Archive for March, 2007

Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 4

February 17th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

The final day of the 22nd Annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival was an eclectic and varied mix. I had an idea how Andrea Neumann would be solo and was one of my more anticipated sets of the fest. Andrea and Nate are a great paring but after Nakatani’s solo set of the set before I wasn’t sure if he’d fit in. I’ve seen Shoup and Horist before so I knew this would be a free jazz blowout – not too bad a away to wrap it all up I suppose.

Andrea Neumann
Andrea began with eBow’s on the lower register of her piano innards generating a low tone which was supplemented by a more electronic sound perhaps from her pickups or a contact mic.  Gradually she added layers and layers of sound to the this base using additional eBows and then running a small electric fan across the strings. On the edge of the piano innards is a flat area which on the upper portion she has set down her various manipulators, but the bottom is a metallic plate that must have a mic or pickup in it. This can generate more percussive sounds and it is to this that she turns after an extended period of using the fan. She attacks this with a  series of short percussive strikes, along with a harsh scraping sound in a rather insectile fashion for a decent interval before stopping dead. She turns up an input and immediately a buzz comes up, some sort of internal feedback that she allows to become dense and multilayered, almost loud but not overbearing at all. She begins to cut this feedback out, glitch like, stuttering the sound while plucking the occasionaloccaisonal string in an almost music box kind of sound. She keeps this up for a bit, altering it so it almost has the sound of a manipulated turntable then begins to bring it down. Slowly and subtly she lowers the volume and then concludes by rubbing her hands gently over the strings. She bows to use and grins at the applauding audience. A really nice set, nice use of the solo idiom. Interesting sounds, well placed deep and attention holding.

(for Alastair and Richard; Andrea was wearing a red and white checkered long sleeved shirt under a grey sweater vest. Dark slacks the same as the day prior. Hope this helps. )

Andrea Neumann, Nate Wooley, Tatsuya Nakatani
It turns out that my early misgivings were justified regarding this set. I began all right with Nakatani bowing his gong in a fairly restrained manner. Neumann added in a gentle electronic wash and Wooley a subtle hiss from his trumpet. This went on for a bit and while a bit droney thanks to the overtones of the bowed gong Nate and Andrea added in some nice textured and spikier elements. Eventually though Nakatani tired of this sound and began to move through his bag of tricks. Pretty much the same sort of sounds and techniques from his solo set and it became increasingly difficult for Nate and Andrea to find a way in. Nate has played with Nakatani before and clearly has played free jazz in the past but I don’t know if he was moved on, or just felt it wasn’t appropriate for the circumstances but he increasingly laid out as Nakatani got more and more dominant. He did occasionally rise to the challenge with the metal sheet over his trumpet bell he could almost compete with the volume of the percussion. Andrea’s washes, low volume plucked strings and sonic detritus seemed to fare the worst against Nakatani’s assault. Lost in the background as it were even though she too tried to add to the maelstrom with some blasts of feedback and percussive attacks. One memorable segment in about the middle of segment involved Nakatani with about a dozen brass bowls on top of his floor tom first hitting them and then shaking the tom generating a terrific racket. Neumann and Wooley laid out competlely and for quite a while as this rose to a fever pitch. Nakatani eventually was crawling across the floor pushing the floor tom ahead of him and then pulling it back as he reached the audience.After all the bowls had been shaking loose, he picked up the floor tom and held it above his head so that with his head thrown back he could blow raspberries on the drumhead. Several times during this display I caught Nate and Andrea looking at each other in disbelief. v After this monumental display of egotism Nakatani sat back down and rattling things around for a bit finally settled again on bowing the gong. Andrea and Nate finally came back in with some rubbed and plucked strings from the former and a gentle tocking from the later. Nakatani slowed down his bowing until there was nothing less and this mess was over.

Nakatani behaved pretty much exactly has he had during his solo set, not listening nor really paying much attention to his fellow musicians at all. There were some nice bits where he was more restrained or taking a monetary breather but for the most part he was just engaging in the worst form of egotism. Disappointing and rather a waste in my opinion.

