Live: Soft Circle, Invisible Conga People at Issue Project Room


Invisible Conga People really are invisible, no?
photo dutifully supplied by the author

Soft Circle
Invisible Conga People
Issue Project Room
Saturday, May 31

The Issue Project Room’s new location is both purgatorial and temporary, but a five-minute walk from the subway, their website says. No longer in the oil silo of its original incarnation, but still not relocated to its future home of 110 Lexington Livingston (that will be in 2009), where it will be in the first floor of a new building of—what else?—condominiums, you couldn’t fly to the Old American Can Factory that currently houses the Issue Project Room on the third floor in five minutes either.

The first hot and humid day of the season, after a fifteen-minute walk over Gowanus Canal, the room is a white-walled broiler. Capping May’s month-long housing of the Joshua Light Show is tonight’s finale with Invisible Conga People and Soft Circle. (Previous nights coupled such hallowed light to the sounds of iconic players like Lee Ranaldo, Zeena Parkins, Marc Ribot, and a duo featuring Pandit Samir Chatajee’s tabla and sitar from K.V. Mahabala). Joshua Light’s résumé stretches over too many decades to get encapsulated here, save that he has both provided the liquid light that powered many a trip during the days of Bill Graham’s Fillmore shows and directed the decidedly less-psychedelic “The Library” episode of Seinfeld.

Liquid light, a wheel of gels, a battery of projectors, all convene on the white space behind the duo of Eric Tsai and Justin Simon, the two swelling their Korg and guitar until they are Invisible Conga People. It’s too freaking hot and thick to dance, much less move, but while ICP’s tracks can inspire such movements, they are also psychedelic and head-nod enough to work as brainstem-dance, too. Organic, ever-warping lights refract and get layered by JLS and crew, while steel drums get melted down into quicksilver beads by Tsai. All the while Simon runs his six-string (as well as his voice) through a half-circle of effects. Slowly, the duo’s arpeggios cohere into a side from their Italians Do It Better single, “Cable Dazed,” the resultant minimal noir not unlike that of an imaginary discotheque in Godard’s futureshock Alphaville. The hose blasts of Simon’s fuzzed-out voice and Tsai’s warped kick drum, which sounds more like a bogful of frogs, slowly segues into the start of Soft Circle’s set.

While the previous week’s preview presumed that Soft Circle’s set would emphasize the first word of the name, lone member Hisham Bharoocha instead coos along with ICP’s throb, adding a hi-hat figure that synchs up expertly for a few bars. These days, the beat literally comes first for Soft Circle. For each song on his set, Bharoocha starts off with triggered electronic drums, then reaches for a plugged-in guitar, fingering a quick figure on its fretboard, which moves from linear line to loop-de-loop. Similarly, Light casts a shadow play of a naked hula-hooper against an always fluctuating bath of purple and pink light throughout.

Turning back around on his drum throne once the other instruments are set in perpetual motion, Bharoocha then drums along with these helixes of sound. The only problem with such an assembly is that when his live drums do burst forth (taking a minute or so for each number), they’re mixed three times louder than everything else, blocking out the meticulously-woven loops. While uptempo and percolating throughout, some parts of Bharoocha’s set feel like drum practice, to where it’s more about keeping up the juggling act than playing a show as a one-man band. Perhaps Soft Circle can learn a few tricks from a duo that deems itself “people” and turn itself plural.