A Bulgar Display

When it comes to outright vaudeville, though, Meredith Monk's still tough to beat. After sustaining Masada's Semitic theme with "Jew's Harp" (1977), Monk clicked/panted/sang a pair of "duets for solo voice" that resembled ventriloquism minus a dummy. Would the song continue as she lifted a glass of water to her lips and partook? No dice. Instead she brought on longtime partner Katie Geissinger for some increasingly musical synchronized-vocal tomfoolery.

Reich, Monk, and Zorn all sounded positively old school beside vocal conjurer Shelley Hirsch, whose 1996 work "States" employed nostalgia as a radical surgeon's instrument. Framing her work with a tape-enhanced deconstruction of the Tin Pan Alley chestnut "Blue Skies," Hirsch explored the complex fantasy world of a Jewish woman living in midcentury Brooklyn. Equally specific and universal, "States" celebrated in the joy of song while conveying the chaos of everyday life through technical and emotional extremism. None of these works, however, approached the immediacy of William Parker's "Elegy for Fred Hopkins," an ambitious reaction to the former Air bassist's death earlier last month. Parker eschewed his own bass in order to conduct the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra through a spectrum of moods ranging from meditative plinking, to free-blowing jazz ecstasy, to the timeless, nostalgia-free rhythms of African percussion. It was a perfect way to end an evening devoted to the history of the future. — Richard Gehr

Déjà vu, but weirder: Matt Moran's Balkan Party at Tonic
Michael Sofronski
Déjà vu, but weirder: Matt Moran's Balkan Party at Tonic

El Ectronica

By 9 o'clock Sunday night, the Broncos were up 24-6 and the spooky sexy subculture that dare not speak its name was ready for some P-Mosh remixes and a night of bilingual buggin'. Ramon Nova (the Dominican Tricky), fronting his Latinelectronica trio called Om, announced to the crowd, "Tienes permiso para gritar!" (You have permission to scream!) While no one took him up on the offer, the undulating wahwah vibe Nova created on his ice-blue Gibson was tangible evidence that Latin Alternative had taken over the Elbow Room.

"Have you ever asked yourself/Just who you are?" Nova goaded the crowd, as if to challenge the Gen Equis mob on the dance floor to appraise the state of its fragile nation three years removed from the birth of King Chango. Well, for one thing, the drum'n'bass thing persists like freaky Frida Kahlo stigmata in bands like Om, Urbi et Orbi, and Si-Se. But Carol Cardenas of Si-Se proved much more than just a Latin triphop knockoff of Morcheeba's Skye Edwards. In her riveting 20-minute set, she effortlessly conjured a meta-raga rock by scatting bossa nova over dreamy dub, Santería syncopation, and sinewy Art of Noise chords.

Sure, Latin percussion has a kicky effect when enmeshed in the rat-a-tat-tat of jungle, but the jangly three-chord chaos of Naranja just plain rocked. German Palacios playfully spearheaded an attack of distorted power riffs without resorting to knee-jerk appropriations from Argentine dinosaurs Soda Stereo. But the evening's award for authenticity and swing went to headliners Conjunto Antibalas (Anti-Bullet Band), a 10-piece soul arkestra boasting three ex-members of King Chango. Fueled by funky Fela grooves, bugaloo beats, and a passion for the plight of the pueblo, Conjunto Antibalas sent everyone home knowing who they are and what they like to dance to. Introducing a song called "We Want Food but They Give Us Poison," leader-saxophonist­community activist Martin Antibalas proclaimed that "All that junk food in the barrios is part of a plan to kill poor people." This time, everybody screamed. — Ed Morales

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