Since the art world has increasingly embraced sound as a major component, dub’s migration from Black Ark to gallery has been more and more fun to follow. So has tracking the sonic manipulations cross-pollinating the art-pop divide. While popular music revels in a digitally enhanced futurist bloom cultivated by Jamaican producers 30 years ago, the dub flowers that grow in “Sporadic Exchange,” Montreal-based sculptor-sound designer Jean-Pierre Gauthier‘s show at the Jack Shainman Gallery (on view through July 31) are of the organic variety.
Like the work of musique concrète conquerors, Gauthier’s two sculptures use everyday instruments and jury-rigged doohickeys, creating a hazy environment from easy pieces. The two headphone mixes in the skeletal, interconnected Anima are inner-space excursions: blackboard-scratch echoes and muddy rhythms set off by homemade, motor-powered devices, emitting an amplified interaction of metallic strings, tape measures, screwdrivers, etc. Motion sensors trigger the piece. With the sheer amount of variables, duplication is highly unlikely. The result is the sound of claustrophobia, like Pole in a pre-Mac age.
Résonances Intermittent, an installation symphony of staggered percussion and rainforest noises, is all spooked expansiveness, akin to the Rhythm Devils’ Apocalypse Now soundtrack. Light and sound sensors connected to two television screens send signals to nine instruments (a loudspeaker discharging digitized didgeridoos, a mic’d garbage can mumbling effects-heavy voices, a Duchampian bike wheel spinning through metal branches, wooden blocks, and various drums). Playing as you traverse, these instruments give the feeling of being inside a Tim Hawkinson-designed living sound organism. You can imagine its blueprint developed by dub forefathers, some of whose portraits hang in the gallery’s project room as part of David Corio‘s concurrent “Black Chord” photo exhibit. Though chances are that a lily-white room in Chelsea wouldn’t be where they’d have chosen to place it. —Piotr Orlov
The flyer for singer-writer-artist-actress-activist Lydia Lunch‘s performance at Northsix last Wednesday promised to “stretch the boundaries of musical sadomasochism using the audience as both voyeur and aural whipping post.” It lied. Instead of a confrontational and self-destructive stage show involving ear-bleeding noise and fistfights like the kind Lunch and some other no wave vets became known for, we were given a short, steamy set by a tight rock band that happened to have for a frontwoman an infamous drama queen with a penchant for monologues. The only whipping post was the audience member who loudly bragged to Lunch about his sexual prowess and received a crowd-pleasing tongue-lashing. The war of words that ensued was so perfectly executed that I’m tempted to think it was a setup.
As members of current “it” bands the Ex Models, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Tall Boys looked on, the Lunch ripped through catalog gems like the pounding “Orphans,” from her first group, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, “Gospel Singer,” from Harry Crews, her collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and sections of her 1989 spoken-word epic, Oral Fixation. Every time Lunch’s venomous musings threatened to become too meandering, her four-piece (comprised of various ex-Swans and Geraldine Fibbers, and Scarnella guitarist Nels Cline) brought her back to earth.
Midway through, Lunch introduced surprise guest J.G. Thirwell (a/k/a notorious noise sculptor Foetus), her partner-in-crime in the ’80s and early ’90s. The pair writhed and moaned through their 1987 “Stinkfist,” then continued with a fierce version of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” that oozed raw sex. During the latter, the crowd got so worked up that it became clear that anyone there would have gladly bent over, had Lunch or Thirwell offered a whip. —Amy Phillips