with the
rich granularity of an extended note's vibration, were for me the primary
subjects of this first set of the evening.

The second set (9:00 pm) was by a group with my favorite name: "Lower
Case Curry". Nary an Indian in the group, though. MaryClare Bryzwa on
electric flute and MAX (running on a Mac notebook), Mike Sopko on
electric guitar, and Noah Phillips on prepared electric guitar.

LCC performed twice for their set. There did not appear to be a great
deal of interplay among the musicians, although each undoubtedly was
listening to the overall sound, and deciding what to play as a result of
that consideration.

Sopko sat in the middle of the three and for the most part played as fast
as possible, playing scalar runs of notes of equal length and loudness,
with short pauses from time to time. His delivery seemed self-absorbed,
which I don't mean as a criticism, just an observation. Like Pollock
delivering paint he ploughed into his single-note riffs and runs,
delivering a consistant sonic texture that seemed to pause when the riff
ran out, as opposed to sonic cues from other members.

Phillips' sounds were texture- rather than scale-based. He achieved a
remarkable range of timbres and textures using a variety of mechanical
materials (including I believe steel wool, a small egg-beater, and
various rubbing, tapping and bowing tools), as well as maybe a dozen
analog effects pedals.

Bryzwa started the set on flute, singing through it and delivering
breath-long notes, while also generating and modulating tones using MAX.
Her sounds mixed with Phillips' to create an atmosphere that wrapped
around Sopko's muted but furious 32nd notes.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Noodles: Performance at LSG in SF

The Noodles: LSG in SF.

This is the second review on Outsound's "LSG New Music Series" held on Thursday evenings in San Francisco.

Outsound is a collective of "explorative sound artists" who present performances throughout the SF Bay area. Information on Outsound may be found at

This particular series is being held at the Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market Street (near 6th) in San Francisco, and curated by musicians Rent Romus andMatt Davignon. It is the longest-standing experimental music series in the Bay Area, having been operating since 1991. Past performers have included Cecil Taylor, Alan Silva, Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith and many others.

On January 16 there were two performances: one by Daniel Martin-McCormick, and one by The Noodles (Suki O'Kane, Michael Zelner, and Allen Whitman.

I arrived toward the end of Daniel Martin-McCormick's opening set, so I won't say too much about it. He was using an amplified electric guitar to produce non-melodic and non-rhythmic sounds, layering them with sounds from CDs, and using a variety of effects modules. I'm sorry I arrived late as I would have liked to have heard more of his music.

The Noodles set up two on the floor and one in a chair, behind his effects rack with wheels. All three musicians switched between instruments and sound-makers. The instrument-shaped sound triggers I noticed were bass and electric guitars and a MIDI breath controller. Other sound generating devices included ipods, radios, a function generator and a button-interfaced sample player Suki O'Kane played with her fingers.

Michael Zelner sent his breath controller MIDI signals through two MIDI sound boxes and to a MIDI signal distributer, through to a number of effects modules. The audio signals from his MIDI modules were passed into a Mackie mixer and sent out into the PA.

Suki O'Kane split her time between rubbing the strings of her electric guitar near the bridge, and using her fingers to send out arhythmic cluster-clouds of short samples from her drum machine. She also tuned a radio receiver in, out, and between stations.

For the first part of the approximately 50-minute set Allen Whitman played samples from ipods or similar devices. For the second part, he picked up a bass and repeated non-obtrusive measures.

The overall soundscape was, like what I heard from Martin-McCormick, without melody or clearly articulated rhythm. The sounds were not new-agey, they were more machine-and-city sounds for that. For my ears they were not ambient either, too loud for that. But they did stay as ground without figure, a shifting, low-lying set of slow-moving textures.I perceived no tonal centers throughout the piece, other than occasional music from (I believe) a radio tuner, that was faded in and out of the mix without further modulation. I understand that The Noodles often modulate sounds picked up from the area they are playing in, but I did not notice that, if it occurred. The music changed but I noticed no sonic or musical structures that implied either direction or temporal modulation. This was an improvisation for the moment.

Information on the Outsound LSG New Music Series may be found at and .

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jon Brumit's Vendetta Retreat: A Review

A Performance Review:

On January 12, 2006, Jon Brumit and musicians performed in San Francisco's Luggage Store Gallery. The lineup included:

Jon Brumit - director/drums/guitar
Joe Goldring - baritone guitar
Wayne Grim - baritone guitar
Suki O'Kane - drums/percussion
Lee Montgomery - sampler/electronics/laptop/radio

There was a third drummer, but I didn't catch his name.

This was the loudest concert I'd been at since Glen Branca. But interesting stuff. There were two sonic strategies that I thought worked well for the group. One consisted of single, enormously loud hits by all drummers together. All three drummers delivered a synchronized hit of kick drum, snare/or tom, and cymbol. Immediately after smashing the cymbol the drummer(s) muted it. In the small loft space, at this volume (also amplified with 15" PAs) the effect was to send the reverberation of the stacatto hits off the walls, hanging it in the air for several seconds. It wasn't an echo, but a shimmering blast. I doubt it could be accomplished without the amplitude. I loved it--though I do believe I've lost five years of hearing that I was kinda counting on...

The second sonic strategy that worked for me was a sustained attack on guitars, drums and possibly electronics, lasting a couple minutes at a time. No definite pitches, no clear rhythm, but a wall of sustained noise that you could "search" actively listening to different parts of the sonic spectrum.

This second strategy took me back to a vinyl album I'd heard in 1970, of La Monte Young rubbing a gong for about 45 minutes. Again--as I remember--no definite rhythm, so melody, just a full spectrum of sound and resonance--like dark Morris Louis veils. I'm sure La Monte Young's performance was nowhere near the volume Brumit's group produced (and it would not have occurred to me to turn up speakers or headphones to that level), but the oceanic quality of the sound was similar for me.

Over the 30 minutes or so of the piece, I noticed maybe 12 or 14 distinct sections, and there were various other quieter and occasionally less minimal strategies played. For me, these two were the most, uh, striking. And like Branca, I don't think this particular piece would reproduce well as a recording. But in person, within this space, it was fascinating.

Brumit opened with a laptop piece that seemed a bit less raw, but I missed the beginning of the piece, so I can't really report on it, apologies.

The concert was a CD release event for "Vendetta Retreat", released on Edgetone Records.