Wally Shoup, Tatsuya Nakatani, Bill Horist
This was pretty much what I was expecting having seen the bulk of this musicians before. Wally Shoup is a free jazz player of the fire music school and Bill Horist plays prepared and effected “laptop” guitar rather in the O’Rourke vein. Nakatani of course plays solo regardless of whether there are others playing or not. In fact while I’m not a huge fan of the free jazz this set was again marred by Nakatani. Wally laid out quite a bit and Bill as well or would provide support but Tatsuya was always full bore all the time. Bill can generate some interest sounds with his instrument, especially when he stuffs various cymbals under the strings, but this was often lost under the cacophony. One bit was truly depressing about the most irked I’ve been at a live show in recent memory. Bill was making this great fragmented tones with a combination of eBow and cymbals under the strings, very delicate but rich with subtle spikes and skittery static. Wally sat out during this but through the entire segment Nakatani with this disturbing stoic expression on his face play marching rhythms on his snare. Just absolutely abysmal. There was some good long tones from Shoup and some firey blowouts as well and occasionally Nakatani’s soloing fit in well with the proceedings, but overall this was actually worse then I was expecting.

The end has finaly come to this festival (and to this series of reports for which I must beg forgiveness for the delay) which overall was a really well programmed affair. Some great out of town guests and locals and really I think only Nakatani was a mistake. Some sets were less interesting then others but really only a couple of bad ones. And there truly was some inspired music played. I got to spend a but of time talking to Bonnie, Andy, Kyle, Andrea and Gust and it was great to hear their thoughts on playing this music. I also was able to pick up a lot of music at the shows, which is the best way to support the musicians. A whole lot of fun and I look forward to next years festival.

Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 3
February 16th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

A week later I am back in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood for the second weekend of shows in the 22nd annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival. Rainy tonight, but that still doesn’t keep the clusters of smokers from huddleing in front of the venue getting a few smokes in. The second weekend brings a new collection of out of towners along with the locals both new and who had played the week before. Last week the venue was a bit more then half full, a decent crowd but not crowded. Tonight its a capacity crowd and its standing room only in the rear.

Nate Wooley / Jeffrey Allport / Jason E. Anderson
I’m not sure how I had managed to go this long without hearing Nate Wooley but he really impressed with this nights sets. A trumpeter of the Axel Dörner/Greg Kelley school he uses the bare minimal of preparations beyond his trumpet to create a rich vein of sounds.  Allport kicks things off with an eBow on the wires of his snare to which Wooley a small piece of metal a few inches away the bell of his trumpet adds low volume rattles. Now pressing the sheet of metal firmly against the trumpet evoke muffed screeches, Allport begins to manipulate the snare with a variety of objects. First a bow, then  a spring attached to the side of it getting nice sprongy sounds that the drum amplifies, next its cymbals on top of the snare bowed then doweled. Each of these objects he moves through with deliberation adding in the desired sound and then a different one if that is called for.  Anderson again has his sampler plus a microphone and various objects – steel wool, tuning forks and so on. He adds to the proceedings first with samples of static, clicks and pops for a bit and then moves to using the microphone with his objects. The abrasive objects create a lo-fi crunching sound, very textural and subtly industrial. Occasions he uses his sampler for more synth sounds which don’t jell as well but in general he adds a nice electronic counterpoint to the acoustic sounds of his companions. During this Wooley has moved to playing the trumpet without the mouthpiece generating a husky, breathy sound. At another section he blows across the keys of the trumpet with a distorted whisper while Allport creates this beautiful sound with two tuning forks on his drum head that add and beat against each other as they fade away. Occasionally things got pretty dense and almost loud, but usually momentary spikes and not an obvious soft/loud structure. Things get pretty quiet at the end with Allport rubbing the surface of his snare with steel wool, Nate laying out for a while and Jason playing a rhythmic beating tone on the sampler. Allport drops out and only the sample remains which Jason slowly fades out.

Tatsuya Nakatani solo
The next set was two solos, Nakatani on drums and Nate on trumpet. Nakatani had set up a small kit in front of the stage along with a gong and a huge amount of percussion gear. He begins by bowing the gong creating layers and layers of overtones especially as he moves to using two bows on it. He starts adding the occasional hit on the kick drum which is akin to a clap of thunder amidst the white noise of rain. He gradually increases these until it becomes a pulse through the layers of sound from the bowed gong. With an especially aggresive thump on the kick drum he ends the bowing of the gong and begins a rapid erratic tattoo on the kick drum. Then he sets a bunch of  brass bowls on his floor tom and hits them, shakes the drum and creates rattles, bongs and bell like tones. He manipulates the bowls in a variety of ways including rubbing them, tapping them and hitting them with drum sticks. This becomes increasing aggressive, chaotic and loud as they hit each other and fall onto the cement floor. Eventually they have all rattled off and he moves on to actual drumming albeit in a stilted angular way. This slowly grinds to a near halt and then with just the pulse from the kick drum he returns to bowing the gong, which he slows down, down until a single hovering sound ends his set to massive applause.

