ReCardiacsFly at Cafe Du Nord

I have been busily preparing for the next show, coming up this weekend:

Members of Rennaissance Fly (myself, Polly Moller, and Tim Walters) are teaming up with Moe! Staiano, Chris Broderick, Marc Laspina and Suki O’Kane as “ReCardiacs Fly”, a tribute cover of the UK band Cardiacs.

It is been a bit of a challenge to learn our four pieces, approximately note for note and also capture the energy of the originals.

One fun bit to re-create was the synthesizer line from “Hello Mr. Sparrow.” We found this video on YouTube, featuring a Mellotron and Sequential Circuits Pro One:

Well, I don’t have either of those devices, but I can approximate the Pro One with the Dave Smith Evolver (it is essentially the successor to the Sequential Circuits instruments):

The most challenging song we are doing is R.E.S., you can get an idea of what we are up against in this Cardiacs’ video:

It has been great to hear things coming together in our rehearsals, and it should be a good show next weekend. Polly photos from our most recent rehearsal.

Official info below:

Sunday, May 8. 6PM-10:30PM
Cafe Du Nord
2170 Market Street

San Francisco, CA
$10 donation at the door

This is a benefit for Tim Smith, leader and founder of the UK band Cardiacs. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiacs):

Cardiacs are an English alternative rock/psychedelic pop band formed in 1977 and led by Smith. Noted for their complex, varied and intense compositional style and for their eccentric, theatrical stage shows, they have been hailed as an influence by bands as diverse as Blur, Faith No More and Radiohead.

In 2008, Smith suffered a stroke, and has not been able to perform or finish the new Cardiacs record. From the official website (http://www.cardiacs.com/):

Since the accident Tim Smith’s body has become his enemy. He is in a great deal of pain and is experiencing difficulty with the finer points of control with regard to his extremities so obviously perfected prior to the unhappy event, but Tim Smith, his family and those so called friends, (with whom he keeps counsel), all assert that his mind, however, has been sharpened by the episode. THE ALPHABET BUSINESS CONCERN can confirm that no part of YOUR favourite pop star’s intellect or personality has been found to be absent WHATSOEVER.

Last year, a tribute CD Leader of the Starry Skies was released (http://www.thegenepool.co.uk/items/597.htm), with all proceeds going directly to Smith. Our plan is for the May 8 concert to have all funds go to Tim. Our friend Kavus Torabi is the lead guitarist in Cardiacs, and he is our contact for making sure the funds reach Smith.

Performing will be Dominique Leone, Wiener Kids, Inner Ear Brigade, Grex, Amy X Neuburg, ReCardiac Fly, performing the music of Cardiacs/Tim Smith.

Reconnaissance Fly at Luna’s Cafe, Sacramento

This is the “official CatSynth report” from our Reconnaissance Fly show at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento last Monday.

Luna’s Cafe is in downtown Sacramento, within a couple of blocks of the large park that surrounds our State Capitol.

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I had stopped in during then In the Flow Festival back in may, so everything was quite familiar.

Inside, the stage was…well…a bit cozy.

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We managed to fit ourselves on in an odd arrangement of angles and overlapping. Polly was in this small triangle of space bounded by the stage front, the keyboard and the drum set.

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The painting behind the stage is David and the Giant Under the Blue Moon, by Bill Carr. All of Carr’s paintings on the wall had a moon theme, which was rather apropos of the venue (although “Luna’s” actually refers to the name of the proprietor of the cafe and not directly to the moon or to any cats we may know).

I felt like we did not play as well as we did at the Outsound Music Summit, but it was still a fun experience, and we got a warm reception from the audience (including the other musicians)

We were followed by the Garage Jazz Architects, with Lob Instagon on bass, Chad E Williams on guitar and Mark Halverson on drums.

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They played a mix of covers and originals. After an original piece called “Butter”, they moved into a series of including an interesting version of the Simpson’s theme with alternate harmonies, and several other classic TV shows. One of the originals was a surf-style piece entitled Surf Orangevale. From what I am told, Orangevale is a completely landlocked area east of of Sacramento. Lob also recited a poem that he composed on August 9, 1995 after hearing of the death of Jerry Garcia – a poem he only reads on August 9 – with musical accompaniment by the rest of the band.

Lob also leads the group Instagon, which has a different lineup every time it performs. After the show he invited me to join in the next Instagon performance, which just happened to be at the regular Outsound Thursday night series at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. That took place last Thursday, so look for an upcoming report soon.

