Orhima / Pharmakon / R. Jencks

Orhima / Pharmakon / R. Jencks
Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It had been a long time since I had visited the Hemlock Tavern. It seems that enterprising avant gardists have largely given up on trying to present their music in this particular rock music context; the loud bar atmosphere on the other side of the plastic curtain is only the most obvious obstacle in the way of sensitive music emerging here. But there is no need for politeness tonight; I am here to hear a metal band – a black metal band that a Bay Area noise fan would consider a supergroup. Orhima features members of acoustic grind duo Ettrick, Nerds-fueled tablecore Tralphaz, and microcephalic face-synthesist Bran (...) Pos, respectively on drums, guitar, and vocals. Lit by nought but a single bright lightbulb center stage on the floor, the blackened, bloodied drummer pounds out simple, brutal rhythms, while a dispassionate goth flutter-strums his guitar into a wash of white noise. Barefooted and velvet-cloaked, the weirdo singer wails wild howls of the criminally insane. Their music filled me with joy. Tastefully simple heavy rock music with crazy vocals and creepy background music filling in the space between songs. A variety of tempo changes, both gradual and abrupt, add variety. This is, I believe, only their third show with this finalized line-up. With a bit more experience, they will be a brutal juggernaut. They're off to a solid start.

I hear murmurs of "female power electronics" as Pharmakon, a young New Yorker, sets up. More than a few people are excited to hear her, so I decide to stick around to see how the actuality matches the preceding reputation. The Hemlock has provided this young lady with a large white table with a graffito: "Twat?" O fate! She sets up on the floor. A dark synth line from a Casio SK-5 toy keyboard begins the set; it's nice to see the actual movement of two fingers producing this music, neither pre-recorded nor sequenced. Soon she deploys her special skill: terrified womanish screaming. She is certainly well-practiced in this art; approach her not in a dark alley. Bursts of electronic noise erupt, and a wall of distortion now dominates the sonic atmosphere. Now back to the head; the bass synth line returns, and more bursts of noise conclude the piece. The set is very short, perhaps five minutes, which seems tasteful given the extremely abrasive nature of the music, and her status as an up-and-coming performer rather than a seasoned master.

R. Jencks surprises me with a quick set-up. I'm shooting the breeze at the water cooler when I hear tormented screams bellowing out from behind the shower curtain sealing off the music room. Inside, Mr. Jencks is onstage, wildscreaming into two handheld mics, recordin loops. His rage is palpable. He looks sincerely angry, and in between screams he looks exhausted. For unknown reasons he kicks over a table and throws a mic stand. It feels slightly dangerous. This tension sustains interest in the performance through many minutes of nothing more than primal scream therapy. Eventually I start to perceive subtle pitch shifting affecting the deeper layers of the dense loops: the earliest howls are dropping in pitch. This slow progression has taken so long it seems as if this slight development will be the totality of the set. But now heavily distorted tones, harsh noise, rip out of the speakers. Jencks abruptly cuts the vocal loops, and concentrates on amazing electronic sounds: shredding high-pitched tones, and feedback through delay and distortion. Simple, unchanging sounds, but Jencks is cycling through them quickly, nimbly. His years of experience with this music are evident. A dark, droning synth tone creeps in, underlying everything. It occurs to me that this set contains all the same basic elements as Pharmakon's, and nothing more. Jencks sustains the single synth note a very long time, letting the harsh noise fade away. After ample droning, he quickly recapitulates the whole set. There are more brutal screams followed by more harsh noise, then the synth drone is again left as a solo voice. More onstage furniture is flung. This performance has not been cathartic for Jencks; it has merely fostered, stimulated, his rage and aggression. The looping layers of screams from the beginning of the set return, and the drone is abruptly cut. Fog suddenly starts filling the room. Has this familiar aspect of his set been saved for the conclusion (perhaps forbidden by the club, and executed after it is too late for them to pull the plug on him), or is it cuing the beginning of an entire new section, as did the introduction of the distorted electronics? Synth tones and speech are audible, rising out of the chaotic looping screams. It is starting to feel like a terrible 1980s movie sample will conclude the performance, but then I realize this is the spooky intro (with Vincent-Price-impersonating narrator) to Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil. The album's title track starts playing, and the whole audience is mystified. Some are visibly more excited by this music than by anything else they've heard tonight, but I, on the other hand, have always agreed with Robert Christgau's impression of the album as, "utter dogshit even by heavy metal standards." Vince Neil screams, "Shout at the...," over a snare roll, and the music is cut. What an absurd ending! Inexplicable. Perhaps a nod to the opening metal band, to accompany his genre similarity with Pharmakon.