Nate Wooley solo
In complete contrast to Nakatani’s set Nate sat on stage with just his trumpet and a couple of muting objects. He worked with sparse sounds, space and subtly. He begins this ticking sound, almost like a record spinning with the needle on the edge of the recording, regular and spaced out. After a while he then moves on to a breathy sounds, very quiet and subtly varied. Eventually he increases the volume and one jaw dropping section he created this wash of sound that can only be compared to a radio tuned between channels with the sounds of a signal fading in and out. This drops out and the ticking sound returns, erratic and quiet again. Then tones, long and layered but not overly loud and interspersed with the ticking sound. A gap, a minute or two without playing and then soft sounds, that get louder and louder and stops with him thanking us for listening.

Andrea Neumann / Gust Burns / Nate Wooley / Jeffrey Allport
I was really looking forward to this quartet, especially after seeing Nate play today, and it exceeded my expectations. Brilliantly varied and subtle music that rewarded close listening.  Nate and Jeffery played their same instruments as before, Gust played inside piano and Andrea her piano guts and electronics. The lights dim and Andrea begins with his some low humming sounds from her exposed piano strings, to which Jeffrey pretty quickly joins in rubbing the surface of his snare. Gust and Nate lay out for a good piece which Gust finally breaks with a rubbed dowel in the bass strings in the piano. This creates a low, growly very rough scrapping sound and at this point Nate also joins in with a thin breathy sound that is barely heard. The piece is rife with silences and near silences, tensions as nearly everyone lays out and it seems that they are about to end but then someone brings it back to life. A bit into it Gust flips over his snare, as deliberatly and quietly as possible, but allowing the sounds in as they come. After this procedure he begins to use the snare wires in various ways, with the eBow creating a rattly drone and now Gust is dragging a rubber mallet across the piano string which emit long moans. Things get denser and louder, Allport now dowling a cymbal on top of the snare wires which is much louder then I would have thought. Burns moves to rubbing dowels in the higher registers adding contrasting higher pitched tones and Nate with his sheet metal in front of the trumpet bell adds in loud rattles and short blasts of sound. Andrea in all of this adds in washing of sounds, plucked notes on his piano guts and electronic detritus. Toward the end things quiet down allowing a cell phone to add its song to the general atmosphere. Then Gust is playing his piano heavily damped but with the actual keys and Andrea plucks single notes on her instrument. This goes on for a bit, sparse, very intermittent and then it concludes. An excellent way to end a very nice collaboration.

(for Richard and Alastair – Andrea was wearing Dark grey slacks and a long sleeved T-shirt that read “Dig/Feed/Shit” on the front)

Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 2

February 10th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

Bonnie Jones, Jaime Potter, Kyle Bruckmann

The second night of the SIMF brought together the musicians from the previous night in different combinations. This ad hoc trio, like all of the groups from the night prior, played two pieces the first of which began with those deep layered bass drones that a clearly Potter’s area of concern. Bonnie pretty quickly adds to this snaps and crackles from her open circuits while Kyle, on electronics and oboe adds coloration. This first piece didn’t really transcend this throughout and was more of a droning piece. As this continued on it arrived at a pretty intense level which was interestingly brought to a halt near simultaneously.

Again following the trend set the night before the second piece was more spacious and interesting to me. Bonnie begins the proceedings with her contact mic which she uses quite a bit throughout this piece often to great effect rubbing it on the cement wall at several points layering gritty crunches of sound. Jamie works as usual with his low, beating tones but bring them in, letting them percolate for a while and then fading them out. Never quite developing into a drone, but adding texture and a visceral aspect to the more pointillistic excursions of his fellows.  In this segment Kyle is mostly utilizing his electronics in a pretty suble and additive way – tones that clash with Jaimie, sonic detritus and the occasional synth like squiggle and tones. Bonnie continues with the contact mic, now swinging it in the air with a bumping, wishing sound that was quite engaging espcially as it would occasionally bump its own cable unpredictably adding a spike of sound. Speaking of spikes Jaime during this bit lets his feedback slip out of his control into a piece tone that makes him wince as he quickly brings it down. Kyle’s electronics either accidentally or deliberately grab some radio which adds nicely into this more chaotic and unpredictable events that are taking place. As the piece winds down becoming even more sparse, Bonnie taps and rubs the contact mic on the desk she is sitting at and then Kyle throws in a fairly extended and fairly melodic oboe line. Jaime is playing more extended tones now and the clash of the oboe with this at certain times is truly captivating. The piece ends with just this long tone that Jaime slowly brings down.

