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.

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