Thanks to Ross Hammond for inviting us to play, and Art Luna for hosting us at the cafe

Outsound Music Summit: MultiVox

Today we at CatSynth conclude our series from the recent Outsound Music Summit with my own report from the MultiVox program that featured Reconnaissance Fly, the Cornelius Cardew Choir, and Amy X Neuburg. We did feature a guest review by Joe McMahon last week, which covers the same show from an outside perspective. My own perspective is anything but outside, given that I was in two of the three groups performing at night.

This was a professional show, with formal load-ins, sound checks, and staging. Reconnaissance Fly features a full rhythm section, so we had a lot of equipment to set up:

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On the left is Tim Walters’ bass and Macbook running SuperCollider. In the middle is Moe! Staiano’s drum set, and on the right is my own keyboard+electronics setup featuring the Nord Stage, the trusty Korg Kaoss Pad, and the little stuffed cat for good luck. Here is another perspective with more detail:

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The Evolver was actually for the Cardew Choir, but I set up everything at once. One can also see Moe!’s toys and other support percussion instruments.

Onto the show itself. Here is the full band on stage, with myself, Polly Moller (flute/vocals), Tim Walters (bass), Moe! Staiano as our special guest “concussionist”.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

We performed a full nine-piece set from Flower Futures, our “spong cycle” featuring music set to spam poetry. The set now has an eclectic mix of styles, from experimental avant-garde to prog rock, along with latin and jazz influences. We as always with Small Chinese Gong and ended with An Empty Rectangle – we always like playing that last one, but it’s even better with Moe!’s drums! I particularly enjoyed playing the medley of Electric Rock Like a Cat and Sanse is Credenza – the end of the first piece, with free-improvisation on flute set against B-diminished chords, elides into an early 1970s jazz fusion jam on the same chord (think “Chameleon” from Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters album). This is a relatively high-energy and somewhat challenging piece, and while it was fun to play, it also felt good to then return to the relative calmness of Oh Goldfinch Cage, which featured samples of “human calls” for training birds to speak, with phrases like “Hello, how are you?” and “pretty bird”, processed with ring modulation and turntable effects.

[Photo by Bill Wolter.  Click image to enlarge.]

Overall, it was a great performance with a lot of energy. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of playing, where one focuses on mistakes and challenges – personally, I forgot to check that patches for the Nord were all queued up at the start of the performance, and the heat from the lighting and large crowd added unexpected challenges. But it was received well by the audience (a full house), and it seemed like they were asking us for an encore!

The Cornelius Cardew Choir was a stark contrast to Reconnaissance Fly in terms of form and energy. Our first piece, Joe Zitt’s “That Alphabet Thing” was a cappella with a freeform structure. Basically, it unfolds by each singer intoning the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, starting with A and gradually working his or her way to Z. Everyone moves at a separate pace but mindful of others not to get too far ahead or behind, and there were a lot of fun moments of interplay among different choir members, such as back-and-forth with “Hi!” for H-I or “why?” for Y.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

We wear white lab coats.

This was followed by “El Morro” by choir director and co-founder Tom Bickley. The piece was inspired by a trip to the El Morro monument in New Mexico and featured the text from inscriptions on a rock spanning carved messages from two centuries of Spanish, Mexican and American passers by, soldiers as well as other travelers. Each of us had a set of inscriptions to recite on a single pitch per inscription, set against an electronic background of rocks, birds of prey and highly processed vocal incantations. This was a rather complex piece conceptually, though not difficult to perform. Because we were so involved in the performance and the conceptual nature, it is hard to know how it was received in the audience.

The set concluded with a performance of Polly Moller’s Genesis. We had seen a previous performance of Genesis at the Quickening Moon Concert. The previous performance was entirely instrumental. This time, the parts of the spatial and higher dimensions were voice. I performed part of “universal time”, using the sequencer on the Evolver as the time-keeper and performed various modulations of the tempo and timbre. Polly played the role of the “new universe” with a flute solo featuring multiphonics and other techniques. Tom Bickley conducted the piece by walking around the stage and carrying chimes.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

This was a very meditative performance, with the chimes, the flute multiphonics, the ever changing electronic rhythm and timbre, and the vocalists singing their respective dimension numbers in different languages.

The final set of the evening featured Amy X Neuburg. As always, her “avant cabaret” set was very polished and spoke well to both her technical expertise with her instruments and her versatility as a performer. She employs several styles of singing, often in a single piece, moving from classical to cabaret/jazz to experimental vocalizations. Her synchronization with looping electronics is very tight, seemlessly adding and subtracting samples and recordings within the rhythms and phrasings of the song.