John Butcher Group, somethingtobesaid [Weight of Wax, 2009]

Phenomenal electro-acoustic improvised music from this octet of master musicians assembled by John Butcher. Sonic textures are suggested by playback of pre-recorded sounds (fragments of speech from an old answering machine, sounded wine glasses) and passed through changing small sub-groups as directed by Butcher. The first track (the first indexed section of a single piece in various parts) is a great example of these structuring elements at work. The piece starts with close interval beating midrange tones, presumably the wine glasses, soon joined by various instruments easing in with matching sounds, adding to the slowly flowing tones. Brief solos, more active yet still subdued flurries of sound -- the sizzle of wind ripping through saliva as it escapes a saxophone mouthpiece -- bubble up out of this calmly undulating sea. Muffled speech samples (the answering machine) make a brief appearance, setting the tone for these minor eruptions: bumpier texture but still static sound. Bowed styrofoam again disrupts the smooth texture, calling the group to action -- critical mass has been reached. But the group flurries quickly settle into string harmonics accompanied by piano plunks, both subtly mimicked and matched by electronics. It becomes clear we are in stasis, and it makes no sense to follow the particulars of the flow. The slowly shifting texture continues to be passed around the group, morphing as different instruments sustain it. We are dwelling in a single space, a good space. Non-developmental alternation between sustained sounds and eruptions of rougher texture continue until a slight ebb in energy cues the end of the piece. There is an airy electronic hiss, similar to the momentary saxophone solo early in the piece, followed by a quick fade to silence.

So far the music has followed in the tradition of Butcher's playing with groups like Polwechsel -- controlled playing creating a group texture without clear individual voices or instrumental sounds. It is interesting to note that the second half of the first track was actually an open improvisation by Burn, Cooper, Lehn, and Linson, though they functioned as a tightly unified organism, and seamlessly continued the tone set by the composed music for octet. While the first track epitomizes the best of the textural playing on this disc, the second track contains the meatiest musical movement. The track opens with the sound of a dot matrix printer, and a thick instrumental texture quickly builds around it with more intensity than has yet been heard on this disc. It's dark ambient improvised noise reminding me of AMM's heavy textures. I am thrilled to hear the crackle of vinyl coming out of my speakers, intuitively coming from the playback medium, but of course actually from dieb 13's live turntable performance. But then, about 3 minutes in, a very twisty, skronky horn line leaps out -- an unashamed saxophone. No more questions about which instrument is making which sound. This outburst silences the rest of the group, and various players rejoin the action in a sparser European Free Improv (post-free jazz) mode of operation, appropriately enough as the three lead players were all operating during the twilight (if not the heyday) of that movement (begun by John Stevens and Derek Bailey, both now deceased). There's a bit of piano, but mostly it's Butcher on tenor sax, and John Edwards on double bass -- manly double bass, the kind of playing at which Edwards excels -- buzzing arco punctuated with hard percussive hits on the strings -- fast and aggressive. Butcher is working with the complex, constantly shifting multiphonics for which he is well known. After three minutes of this, the extended saxophone sounds give way to scales, then lines, now pushing toward free jazz -- unabashedly even more "musical" than EFI. Edwards starts stretching out into arco drones, and the duo fades away. An awesome duo from two masters of genre.

