The Other Lode


Thrown in two large spaces–one located “under the tressell” [sic], the other “around the box”–joined solely by a single small doorway (remember Maxwell’s Demon?), Other Music’s densely packed Web-launch party at the Chelsea Arts Building last Saturday showed how entropy can be deferred, even celebrated, but never obliterated. Because any time the challenging and/or exhausting sounds in one room flagged, overamped, or turned downright ugly, hundreds of human molecules would attempt to pass through into the other chamber with no Demon in sight to separate them either by temperature or zip code.

Perfect moment one: Exiting the trestle space while Arto Lindsay’s band is laying down some truly block-rocking bossa nova, then circumnavigating the box (a four-sided chamber with projections playing across the outside and X dealers within) just as British sonic deconstructors Stock, Hausen & Walkman let their own bossa-nova vinyl decelerate to zero rpms. SH&W, whose name conflates the granddaddy of electronic music with a Britpop production committee (and whose latest record consists of “Good Vibrations” played at one rotation per minute), eviscerated the tyranny of the beat with an earsplitting, gut-twisting set of musique sufficiently concrète to inflict serious brain damage.

Autechre’s mission was to meet SH&W’s arrhythmic challenge and morph it into something vaguely danceable. Perfect moment two: Their set’s peak, which suggested that the secret history of rave music begins in the late ’50s with a confused bachelor’s simultaneous renditions of Babatunde Olatunji’s “Drums of Passion” and Perrey-Kingsley’s electronic masterpiece, “The In Sounds From Way Out!” Perfect moments three through whatever: Jim O’Rourke’s down-home feedback, simultaneous remixes of Autechre’s set, the realization that some people can and will dance to anything, Plaid’s oddly distorted yet strangely accessible ear candy, and DJ Wally efficiently depleting the show’s energy and emptying the room with deafening techno that suddenly sounded more than a little worn around the edges.–Richard Gehr

Tangled Web

Other Music’s Web site launch party somehow resembled an online session: too much information, too many links, and too much time spent downloading (that is, waiting to pass through the slim portal connecting the two rooms). However, overt references to the Web were mercifully absent. Instead, projected films, dank, rusty beams, and massive sound systems lent the event a murky, ravelike ambience.

Like the Web, the evening began with more chaos than order. Black-clad, face-painted Byzar erected a half-built wall
of rumble (world’s loudest mimes?). And the pained squeals emerging from Jim O’Rourke’s laptop early in his set weren’t intentional, judging from the frown on his face and the small mob with flashlights rummaging around behind him, frantically pulling wires. A woman approached O’Rourke, asking, “When is the next act on?” O’Rourke: “Now.” Woman: “Who is it?” O’Rourke: “Me.”

The confusion got sexier when Arto Lindsay and band swung into Brazilian funk-croon punctuated with DNA-damaged guitar slashes; totally out-of-place, it sounded great. Meanwhile, Stock, Hausen & Walkman orchestrated the shrieks of a billion dying lines of code, stabbing them with mangled samples; appropriately hyperreferential and digital-age, it sounded boring.

Finally, headliners Autechre took control, shaking random data down into intricate patterns of perfect meaning as they shook the room. Live, the British duo with the search-engine­optimized name run a masterfully constructed back-end database on a platform of sequencers and samplers, creating hard-bopping electrodisco that captures the rapture of New Order circa 1983 and beams a scrambled form to the present. But there’s a bug in the bass-bin: too much input force-fed through a narrow bottleneck of bandwidth makes the machine language hiccup, generating a lag that’s an Autechre trademark. Anticipating where the next slur will trip up the beat is a game both talented and terrible dancers can play. Do the robot to Autechre, find truth in inaccuracy: machines are only human, they make mistakes too!

Again, for a Web parallel, check out the ambitious, high-tech, and glitch-riddled site, still under construction.–Sally Jacob

Focal Points

When Joshua Redman wasn’t soloing last Thursday at Florence Gould Hall, he headed into the shadows and did some left-foot, right-foot moves reminiscent of Monk’s onstage prancing. Both spectator and cheerleader, the saxophonist observed his new band devising its own identity and rah-rahed its most exemplary fabrications. In the process he brought a bit of informality to a somewhat clinical venue. And perhaps more importantly, his mess-around served as a partial antidote to the self-consciousness that flecked the evening’s program.

Most of Redman’s work is limber. Much of it is spontaneous. His sixth Warner Bros. record, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times), is especially interactive, fraught with sensitive exchange and clever tunefulness. Several of these attributes were obvious on Thursday. There was ardor: “Dialog” generated a billowing cloud of collectivism that found Josh and crew–pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rodgers, and drummer Greg Hutchinson–pursuing the ecstatic hosanna Albert Ayler discovered in “Ghosts.” And there was precision: Redman proved he was editor enough to sculpt his lines into testimonies that boasted both gossamer wings and boxing gloves. But the band’s probing was hindered by an italicized feeling of performance, making parts of the show seem a scripted recitation. Even the set’s mightiest moments leaned more toward “gee whiz” than “holy shit.”