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There were pieces familiar from past performances, such as “Life Stepped In” where she deftly mixes looping technology and theatrical vocals. She also did a few improvisational pieces, the first of which featured the Blippo Box. This is an instrument with chaotic oscillators that never quite sounds the same twice, but she always manages to control it quite well – in this performance she made it sound like a voice, to which she responded with her own voice. She also performed an improvisation with a Skatch Box which she made at the “build your own Skatch Box” presentation earlier in the week (and which I unfortunately missed). It’s hard to make a skatch box sound like a voice, but she could make her voice sound like the growls and scrapes that it produced.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

She ended her set with a tribute to Kim Flint, who was very active in the looping and electronic-music communities, and the founder of Loopers Delight, and who passed away after a tragic accident in Berkeley in June. He was someone I knew as well from both music and social events. Amy’s tribute was a performance of the first piece she ever created using the Echoplex, which he co-invented.

Preparing for tonight’s performance

This week has all been about the Outsound Summit, either attending programs or rehearsals, including two rehearsals for Reconnaissance Fly and one for the Cornelius Cardew Choir.

For Reconnaissance Fly, We now have our full Flower Futures set:

1. Small Chinese Gong
2. One Should Never
3. Neat As Wax
4. Emir Scamp Budge
5. Seemed to be Divided in Twain
6. Electric Rock Like a Cat
7. Sanse is Credenza
8. Oh! Goldfinch cage
9. An Empty Rectangle

There is actually a tenth movement, but we had to leave it out of this performance for timing reasons. One of the pieces, “Electric Rock Like a Cat”, was first premiered on KFJC last weekend. And three others are brand new that we only read and rehearsed in the past week. This included a final rehearsal last night. Sadly, it means I was not able to attend last night’s performance, but the extra rehearsal time paid off and I think we are going to play a great set tonight!

Technologically, things are relatively simple compared to the solo shows like the Quickening Moon Concert. I will primarily be using a Nord Stage keyboard for classic Fender Rhodes and organ models and acoustic piano, with support from the Korg Kaoss pad on several pieces and a loop/sample playback application on the iPhone. Tim Walters will be using SuperCollider for signal processing alongside bass guitar. Moe! Staiano will probably have toy instruments along with his drum set. We don’t have any live processing of Polly Moller’s flute or vocals in this particular set. I like the way our music has evolved to require less feats of technology and more musicianship.

For the Cardew Choir, I will be performing the role of “Universal Time” in Polly Moller’s Genesis using a combination of “space like” and “drum like” patches on the DSI Evolver. Other than that, the set is all vocals.

For those in the Bay Area who would like to attend, the show is 8PM at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street in San Francisco. You can get full schedule and ticking info here.

CatSynth at the Outsound Music Summit

Starting tomorrow, and throughout next week, I will be involved in the Outsound Music Summit here in San Francisco. In addition to participating as a performing artist, CatSynth is an official community media sponsor of the festival! I will attending (almost) all of the events, providing some live updates via Twitter, and of course more detailed reviews here on the blog. For those who wish to follow along, you can join us on Twitter @CatSynth, or subscribe to our feed, or simply check back in to the site periodically.

Please visit the Outsound Music Summit site for more info. You can find a detailed schedule of all the programs, and ticketing information for those who will be in the Bay Area next week.

In terms of participating in the events themselves, I will be at the Touch the Gear Expo on Sunday. I am not yet sure the exact list of gear I will present, but it will almost certainly include the Monome, the Kaoss Pad and the Evolver.

On Saturday (that’s tomorrow), I will be performing with Reconnaissance Fly live on KFJC Radio. The performance is listed as 4PM U.S. Pacific Time, and is available online.

Finally, on Friday, July 23, I will be performing at the summit, both with Reconnaissance Fly and the Cornelius Cardew Choir.

Polly Moller’s collected and adapted spoetry texts form the basis for a new “spong cycle” — a song cycle based on spoetry. Entitled “Flower Futures”, this otherworldly ten-movement work shifts constantly in imagery and sound. Movements feature free improvisation, graphic scores, and full scored music, each with a spoem as its basis. Reconnaissance Fly, consisting of Moller plus Amar Chaudhary (keyboards and electronics) and Tim Walters (bass guitar and electronics) will perform “Flower Futures” along with special guest concussionist Moe! Staiano.

The Cornelius Cardew Choir is a SF Bay Area-based vocal performance ensemble. Situated at the intersection of community & experimental music, these professional, amateur, & novice singers work collectively to turn ideas into sonic action. The Choir’s set will include “Genesis” for twelve improvisers by Polly Moller, with the composer herself portraying the New Universe.