A little more than a year ago, in June 2008, I had the opportunity to see Butcher lead sfSound in what was perhaps a prototype for this group composition. Paralleling this Butcher/Edwards duo, the highlight of that concert was an extended duo of Butcher and Gino Robair. It's evidently a very effective approach to group improv structure, breaking the group down into the small groupings with which improvisers are most familiar, especially into duos and trios with years of playing experience. Robair and Butcher especially shine together. Their recordings together are the highlights of each of their discographies. Unfortunately, this duo doesn't have its moment on this album. The lack is only felt, however, if one is already familiar with the extraordinary possibilities. This album sounds great as it is, and there are plenty of other albums with which to revel in the Butcher/Robair genius.

These first two tracks are the finest moments on a very fine disc, and the other best sections follow similar forms. #3 and #9 are both more textural pieces, #3 notably being a very tight piece, structured by notated pitches and pre-recorded wine glasses, which greatly aids its efficacy in heaping up mounds of musical doom. #5 is another free instrumental piece, mostly consisting of a double bass/guzheng duo exploring the similarities of these two large stringed instruments. Edwards again effortlessly moving through his impressive repertoire of techniques, matched by Clare Cooper in a conversational sort of duo. The players stay united in their wide-ranging sounds, whether they be traditional bass sounds, or unexpectedly percussive and trashy extended sounds. The most sublime moment occurs about 4 minutes in, when a minor frenzy cuts to silence, the bass locks into a contrastingly slow and stark beat, with even sparser guzheng noise punctuations. Soon the speech samples return, and the saxophone joins in, serving as the voice's partner in a double duo. Then quickly the piano enters, establishing a brief EFI trio (sax/bass/piano), but having forced the saxophone into interaction with the live musicians, it exits as quickly as it entered, relinquishing its place once again to the guzheng.

John Edwards emerges from the group as a powerful voice and guiding force, but for the most part the octet functions as a unit, very well-balanced in its constantly shifting groupings and sounds. John Butcher deserves a lot of credit for keeping the music under control, as do the seven other very tasteful players. Butcher wrote of his concern in composing this piece, "...as I chip away at, and redirect, the individual freedoms and responsibilities of improvisation, can I replace them with anything as worthwhile?" This is, of course, the most important question in composing for improvisers. In regulating a group of potentially unwieldy size, and producing wonderful music, Butcher has succeeded.

somethingtobesaid is indeed a very successful project. It's rare to hear a large group of improvising musicians, and rarer still to enjoy it. Congratulations to John Butcher and Group for pulling it off wonderfully. Hopefully we'll hear from them again, but economic realities sadly leave that doubtful.


Sunday, August 9th: A Story of Rats, Brandon Nickell, sfSound

I biked four miles in the blazing sun to Bay Area 51 in Bayview for an afternoon show. A Story of Rats, from Portland, was performing as I arrived, a solo performer looping layers sampled from a sruti box. There was a fantastic polyrhythm happening between the layers, as the turnaround of the bellows dropped at different points in each loop, very clearly articulated. We were in the back parking lot of a fenced-in house in a fairly industrial neighborhood. Old cars piled up, makeshift canopy hanging over the audience, longhaired musician looking a bit uncomfortable in the excruciatingly bright, hot sunlight. Pleasant sounds from ASOR. Quite different from a minimal organ-based piece I heard him perform on a cold foggy spring day in Seattle, in a house basement with all lights extinguished at the performer's request. I liked that set a little better, but this one was nice too, and it's good to know someone can do more than one thing that sounds good. The polyrhythms of the loops became more obscured as new layers emerged. The loops faded away, leaving only an acoustic sruti drone for the short amount of time it took to squeeze it shut.

Brandon Nickell (formerly known as Aemae) was next. His set sounded like bursts of noise through a granulator followed by slapback delay -- a wall of noise approximated by irregularly fragmented bricks. After a substantial section of this sort of thing, he settled into a quieter section, which sounded great, more nuanced, but very shortly faded out to an ending. A short set, possibly eager to get out of the sunlight himself.