This sterility may be the result of elaborately arranged material: Timeless Tales is a record that succeeds because of the way the band interprets well-drafted blueprints. Maybe it’s simply because a more eloquent ensemble (Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier) cut the disc. The studio take of Joni Mitchell’s “I Had a King” teems with minute maneuvers–a hunt ‘n’ peck fantasia with a quicksilver flow. On stage its preciousness filled the air, as if the tune was played by instrumentalists, not improvisers.

That said, their discipline accommodated loads of robust ploys. Redman opened “Summertime” with a solo pronunciation that had enough overtones and dissonance to fit right in at Tonic or the Alterknit. And Hutchinson was sage in taking Goldberg to the wrong side of the tracks during a feisty “Love for Sale.” With natural elocution and deep feel, Redman floats the thesis that jazz can be both esoteric and glib. On his fiercest nights he’s made it so. But this show felt like it was sponsored by Rand McNally–somehow focus became a foe.–Jim Macnie

International Style

Mondo-hip Japanese minisongstress Kahimi Karie crossed her legs and leaned over the back of a center stage stool Saturday night at the Fez. To her left, mentor Momus–the Anglo Serge Gainsbourg of the Casio clubpop set–plinked and plonked and flipped the start switch on their shared computer. To her right was French Momus associate Gilles Weinzaepflen on second keyboard and lead cheekbones, who set the tone of the evening with an opening act involving spoken French vocals over deliberately twee preprogrammed accompaniment and much fine posturing. Karie addressed the audience in broken but engaging English. Then Momus questioned and cajoled his star. She argued back with an impishness that suggested this pupil-professor bickering happens all the time, while Weinzaepflen flashed silent, knowing grins between kissy faces. Although Momus characterized the banter as a “Sonny and Cher in the 21st century kind of thing,” it was much more My Fair Lady.

Although she’s an icon of retro-futurist chic back home, with a hit commercial, several CDs (sampled by a recent Minty Fresh U.S. compilation), and years-old ties to Japanese maestro idol Cornelius, last week’s shows were her first performances ever, anywhere. Her voice high and breathy, Karie nevertheless radiates a sophisticate’s cool that complicates her squeaks. Whether singing in English or French, she’s removed from the language, estranged from the melancholy melodies by her childlike chirp even as she honors several cultures of oddball auteur songcraft. Referencing ’60s shutterbug swinger David Hamilton, at least one song by the Fall, and her own cuteness (“It’s so nice to be a beautiful girl,” goes one song), Karie is too perverse to be anyone’s puppet. “I am a kitten,” she peeped in tandem with a chorus of analogue synth meows. Who could argue?–Barry Walters

Floppy Boot Camp

The rule is that you can either just call them Caroliner, or you can say Caroliner Rainbow and then add a whole lot of words. So: Caroliner Rainbow Starlight Balance Consumers Waving Necessary Ankles dolled up the Knitting Factory’s stage in a delirious vision of playroom decor Sunday night, crisscrossed the place with enough black lights to give a bear sunburn, and tumbled themselves onto stage in bulbous head-to-toe costumes designed to make them look as nonhuman as possible. The San Francisco band’s front man, keyboard masher, and only constant member, Grux, for instance, had a getup involving some kind of hypertrophied bull-demon Beanie Baby as a codpiece–at one point, he used its limbs for a spontaneous midsong puppet show.

Caroliner is deeply indebted to Captain Beefheart’s revelation that as long as everybody knows what they’re doing, regular meter and tonality are just frippery, and the band seemed to be more or less in control of its crumpled, tubercular grooves. The fact that Grux was gurgling and whinnying through a thick papier-mâché mask meant that not a single word was comprehensible, though of course comprehensibility is far from the point. A band that operates on logic this obscure (questions of the what-the-hell? variety tend to get answered with double-talk about a 19th-century singing bull), and whose visuals are as important as its sound, can smack a bit of an MFA thesis. But Caroliner’s been at it for more than 10 years, and they’re serious about their ridiculousness. During the encore, as the band bumped like a square-wheeled car, Grux ceremoniously unfolded a tall, decorated box, stuck it over his mask, picked up two enormous, equally decorated donut-shaped cutouts, and slowly spun them around his wrists. The crowd cheered: it was clearly some kind of climactic ritual, and it didn’t matter that nobody knew what
it meant.–Douglas Wolk