Arrington De Dionyso, Mary Halvorson, Liturgy, Sightings, Peter Brotzmann & Pulverize The Sound

Martin Longley By

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Arrington De Dionyso's Malaikat Dan Singa
Cake Shop
May 25, 2011

When I first witnessed the singer, reedsman, guitarist and performance artist Arrington De Dionyso at The Stone, he was working as a solo act, exploring extended timbres, textured multiphonics, confrontational starkness and isolated honking eruptions. In more recent times, this Olympian (that's Olympia, in Washington) has been applying these out-there improvisational strategies to the rock 'n' roll zone, forming the Malaikat Dan Singa group and upping the volume, density and intensity considerably. I subsequently caught him at The Knitting Factory with this combo, and days before playing at the Lower East Side's Cake Shop, he was at the Issue Project Room, Brooklyn's home of experimental sounds.

We shall deem this a rock combo, in the absence of a more accurate term. The Malaikat trio nevertheless still retains copious stylistic tics that will ensnare admirers of free form jazz, as well as South East Asian musics, post-punk, noise-droning and Captain Beefheart, at home in his Trout Mask Replica (Reprise, 1969) log-cabin. On that previous Stone occasion, De Dionyso wasn't playing guitar, but it's now a central part of the Malaikat attack. Like B.B. King, De Dionyso doesn't sing at the same time as riffing. Well, not very often.

How to describe his stance? De Dionyso appeared akin to a somewhat deranged yoga instructor, throwing ceremonial shapes and singing in a deeply guttural growl that's informed by Mongolian and Tuvan throat-singing techniques. This is where Huun-Huur-Tu meets Napalm Death. After only one number, off came his shirt, and he moved, mantis-like, reaching for the Cake Shop's glow-light spangled ceiling, or striking right-angled poses with his forearms. The drums and bass were locking together in a tightly funk-rocked twitch, recalling the severe syncopations of the veteran English trio Blurt.

On this evening, when he picked up a horn, it turned out to be the bass clarinet, which was perfect as a throaty, guttural extension of De Dionyso's multiphonic vocal techniques. Gruff and ragged, he made a very voice-like sound, gobbling away at the reed, pecking, clucking and squawking deeply. Once again, images of Beefheart's Trout Mask era slammed towards the eyes. As a guitarist, De Dionyso made compact riff patterns, angular and strafing. Small melodies with a compressed nature. Serrated to kill.

To the uninformed, the leader's vocals might have sounded like some strange invented dialect, formed especially for rockin' extremity purposes. Apparently, though, he was singing in the Indonesian tongue, which kinda fit together with the Oriental bodily postures. The band-name translates as Angels And Lions. So, to marry meditational Eastern studies with an urgent punk savagery is one of the more unusual methods, even within the realms of avant rock. This was a band that made its audience dance, or at least contort, whilst remaining ultimately and gloriously inaccessible.

The Mary Halvorson Quintet
Joe's Pub
May 30, 2011

Lately, guitarist Mary Halvorson has been growing markedly more aggressive in both her soloing delivery and her choice of sonic texturing. Her array of effects pedals appears to have been multiplying, leading to greater adventures in mangling, distortion, pitch-pulling and bent metalling. Her style has been developing and evolving at high speed.

For this quintet gig, though, Halvorson chose to remain with her core sound of avant Wes Montgomery shimmering, tonally slanted sideways into a glowing refraction of the jazz tradition. The evening's repertoire premiered material destined for Halvorson's next quintet disc, set for a recording session in July. This might be why the mood of the gig was mostly cool school rather than that now-accustomed attack mode, as when caught in her own trio setting, or with new pals trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Weasel Walter. The thrust of this quintet is directed towards compositional substance, thoughtful themes and a more sly-footed approach to innovation.

The horns were equally divided between heads and soloing activity. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon were less extroverted than would be typical for most of their appearances, particularly the latter. This was less of an ego thrill, more of a shared service to the overall responsibility of the collective music. The set was warmly negotiated, but the normally closely charged atmosphere of Joe's Pub didn't catch fire into its potential sparking intimacy. Halvorson's tunes probably desired a few more airings, so that they could relax into a greater, looser expressiveness. Once the album hits the shelves, these new pieces will have grown and developed, and subsequent quintet dates will be hotly anticipated.

The Knitting Factory
June 2, 2011


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