Posts filed under ‘Bay Area music’

Monday Make-Out: May 2016

mihaly-MORmay16-cropThe most recent live music show I’ve seen (not counting the theater experience) goes back to the beginning of May, when I headed to San Francisco’s Mission District for the first-Monday jazz program at the Make-Out Room.

This one was really different. Walking through the door, I was greeting by the wavering clang of a Chinese gong and the high-pitched caterwauls of traditional Asian song, but infused with the aggressive showmanship of rock or even punk. This was mashed up against an energetic, Afropop-influenced guitar-and-bass combo, all anchored by drummer Dave Mihaly.

This was DaMaDa, a world fusion band that put out one CD in 2011 and possibly has another one in the wings.

I hadn’t encountered them before, but lead singer Luo Danna grew up in China as a singer, actress, and dancer, and she brings that theatricality to the forefont for this band. Their final song was fast-paced, with Danna adding a percussive exclamation point to the rhythm by snapping a fan closed dramtically. You do have to have a taste for the shrill vocals of traditional Chinese music, but the mix of those motifs with the freedom of jazz is something worth hearing.

grex-MORmay16-cropThe second set was by local stalwarts Grex, this time in basic trio format:  Karl Evangelsta on guitar, Rei Scampvia Evangelista on keyboards, and Robert Lopez on drums.

Jazz and modern classical music are among Grex’s influences, but it was a heavy set this time, with lots of crunchy, aggressive guitar and a psychedelic feel. Among the new songs with Rei on vocals was “Martha,” relating to the last of the carrier pigeons.

A quartet called Two Aerials closed the program, combining out-there jazz singing (singer/cellist Crystal Pascucci) with a chamber-music vibe, a breezy sound from the combination of cello, vibraphone, and electric piano. Still, they put up some hard-driving numbers, really rocking out at times. Drummer Britt Ciampa kept the volume high with a lexicon of shuffles and taps, playd with subtlety and precision but loud and exciting.

aerials-MORmay16

I did not make it to the June installment of the Monday Make-Out, but I’d like to be more of a regular there. The bar setting isn’t conducive to every type of music, but this is the kind of setting jazz used to enjoy, after all, and you get a good dose of locals who wander in and seem to have a pretty good time.

June 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

Discreet Music on KPFA: Davignon Tonight

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 9.06.09 AMI always considered radio DJ’ing to be a kind of performance. Certainly lesser than actually performing on a musical instrument, but it did require attention to rhythm, balance, and audience.

Electronic musician Matt Davignon, in that sense, has conducted his own ongoing performance through his podcast, World of Wonder, and now he’s taking it to the live airwaves.

He’ll be guest-hosting “Discreet Music,” a Sunday late-night show of experimental music and modern classical, on KPFA-FM (94.1 for those in the Bay Area) June 5 and 19, both shows starting at 10:00 p.m. Pacific time.

Discreen Music is an excellent show that’s been hosted by Dean Suzuki for years. You can find previous playlists at kpfa.org. Here’s the most recent one, hosted by Suzuki. Steve Reich, Elliott Sharp, Harry Partch — it’s a pretty good representation of the show’s personality.

Statistically, most of you won’t find this post until after June 5 … but if nothing else, it might get Discreet Music and World of Wonder onto your radar.

June 5, 2016 at 9:26 am Leave a comment

Day of Noise Archives Are Posted

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.10.11 PMNo, KZSU doesn’t really hate your ears. The idea is to give them a workout, that’s all.

I took that screenshot from the Day of Noise webcast solely because it amused me. The duo is/are Vilarsia, performing near the end of the Day during the 11:00 p.m. shift.

And you can still hear them — not because your ears are ringing, but because KZSU has posted most of the Day of Noise performances at kzsu.stanford.edu/dayofnoise. Go get an earful!

This was the first time in a few years that I couldn’t lend a hand with Day of Noise (KZSU’s 14th time hosting this marathon), but of course Abra and crew pulled it off magnificently. Congrats, all.

February 2, 2016 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

KZSU Day of Noise 2016, Happening Now

2016“Now,” meaning Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, Pacific time.

Every year, KZSU puts on 24 hours of mostly improvised, mostly noisy music — electronics, ambient, jazzy, sound-wall-ey, you name it. It’s a glorious tradition led by DJ Abra (aka Dr. Information).

