Pere Ubu, Manorexia, Growing & Acid Mothers Temple
J.G. Thirlwell's Manorexia
(le) Poisson Rouge
April 4, 2010
J.G. Thirlwell began to besmirch rock's normality half a decade after Pere Ubu formed. Melbourne-born, he moved to London in 1978, but for the last 25 years he's mostly been identified with the New York scene. Thirlwell's reputation was established via operating various manifestations of the Foetus persona, from 1981 onwards. His extremist rock constructions have lately been retired from the live stage, but these creations were never limited to this particular arena anyway. Thirlwell has been consistently attuned to film music, dark electronica and moderne classical composition. It's the latter output that has been most regularly performed in NYC recently.
A few weeks before the Poisson Rouge gig, Thirlwell had "Eremikophobia" premiered by the Kronos Quartet at Carnegie Hall. This smaller Greenwich Village club show marked the release of Manorexia: The Mesopelagic Waters on John Zorn's Tzadik label. Thirlwell began the Manorexia project in 2001, the group dedicating itself to atmospheric instrumental works. The new album features re-shaped versions of pieces that appeared on the first two Manorexia discs.
The current chamber group formation revolves around a string quartet core, flanked by piano and percussion (primarily vibraphone and tympani). Thirlwell plays laptop, though his input mostly appears to be very subtle, to the point where the listener might wonder about the nature of what he's contributing to the sonic banquet.
Thirlwell is a master of gradual development, painting a sombre tableaux that held the packed crowd in a hushed state. The strings built up a steady blanket of darkness, not taking the atonal avenue, but rather crystallising a bitter sweetness, singing sorrowful lines of the terminally ill. Thirlwell manages to include tuneful matter without relinquishing a sense of threat. The sequence of pieces established a gathering cloud of intensity, sometimes picking up in pace, but mostly operating on a stately plane. Peter Wise's almost subsonic kettle drum rumblings emphasised the sense of foreboding dread. The penultimate movement provided the only instance where Thirlwell's electronic shock could be felt, as he emitted great wrenching twists of processed brutality.
April 6, 2010
Even though their profile cannot be deemed to be anything approaching enlarged, the Brooklyn electronica trio Growing have just released Pumps!, hitting their eighth album. Indeed, this gig acted as its record release party, and was therefore rife with a predictable legion of video documentarians. Sometimes it seems as though so many folks are involved with slavishly recording events, with their variously-sized devices, that few are let loose to uninhibitedly immerse themselves in the free-flowing proceedings.
The walk up to Greenpoint from the bustling Brooklyn heart of Williamsburg involves the discovery of a riverside industrial wasteland. But as we near Coco66, the density of new apartments increases and there's a tiny cluster of bars that signal an artily youthful presence. The venue's music space lies to the rear, and its sound system array holds an impressive bass weight, more than brutal enough to sate even the most ragged and abused eardrums. Its judder passes deeply through the walls and seating. Its low frequencies crumple the inner membranes.
Eric Copeland preceded the main act. He's usually found in Black Dice. Alone, he remains one of the more rebellious, roughened electronicists. He dredges up large slabs of grumbling texture, laying his distorted voice over their nobbled surface. At one point there came a sound like unto a perverted duduk, a looped, heavily transmogrified Armenian flute sample. At other junctures, Copeland sounded like, somewhere, lost in the barrage, there was a Cajun twang to his singing, hopping over a clumping beat. Or he was some other lost and lonesome moonshine rambler. Copeland gave the impression that events were barely under his control, but this may well have been an illusion. Either way, this lent an edge of gutsy extremity.
The Growing threesome were more regimented. For the new album, Sadie Laska has augmented the original guitaring twosome who first came together in 1999. Actually, even though Joe DeNardo and Kevin Doria often have guitars slung around their necks, it's the three tabletops laden with electronic devices that emit Growing's core sound. Frequently, the guitars don't sound like guitars, as they trigger sampled clouds of disembodiment. The mass of wires, effects boxes and pedals seem quite hands-on, giving the impression that studious laptoppery is not Growing's ideal activity.