Jooklo Duo + C. Spencer Yeh/Ju Suk/Jackie Trio + Devon, Gary and Ross
Thursday, June 16
Better than: Anything you’d hear at a sauna.
I had forgotten why I hadn’t been to Silent Barn in months. When I walked in last night, I remembered: dead air. Not in the radio sense. Maybe the atmosphere could pass for sultry, if not for the mildewy musk. And the single ceiling fan in the main room—well, it’s just living a lie. Still, it’s an easygoing funhouse of hallways and stairways splattered with colorful junk, and the bills tend to be high-energy/low-fuss collisions of punk and noise, and there’s a cat. Last night it also hosted the last area appearance of Italy’s cosmic-jazz flame-throwers Jooklo Duo, who’d popped up at Issue and the Stone during the past couple of weeks.
Before that could happen, the trio Devon, Gary and Ross played. Surely some slapdash trio of neighbors, except… say, that’s Gary Panter with the guitar. And his devil-won’t-care trio has an evolved notion of fucking around with rock’s pebbles, tossing off some seasick sci-fi vamp and then ducking into a cracked spy-jazz tune. Then they turned out deeply messed-with versions of July’s lysergic late-’60s nugget “Dandelion Seeds” and Funkadelic’s anti-Vietnam song “March to the Witch’s Castle.” Sitting in the jungle-like air, it was hard not to be a little stupefied.
The pedigree of the night belonged to the next trio, as the most avant-versatile man in town, C. Spencer Yeh, teamed with Ju Suk Reet Meate and Jackie Oblivia of noise pioneers Smegma. Arranged around a small buffet littered with toys, a microphone, an old record player and some modified noise-making objects, the three projected spare constellations into the air, lines and shapes that overwrote each other playfully and a little absurdly. It was so right with the environment that, late in the set, the orange tabby sauntered through the crowd and under the table, as if nothing was amiss.
The air needed clearing, though—a job for Jooklo. Virginia Genta is a wee lass who handles her sax like Zeus does lightning. Her partner David Vanzan is a lanky basher of things, unleashing flowing rolls and bursts with more of a rock provenance than you normally get with fire music. They fully inhabit the ’60s free-jazz aesthetic by blasting it into the present. Intrinsic to the spirit of their music is that there is room for more; this set included the unsurpassed noise guitarist Bill Nace (colleague of Thurston and the rest of the Northeast wool-gathering clan) as well as the powerful and peculiar saxophonist Tamio Shiraishi (onetime accomplice to Japanese guitar colossus Keiji Haino).
Vanzan looks across the floor, quietly says “Pronto” as if it weren’t a command, and the group breaks like a shot. It’s impossible not to notice Genta first and most—she goes right after it, tearing furiously at the sky in high registers, chasing some celestial imperative that you can almost glimpse in her headlights. She’s self-taught, and you feel like she found her first language with her instrument. Vanzan is redefining explosion from a single event to a state of being; Nace claws nimbly but viciously at the guitar on his lap, torturing strings with fingers and tools. Shiraishi, meanwhile, is laying back—literally, behind the others, looking away, seeming detached, not playing. No matter: The waves are shaking through the floor and into our bones. So how dramatic is it when Shiraishi sweeps to the front and jumps in with both feet, totally simpatico with the fire already raging! Man, the sound in this hot smelly room is bright.
The quartet keeps us pressed to the sky for ten minutes, no let up, until they let up. Then a 20-minute piece, with shifting momentums and a lower-ebbing tension, Genta loping from sax to clarinet to something Turkish-looking with a reed, then to strings of bells, which she takes on a short walk. Shiraishi is playing cat and mouse again; the resident cat is nowhere to be seen, which is just as well, cause Nace is hammering on his strings with what looks like a cat’s food bowl. This group’s energy is wild as hell but not chaotic; there’s a distinct order at work within their improvising. They bring it back up to a pitch together and end it, certain finality as Vanzan is unscrewing cymbals before the sound decays. The air comes to a halt again. Out out out.
Overheard: “…that you see modern art merely as an excuse for jokes.” — spoken-word record used in Yeh/Juk/Jackie’s set.
Random notebook dump: Far be it from me to judge anyone else’s fun, but the young fresh fellow doing the overemotive noodle dance in the front should probably stop watching documentaries about the ’60s.