From 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., you’ll hear The Voice of Doom — a barrage of exotic instruments from the collection of Doom the KZSU DJ who started the Day of Noise tradition years ago.

From 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., bran(…)pos will be on. I know him for harsh, vocal-driven noise, but who knows — he could perform anything.

Improv-rock group Lost Planet performs from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

From 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., you’ll hear a couple of groups from the Bay Area improv scene, combining classical and jazz ideas with good old noise. Jacob Felix Heule, Aurora Josephson, and John McCowen perform first, followed by Tania Chen, Matt Ingalls, and Ken Ueno.

Day of Noise favorite Henry Plotnick, a teen prodigy who weaves hypnotic layers of keyboard minimalism, performs from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Computer-music pioneer Tim Perkis seizes the airwaves from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Rent Romus and Collette McCaslin of longstanding jazz outfit Lords of Outland play as part of a trio from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. They’re both very noisy people when they want to be; don’t expect “jazz.”

… And there’s a lot more that I’m probably missing as I skim the schedule. The whole thing is listed here, and you can listen online at kzsulive.stanford.edu.

 

January 30, 2016 at 1:50 am 2 comments

Viv Corringham, Greek Songs, and Electronics

Vocalist Viv Corringham is in the Bay Area this week, joining up with a local band to perform a combination of improvisation, electronics, and Greek rembetika singing.

vivc-australia-2

Source: VivCorringham.org

Rembetika, also spelled rebetika and technically the plural of rebetiko, is an early 20th-century Greek music with genes from the Baltic region and Eastern Europe. But it’s not music born of joy; like the blues, it’s the music of a downtrodden people (outcasts from Asia Minor) and the struggles they faced.

Drugs seem to be a prevailing theme in rembetika, which explains the name of Corringham’s mini-tour: “Life Is Clearer Seen Through Smoke.”

The line comes from a 2011 album, Rembetronika, that pairs Corringham’s singing with the side guitar of Mike Cooper, backed by electronics and joined in spots by legendary British improv players.

Rembetronika — available for free at archive.org — gives you a taste of what to expect from Corringham’s tour. Despite the electronica-sounding title, the album is rich with acoustic sounds of strings and voice, the electronics serving as shading to heighten the drama. (We’re talking laptop-style electronics, not electronic dance music, although a downtrodden dance beat does appear on at least one track.)

Corringham’s Bay Area consort will be an experience beyond that album. The band is all woodwinds — shakuhachi, recorder, and didgeridoo — plus electronics and piano. It’s also going to be a multimedia event, with on-the-spot “film and light abstractions” by Anna Geyer.

You’ve got two more chances to see them:

Tuesday, November 24, 8:00 p.m., Center for New Music (55 Taylor St., San Francisco)

Wednesday, November 25, 7:30 p.m., Canessa Gallery (708 Montgomery St., San Francisco)

Joe Lasqo (playing laptop and keyboards in the band) has blogged a more detailed explanation of the band, the music, and Ms. Corringham.

rembetronika-3011

As for that “clearer through smoke” line — it comes from one of the few Rembetronika tracks sung in English, “White Powder.” And it’s a tough story: a plea for drugs so that the singer can find some escape from this hellish world. “Like is clearer seen through smoke,” Corringham sings, summarizing what seems to be the prevailing attitude in rembetika.

It’s not much different from blues songs about alcohol. It seems there’s something universal about misery and the human condition.

Against those lines, a gentle ramble of off-rhythm guitar drifts like a cloak of madness settling on the singer. Those kinds of unsettling moments are a highlight of Rembetronika. As another example, “Bournovalia” drenches Corringham’s voice in old-timey reverb, backed with a ghostly procession of electronic smudges and untuned chimes for an unsettling effect.

The acoustic sounds of guitar and voice remain at the forefront, though. Pairing a high-toned lilt (think the golden age of radio) with Cooper’s cowboy-style slide guitar — which isn’t the same as the traditional bouzouki but flavors the sound richly.

Those natural sounds take the foreground on the mournful “San Ton Exoristo,” backed by the crackle of faux vinyl and comet-tail slashes of background sound. “Smyrneiko Minore” adds Chris Abrahams’ tumbling, bluesy piano, some slashing guitar, and Corringham’s bright, clear voice singing a wavering, haunting melody. It’s very much the blues.

