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Live Minimalism From New York: Shoko Nagai/Satoshi Takeishi, Signal, Rhys Chatham, Terry Riley & Glenn Branca

Martin Longley By

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[Glenn Branca's] 'Lesson No. 3' might be quite a short work, but much more of this monstrous riffing would surely be too dangerously ecstatic an experience.
Shoko Nagai & Satoshi Takeishi
The Stone
April 21, 2009


These Japanese New Yorkers are giving the second performance of Abysm (there was a gig at Roulette in February), an ambitiously intense sequence that revolves around "a tale of a floating world (Ukiyo)," which appears to be the duo's own private land of sonic fantasy. They play for around an hour, and the development holds all music's possible wonderment. Shoko Nagai is initially giving her piano the softest of interior caresses, lightly scraping objects on the strings, or making harp-like brushes. Gradually, she moves onto the keys, issuing tight little clusters, curtly phrased, eventually spending some time with her accordion, during one of the sparser sections. Satoshi Takeishi is seated, his very minimalist drumkit made up from skins balanced on frames in pseudo-taiko fashion. To his left, he has a laptop, wires, boxes, and a sample-triggering mini-keyboard. He's obsessed with ingrown cricket-noise bluster, sympathetically twinned to the constrained striking of tiny gongs and metal pieces, with a variety of soft and hard sticks. He successfully creates a blurring between electro-scrap and percussion rummaging, so that maybe folks who can't actually see what he's doing might be mystified as to the exact instrument-sources. Like an exorcism, the sounds attain a worrying pitch of energy frequencies, particularly when Nagai moves to her Moog, shaking her head and laughing as she finds crazed warbles that surprise her too, while Takeishi is insistently drumming up a rotary storm. They give their all, whether the music is passing through a becalmed, inward phase, or whether it's arcing up to a pinnacle of beautiful excess.



Signal

(le) Poisson Rouge

April 22, 2009



Signal is rapidly becoming the hot young new music ensemble in town, having already delivered a rousing, composer-approved version of Steve Reich's Music For Eighteen Musicians, late last year at this very club. The space is ideal for "classical" sounds, as (le) Poisson Rouge operates a musically democratic policy where string quartets can co-exist with DJs, drinks and food flowing, the audience invited to sprawl around casually, as Signal are set up in the room's center. Musical director and conductor Brad Lubman has selected Michael Gordon's Trance for this evening's performance. The Bang On A Can founder wrote this minimalist excursion for the UK group Icebreaker, back in 1995. Signal's members are partially drawn from other fast-rising NYC outfits (So Percussion and Alarm Will Sound, for instance), and Gordon's work calls for a mixture of traditional strings and brass, mingling with electric keyboards, guitars and bass. It lies well within the minimalist tradition, but appears deliberately to avoid having Steve Reich as an influence. The pulsating bass keyboard rolls are more like those employed by Philip Glass, and the jauntily pastoral horn figures recall the distinctive gait of Michael Nyman. The piece's aggressive edge and delivery has more of a Rhys Chatham or Glenn Branca attack, but this is not to say that Gordon doesn't mingle all these outside inflections into a personally composite style. The slabs and wafers of layered sound are less subtle than those of Glass and Reich, as Gordon's shifts are more like severe shunts. When the hellishly loud drums kick in, the glorious headbanging can begin, urged on by a bass line that could be throbbing out from a song by James Chance & The Contortions. The force keeps growing, but Gordon couldn't possibly sustain this momentum over an hour, so there are a couple of reeling-back oases of calm, which allow the listener's mind to get lost. This is not the case with the section that includes samples of what sounds like Tuvan throat-singing, as the attention here is riveted, just before the piece gears up for one more jagged race to a concussive, cumulative finish.



Rhys Chatham

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

April 24, 2009

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