November 8th
Chaostic Magic / Gust Burns Quartet
Gallery1412, Seattle WA

Chaostic Magic is Corey Brewer on guitar and Eric Ostrowski on amplified violin.  They each had a little amp and shared a big PA horn that was placed behind a small screen upon which a set of slides were played. The slides were fairly abstract material usually looking like two images from ancient books somewhat overlaid. The music was very loud, aggressive, feedback drenched noise.  I wasn’t so into it but there were a couple of nice moments. You can make serious noise with an amplified violin, but it isn’t really so different from what you’d get from a guitar if you bowed it. It didn’t go on too long maybe 15-20 minutes. The slideshow ended and so did the show.

I’d come to see the Gust Burns Quartet who have played a couple of gigs recently. I was familiar with all of the musicians and have seen them with Gust in a larger ensemble a couple of months back.  The quartet is Gust Burns working his dowels inside a baby grand piano, Mara Sedlins working with extended techniques on the viola, Mark Collins wringing fairly uncharacteristic sounds out of the double bass and Wilson Shook sounding more like circuit bent electronics then the alto saxophone he utilized.  The sounds were all very discrete with usually only a subset of the quartet playing at any given moment.  The string players mainly worked with dry scrapes though Mark would use other tools on his bass to eke out some more varied sounds.  Length of tones usually tended toward a couple of bow strokes in duration.  Wilson worked with crackles and pops which coming from his sax with various preparations was really great.  There were a number of gaps in the performance sometimes arising naturally but other times feeling a bit forced.  In general it was a slow, meditative deliberate performance that I quite enjoyed.

It was particularly interesting to me that this all acoustic quartet was working in eai territory. There is a trend among some of the musicians in the Seattle area to do this, eliminating electronics but working with those textures. At times it sounded like say Lachenmann scoring for a chamber group in the style of TV Pow.  As I mentioned above they did use silence but I usually got a feeling that this was because it was a goal. As if they were directed to do so now and again.  For instance everyone would drop out and one person would be playing and it’d seem like that player would rush to stop in order to have a silence they “should” have.  Obviously speculation but that was how it felt to me.  The other criticism I would add is that with the dowels and two string players there was a lot of overlap of sound, especially considering the techniques used.  A bit more varied palette would I think be really rewarding, something like a percussionist would fit in really well. Even better in my mind would be a very tasteful electronicist, though that could go against this trend that I’m sensing.

Anyway caveats aside I really enjoyed this performance and like seeing more and more of this kind of stuff in Seattle.