All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

6

Supersonic 2014

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
The second day was fuller, starting at 4pm rather than 9pm, and pouncing straight into the peaks at an early stage of the evening. New York singer/guitarist Chris Brokaw (of Codeine and Come fame) opened up with a suitably intimate recital, sometimes delivering songs, but also including a swathe of instrumental film music, cleverly utilizing moderate amounts of distortion to combine melody and abrasion. His vocals weren't the most tuneful song-channelling tool, but the numbers are best heard as storylines, narrated without much voice dynamism. It's the guitar that provided the true expressive core of the pieces.

Agathe Max, from Lyon, played a solo violin set, although her heavily effected sound wouldn't have existed if not for the pioneering work of John Cale and Tony Conrad. She plastered slow-drawled looping-lines, making a dragging construction that moved forward at an appealingly lumbering pace, allowing the audience to savor her thick, granular textures. Daylight was still beaming through the skylights, all the better to impart that special loft studio aura to the proceedings.

Then, one of the weekend's mightiest acts stormed the stage, early evening light still dappling, even though their crazed sounds were meant for the midnight hour. Alien Whale brings together the tri-borough (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) New Yorkers Colin Langenus (guitar), Matt Mottel (keytar), and Nick Lesley (drums), three musical maniacs with a desperate rapport, once again taking a form, psychedelic jazz-rock, and bending it into an extreme parody—thrilling, absurd, macho and moronic, virtuosic and violent. Mottel and Langenus were vying for supremacy as they traded ever more elaborate solos, kept aloft and limber by Lesley's whipcrack patterns. When Langenus was rising up to solo dominance, Mottel maintained a rippling bass flow, but when the keytar-slinger came forth himself, the treble end suddenly ripped into glorious primacy, in a rocked up Terry Riley rupture of rapture. They played like it was their final show, as if it was the latest, most drink'n'drug fuelled nightcap possible.

Sly & the Family Drone opted to play on the floor, in the middle of the space, gathering their audience around them in a packed circle. This made visibility low, but their ritualistic primitivism didn't necessarily demand eye contact. It all sounded like one long song, incrementally facilitating mental derangement. Until the climactic stage, it hadn't been clear what was happening, but then they started to distribute their drumkit around the crowd, encouraging simple beats, or more syncopated scissoring, depending on who ended up hogging the flying drumsticks. Their main man, by this time stripped down to boxer shorts, stood atop an amplifier, spraying beard-beer whilst conducting the melee, the invocatory session concluding when he was handed a pizza box and proceeded to plaster a slice to his face, taking art music into a called-for visceral zone, barely sidestepping a wardrobe malfunction. If they'd been up onstage, it would've been a very different experience, but the Sly Drone approach found audience communication to be a vital part of its armory.

Detroit's Wolf Eyes trio tried hard, but there was something lacking, as the band followed on from Alien Whale and the Sly Droners. They seemed to take themselves far too seriously, in comparison, lacking the self-knowledge of the previous pair of socially-challenged outfits. Under other circumstances, the set would have seemed stronger, but Wolf Eyes suffered due to so closely following two of the festival's best sets.

Swans came on after midnight, and played for around two hours. Occasionally they sprawled, but mostly justified the length of their performance, particularly in the light of all Supersonic's other acts keeping down to an hour or less onstage. Singer/guitarist Michael Gira commanded the attention with stern drama, his songs grinding between wall-of-shimmer patterns, hardened into vibrating granite structures, and almost diaphanous ballad sections, poised before the magnification into another bruising ascendance. Nowhere near as loud as its reputation promised, Swans was still quite high on the meter, nevertheless, surmounting a brief power outage before weighing in for the duration. Gira's voice was sometimes subject to a rare challenge in the mix, being one of the few instruments to suffer unintended distortion in Supersonic's general democracy of sound. Or perhaps by 2:00 a.m., your reviewer's tender eardrums had been pummelled way too hard.

Photo Credit:
Katja Ogrin

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters at Forest Hills Stadium Live Reviews
Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters at Forest...
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Danny Green Trio at the Lily Pad Live Reviews
Danny Green Trio at the Lily Pad
by Doug Hall
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard and E-Collective at Ardmore Music Hall Live Reviews
Terence Blanchard and E-Collective at Ardmore Music Hall
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Broken Shadows at Icehouse Live Reviews
Broken Shadows at Icehouse
by Samuel Stroup
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage Live Reviews
Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at...
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: June 13, 2018
Read "Pharoah Sanders at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Pharoah Sanders at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 5, 2017
Read "Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban at Barbès" Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban at Barbès
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland" Live Reviews 2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Damo Suzuki & Electric Octopus at The Menagerie" Live Reviews Damo Suzuki & Electric Octopus at The Menagerie
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon" Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Newport Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Newport Jazz Festival 2017
by Timothy J. O'Keefe
Published: August 18, 2017