This was a pretty good trio, always skirting the edge of droning but managing to break out of it. I appreciated how they played with events just on the edge of their control that occasionally would slip and add some unpredictability to the evening.

Kyle Bruckmann solo
As I reported yesterday I was really quite unfamiliar with Kyle prior to this weekend. He proved to be a versatile and quite interesting player even if all of the styles he works within aren’t my cup of whisky. So I was pretty curious about what he would do solo. This piece turned out to be a composed work that involved him playing along with tape. He would basically work with one sound or technique and then move on to another. This never came across as working through a catalog, but more as a series of movements in a greater whole. Each bit was pretty simple and the way it would work with the tape at times made it feel like early minimalism in a way with sounds and tones working with and against each other to create something greater then the sum of its parts. He stands on stage with only a chair, a couple of oboes and a microphone. He begins by just playing the middle section of an oboe with these long breathy, whistling sounds. This persists for a bit and its kind of hard to tell if they tape is adding too much at this point. Next up he plays and entire oboe but without the reed mainly key clicking and working with the body, but also blowing through it generating fairly squawky sounds. A short pause and he grabs a much larger oboe, complete with reed, which he does a lot of tongue stops, wet sounding, skronky type stuff. More of this with a smaller oboe, generating higher tones and squeals. Then an interlude which is primarily the tape that is quite noisy and active and not very oboe sounding. During this he sits and cleans all of his instruments.  The piece concludes with a recording of a single oboe tone that he matches with his own creating a swell of sound that was very Niblock-esque. Really a great ending to a piece that I found surprisingly engaging.

A version of this piece has been recorded as Gasps & Fissures, which I picked up after this set and have found well worth my time.

Bonnie Jones, Andy Hayleck

This was the set I had been most looking forward to this first weekend of the festival and I was not disappointed. Bonnie was using the same setup from earlier this evening and Andy was utilizing his PowerBook via a Wacom tablet along with a cymbal contact mic’d up. Again two pieces the first of which was quite spare reminding me at times of Good Morning, Good Night, with quiet clicks, pops, tones and hums. Bursts of static would cut through then back off, to be met with the strangled bleats of short circuits and inadvertently triggered filter sweeps and such. Andy never touches the cymbal during this piece simply manipulating his PowerBook throughout. However with its contact mic he could have been using it as a sound source and manipulating that into the bursts of sound he was putting out. From this initial sparse territory things did become denser if not much louder toward the middle of the improvisation. But this wasn’t a trend and they soon returned to spacious placing of sounds they had begun with and which brought the piece to a close.

After the first piece Andy and Bonnie look at each other in that negotiating whether they are done sort of way. After a bit of this Kyle says from the audience “of course you are going to play more” to which Bonnie responds, “Well if Kyle Bruckman says so” and she starts it off with a subtle hiss. This piece was if anything even more sparse then the previous, avoiding some of the density that that one attained at times. Andy would drop in short samples of field recordings – a rainstorm, people talking (or was that outside?) and other unrecognizable industrial and natural sounds. Only at the end of this piece did the density increase, the level brought up with a long continuous tone from Bonnie to which Andy layers on either live or sampled crunching, cranking sonic textures. He cuts this out shortly leaving just Bonnie’s tone which she quickly backs off. Really a great piece, with nothing overbearing, lasting long enough to matter but never droning on and on. A great end to a nice weekend of music. A very nice recording of these two was available at the show which I wholeheartedly recommend:
Bonnie Jones & Andy Hayleck – duet.

Throughout this weekend I got to talk a bit with Andy, Kyle and Bonnie all of whom I found very warm and interesting. Andy an Bonnie were playing some shows in Portland and Vancouver before coming back the next week, this time as audients. I was able to pick up quite a bit of CDs from all of the performers at the show a number of which have been great music. Always worth doing this as the musicians gain the most from these sales.