It is going to be a busy week…

Reconnaissance Fly at In The Flow Festival, May 15, Sacramento

Our next Reconnaissance Fly gig will be here on May 15.

We will be performance in the festival on Saturday, May 15, at 1PM at Beatnik Studios, 2421 17th Street @ Broadway, in Sacramento. Too bad we’re not at Luna’s Cafe.

This is the debut of our new quartet lineup, featuring myself, Polly Moller, Tim Walters on bass and electronics, and Noah Phillips on guitar.  We have been perfecting our “Flower Futures” cycle featuring spoetry (poetry based on spam messages) and taking advantage of the sonic and musical options of our expanded lineup.

So if you are in the Greater Sacramento Metropolitan Area (?) on the 15th, do come check it out.

Reconnaissance Fly at Studio 1510, Oakland

A few photos and thoughts from last Friday’s Reconnaissance Fly performance at Studio 1510 in Oakland.

I knew that Studio 1510 had a great acoustic piano, which I wanted to take advantage of particularly for our piece Emir Scamp Budge which features an extended jazz piano solo. But it turns that they also now have an actual Rhodes Stage Piano Mark II. I could pass up the opportunity to appropriate it for our set. Here is the Rhodes with the E-MU Proteus 2000 and Korg Kaos pad conveniently perched on top:

Together with the acoustic piano and MIDI keyboard for a rather massive keyboard setup:

Click the above picture to enlarge it and spot the cat!

Here we are getting ready to play the first note of our opening piece “Small Chinese Gong”.


[Photo by Tom Djll.]

The set went well from that point. I have not yet heard the recording, but I thought the first piece, as well as “One Should Never” (which was about as tight as I have heard us play it), “Ode to Steengo” – with the interplay of the text, the Kaos Pad, odd drum beats and Tim’s live electronic processing – and “Emir Scamp Budge” went particularly well.

Matt Davignon opened for us with a solo set featuring a live performance on drum machine and effects processors.

This was nominally a performance marking the release of his new CD Living Things, although none of the pieces in the performance were actually from the CD. But that was OK. I particularly remember the last piece in the set for a variety of reasons, including but limited to the subtle effects in the music.

Thanks to Scott Looney and Studio 1510 for hosting us!

Reconnaissance Fly at KUSF

Here is the first photo of the current Reconnaissance Fly lineup, taken after our performance on KUSF today.


[Photo by Bryan Chandler]

Thanks to our host Bryan Chandler for the photo, and of course for the opportunity to play.

Here is a photo I took at the start of the set.

You can see the score for our opening piece “Small Chinese Gong” laid out behind the keyboard. This is one of the graphical scores that I have mentioned in a previous review. This is also the piece that fell victim to the “rebellious blue cord” that left the performance bass-less. Fortunately we were able to correct that and the rest of the set went quite smoothly.

You can listen to an audio archive of the performance. I thought the later pieces, in particular “Canada”, “Ode to Steengo” and “An Empty Rectangle” came out quite well. We are definitely looking forward to our live performance tonight at Studio 1510.

For those interested in the technological aspects: I was using my trusty Korg mini-Kaos Pad, E-MU Proteus 2000 (with Vintage Pro and Mo’Phatt), and a Voce Electric Piano module. Tim Walters was also performing live custom electronics programmed in Supercollider.

Reconnaissance Fly & Matt Davignon in Oakland, 2/5

An announcement for upcoming performances with Reconnaissance Fly (consisting of myself, Polly Moller and Tim Walters), as initially reported on Polly’s Journal.

We have six movements from Flower Futures all ready to share with you. We are all spoetry, all the time.

First, we’ll be on the radio, performing live on KUSF starting at 11:00 a.m. (U.S. Pacific Standard Time) on Thursday, February 4th. KUSF streams live on the internet.

Then we will be performing live at Studio 1510 the night of Friday, February 5th at 9ish PM. Studio 1510 can be found at 1510 8th Street, in Oakland, California. It’s conveniently near West Oakland BART.

Here’s our set list:

– Small Chinese Gong
– One Should Never
– The Animal Trade in Canada
– Ode to Steengo
– Emir Scamp Budge
– Seemed to Be Divided in Twain
– An Empty Rectangle

You can actually read more about spoetry and some of our pieces in my review of our show last November.

Our friend Matt Davignon will join us at 8ish PM for an opening set of extended drum machine soundscapes in support of his new album, Living Things.