Today we look back at a show featuring music by Pamela Z and the duo Y’reka at the Luggage Store Gallery Creative Music Series, which was still at its temporary home at 998 Market Street.
The evening opened with Y’reka, a duo featuring Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and Owen Stewart-Robinson on guitar. Both Shelton and Stewart-Robinson also had an array of electronic effects.
Their improvised music had a subtle noisy texture overall, with slowly changing timbres and dynamics. There were some moments were the effects triggered more dramatic changes, which especially stood out with the subtle texture. They also successfully combined their electronically-processed tones in sections such that it wasn’t clear who was playing what, a characteristic I often find fun in freely improvised music. The pair did acknowledge the death of Ornette Coleman the previous morning, a gesture that was both appropriate and appreciated by the audience.
Next up was Pamela Z who presented a variety of works for voice, sound electronics and video. This was in part of “preview” of her upcoming full-scale work Memory Trace which will be happening at the Royce Gallery. In addition to her versatile and virtuosic vocal techniques, she controlled a variety of audio processing via sensors both worn and placed in DIY electronic boxes in front of her. There were also several pieces featuring interactive video. One which I had seen before presented an array of real-time clips of Pamela Z from her laptop’s webcam during the performance, which she then appeared to call up as if they were individual percussion instruments.
There was also an intriguing video featuring a clock and other imagery related to time.
Overall, it was quite an interesting pairing of musical sets, and I was happy to be able to see both of them together in one evening.
As happens every year approximately one month before the Outsound New Music Summit, we gathered for the annual benefit dinner. This year the dinner took place at the Finnish Kaleva Hall in Berkeley, a location steeped in history of its own. There was a good company, delicious food provided by Slippery Fish Catering, and a performance by Nava Dunkelman and Jordan Glenn.
Both Dunkelman and Glenn and accomplished percussionists in the local music scene, but this was the first time they performed together as a duo. And the result was an exceptional performance filled with a variety of textures ranging from subtle to angry and aggressive. There were moments where the individual materials and timbres stood out in stark isolation, and others where the two worked together to form repeating rhythmic patterns (one might even say a “beat”). The two have contrasting styles that they brought from their other projects (I most often see Jorden Glenn as a drummer for bands, and Nava Dunkelman as a collaborator in improvised duos).
Overall, a great evening of music, food and friends. There were many familiar faces among Outsound’s supporters at the event, but also newcomers, which is always good to see.
[Photo courtesy of Outsound Presents]
Now it is on to the Summit itself, which begins on Sunday, July 26 at the Community Music Center in San Francisco. Please visit Outsound New Music Summit website for a full roster of performances and events, information and tickets, and more on how to support the continuation of new and adventurous music in our community!
We lost another of our musical heroes today. Orientate Coleman was deeply influential in the development and blossoming of jazz in the era-after bebop, where the music went in different, surprising and (for some) controversial directions. From the seemingly mathematic transformations of bop idioms in songs like Zig Zag to the driving funk of Jump Street from Of Human Feelings (a personal favorite of mine), his music and professional example were inspiring.
In addition to his composition and playing, he was an accomplished band leader, bringing together disparate performers to play complex music that remained rhythmically tight. There was the Ornette Coleman Quartet that cemented his reputation as an experimenter, and later his band Prime Time, which took on electronic elements and fusion idioms while retaining oblique rhythms and counterpoints.
I also find myself identifying the descriptions of him as soft-spoken and taking a deeply intellectual (perhaps bafflingly so) approach to describing music. Many jazz greats are sons and daughters of the South, and Ornate Coleman was no exception – but it is interesting to see him and others transcend that heritage to something of a different time and place, or perhaps no particular place at all. We should follow his example and keep jazz an alive, evolving, and often challenging music.
Today we look at a recent performance by Amy X Neuburg at the Center for New Music featuring a new interpretation of Jerry Hunt’s “Song Drapes.” This project was part of commission Neuburg received from the Cultural Department of Cologne, Germany to reinterpret the piece, which was originally a collaboration between Hunt and the performance artist Karen Finley.
We at CatSynth are immersed in a world of unique and often odd artists. But Jerry Hunt stands out as exceptionally odd and enigmatic. The evening began with screenings of his video work that is rarely shown in public. Many of them featured the artist alone in a dark room with his strange homemade electronic controllers and bits of electronic sound.
There were other departures among his videos, including one powerful piece featuring a close-up of Hunt reciting what seems like a stream of random but intense thoughts; and other where he takes the viewer on a tour of his home in Texas pointing out the behavior of local wildlife and a customized homebrew toilet. Both of these pieces seemed to portend his tragic death by suicide while suffering from cancer. But there were also humorous at times.
A similar mixture could be found in Neuburg’s live performance, which followed the screenings. “Song Drapes” includes Hunt’s original electronic background recordings and instructions to the performer to perform text of his or her own choosing with a live percussion rhythmic layer. The elements of electronics, percussion and voice were a perfect match for an “Amy X Neuburg treatment.”
The result was unmistakably her sound and style, filled with rhythmic hits, dramatic vocals and delightfully sardonic texts. Some were quite dark in keeping with the original work, but some of the best moments were the most quirky and humorous, including a tribute to Nebraska as the place one often flies over between frequent trips between California and New York (something which is part of my life as well), and her dance to a catchy rhythmic tune entitled “Little Legs”.
The performance lasted exactly one hour, but was engaging throughout. I am glad to have attended it. I do also hope to see more exposure for Jerry Hunt and his work. You can read more about him here. You can also find out more about Amy X Neuburg’s interpretation
So much perfection in this performance. There is a certain quintessential sound in this minor blues that is a deep influence on my music, sometimes very near the surface, sometimes more obscure. R.I.P, B.B. King.
The acclaimed French band Magma recently toured the United States for the first time in quite a long time. And we at CatSynth were in attendance when the played at Slims in San Francisco about a month ago.
For those not familiar with Magma, it was founded in France in 1969 by drummer Christian Vander. Musically, the band combines some of the best aspects of jazz fusion and progressive rock from the early 1970s with a unique (and somewhat apocalyptic) vision. All the the lyrics are written in Kobaïan, a constructed language invented by Vander that reflects the story from the band’s first album in which settlers fleeing Earth settle on a planet Kobaïa. The vocal arrangements feature a mixture of complex solo vocals and rich choral sections, all the while backed by Vander’s drumming and intricate rhythm from the full band.
The overall energy level was intense to say the least, but the thing I noticed most was how tight they were at all times throughout the performance. This is especially key for the fusion aspects of their music, and something that I found quite inspiring. Take some of the more fast-paced and intricate examples from Herbie Hancock’s early 1970s bands, and layer the vocals on top with punctuated rock hits. Although these elements can be found in other bands of the era, there is something distinct about their sound that made it immediately recognizable upon entry to the venue (we were slightly late and they had already started the first song). It is also interesting to note that the music has a very optimistic quality (and a bit of exuberance) that belies the rather dark theme of the lyrics and concept for the band.
Magma played to a packed house that evening. Slims is not a large venue, but it’s not the smallest either. There were definitely a lot of long time fans who clearly recognized the songs, but I’m sure some new listeners discovered them and hopefully went away wanting to hear more of them. For the overall experience and the musical inspiration, I am quite happy to have been in attendance.