November 24, 2015 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

KZSU Day of Noise 2016: Coming on Saturday, Jan. 30

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 9.37.40 PMCut-and-pasted from the official invitation, there’s news below about KZSU‘s next Day of Noise, happening on Saturday, January 30 at Stanford University.

They’ll be looking for musicians to fill all 24 hours of the day … and for listeners interested in tuning in, of course.

Day of Noise is a 24-hour, on-air celebration of sound in all its abstract glory. Live performances, mostly by local artists, will feature electronics, computers, acoustic instruments, mixing boards, effects — you name it, in sets that will range from relentless harshness to soothing ambience. You can listen to last year’s Day of Noise at archive.org.

I’ve also posted photos from 2014, 2013, and 2012… and you can browse the stacks of the previous Days of Noise.

Here’s the official missive:


KZSU is having a Day of Noise — 24 hours straight of live improvised experimental / noise music. We’re hosting the event in our studios on Saturday, January 30th 2016, 0000-1159.

This used to be an annual tradition at KZSU in the 90s. We’ve had a successful revival run the last couple of years and we’re going for the 14th annual event this year. Take a look at last year’s website and our archive of last year’s performances to get an idea.

http://kzsu.stanford.edu/dayofnoise/
https://archive.org/details/kzsudayofnoise2015

2012We want artists dedicated to the pursuit of all things strange and beautiful to come. If you’re interested, we’d love for you to join in the noise.

If you’re interested, please email experimental@kzsu.stanford.edu with Day of Noise 2016 in the subject line, and give us an idea about the time of day you’re interested in, and whether you’d want a half hour or hour-long performance. Spots go fast, so don’t delay, and be flexible with your desired times. Lastly, please spread the word!

November 9, 2015 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Larry Ochs’ Fictive Five

Larry OchsThe Fictive Five (Tzadik, 2015)

Larry Ochs -- The Fictive Five (Tzadik, 2015)The track “Similitude” opens with a blast from the two horns in Larry Ochs‘ latest group, the Fictive Five, and the steady blare continues for a good nine minutes. Nate Wooley blares out a trumpet solo made of crisp color and passionate growls, propelled by the rhythm section of drummer Harris Eisenstadt and two basses: Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper.

That track is the opener to another well-crafted improv album by Ochs, playing with a cast of veterans. But there’s another facet to The Fictive Five: The three major pieces that make up the album are dedicated to filmmakers — Wim Wenders, Kelly Reichardt, and installation artist William Kentridge.

As Ochs explains in his own liner notes (posted on his website and not available with the CD), the dedications reflect his feeling that there’s a visual aspect to the music, a movie of the mind. “I’m inspired to create musical landscapes that the listener when closing her eyes can then imagine her own visual images into, inspired by my music,” he writes. Like a choreographer working without music, Ochs is playing the role of soundtrack composer without a film.

While it’s common for an improvised piece to develop a particular character, what follows in The Fictive Five are well sculpted pieces that do indeed feel like narratives. Ochs is good at this; he’s frequently convened improv groups that work from compositions or skeletal structures that guide the impulses of the moment toward a common goal.

“Similitude” is forceful and bold, evoking a bright energy even as the piece moves to a slower phase in its second half — a bigger-picture view, like a camera panning back, but with plenty of action still playing out.

“By Any Other Name” opens with the groans of arco basses and dark, solemn horn statements. The mood brightens as the group works short passages of small subsets — and eventually, a kind of round-robin forms, with players hopping in and out to form duets and trios of intriguing small sounds. Trumpet and drums take a turn, then there’s a basses-and-drums moment with one bass bowed, the other plucked. It’s a musical game whose pieces fit into a macroscopic novel of music. A fiery group passage lands the piece back in the dark underworld where it began, a satisfying bit of symmetry.

“Translucent,” the Reichardt dedication, has a personality that stands out the most. It starts out choppy and high-strung, with tension surrounded by white space. Ochs abbreviates his sax phrases, a start-stop patter that plays well against Eisenstadt’s forceful snippets of drums. The sound softens as the basses and trumpet come in, building a brisk flow that’s not overwhelming. The final third of the 15-minute piece is a lingering denoument that patiently comes in for a landing.

Be sure to check out Ochs’ website for those detailed notes (again, not available elsewhere) about why he chose the song dedications.

Here’s part of the opening to “Similitude,” dedicated to Wim Wenders, incorporating some two-horn phrasing that seems to be composed:

November 5, 2015 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

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