Later that night was a very impressive sfSound concert. Christopher Jones' very nice flute and percussion duo, Intuition, opened the program. I was entranced by the tom-tom, bongos, gongs and woodblocks. Christopher Burns' woodwind trio, Planetary, was next. It began with short notes primitively, emphatically passed around the trio. A bit too simplistically demonstrative of the rotational structure of the piece for my taste, but the single notes soon expanded into layered melodic fragments, flurries, and clusters. Very intricate writing, skillfully performed. Delightful music which anticipated the Braxton piece which was to close the evening. Klaus Huber's Schattenblätter is based around a moody piano solo -- quiet, melancholy, static -- with echoes (shadows) in the bass clarinet and cello parts. A very nice introspective piece. The free improvisation closing the first half of the program was a bit overstaffed with the addition of two of the evening's composers (Burns and Bithell, on laptop and trumpet) joining the core group for a nonet -- a very challenging setting for group improvisation, especially with some of the performers not having as much experience in the form as a few of the regular sfSound players. As was likely, the results were a bit busy and messy.

Stockhausen's Kreuzspiel opened the second half of the program. The driving rhythm of the bongos and the tom-tom accents were very emphatic and loud. Exciting to hear live, but not quite as effective as a more subdued recording I've heard. I liked the performance anyway. David Bithell conducted a very good performance of his sextet, temporary structures. Tonal textures and sound clusters shifted back and forth between winds and strings. Very precise writing, and while it may not have been realized quite perfectly, it sounded great. Anthony Braxton's Composition No. 75, performed by a wind trio, closed the program. Odd-time, odd-tonality unison lines were interspersed with free solos. A very energetic performance from players working in a realm in which they were clearly quite comfortable. Some of the most energetic moments got some chuckles from the audience -- a result of importing this free-jazz piece into a chamber music concert -- there was nothing funny about it. A very enjoyable, very interesting performance. This piece, originally written for Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, was a perfect choice for Bruckmann, Ingalls and Ingle.



Aug 6: Wong/Nishi/Lee, Greenlief/Boyce

A last-minute SMS informed me of Theresa Wong, Kanoko Nishi, and Dohee Lee performing at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last Thursday, August 6. Not publicized through the usual channels, but I was about to leave the house anyway, so I merely changed my destination, and arrived just as the trio was starting. The room, Gallery 1, was quite large, perhaps a perfect 40' cube, but I'm a terrible estimator of size. An enormous full-wall multimedia work adorned each side wall. On the right, a wall of canvas sheets with variously shaped cut-outs and black smudges. On the left, multicolored rivers meandering around the wall and dripping down, frozen in time, flowing through 100 white flags protruding, and mystical metallic symbols (pentagram, swastika, star of David). I first heard insane screaming and whooping while the ticket seller entered all my vital information into her computer, and of course that meant the music had started. The set continued to be very heavy on beautiful vocals from Wong and Lee. Chattery and silly, legato and emotional. The two have a very similar vocal timbre, and their sonorities blended quite well. Nishi, as expected, was unleashing mayhem on her koto, sawing and smashing to typically great effect. But not all loud and physical; a koto solo midway through the set was the quietest and most delicate part of the performance. Wong seamlessly joined in with tasteful cello glissandi, with control exemplary of her playing. Lee had a set of Korean drums with cymbals, bamboo sticks, and many gongs that didn't get used. She exercised much restraint in her percussion playing, always waiting for the most appropriate moment to punctuate the music with her sound. An orchestral style tied to her use of traditional playing techniques and limited timbres. A very nice set from a very nice trio.

I stopped by CELLspace to see some very nice neon Kandinsky paintings by Michelle Guintu. German Expressionism reinterpreted by 21st century San Francisco. Highlight of the show, with honorable mention going out to a 6-piece series of Skoda photos.

Then to the Luggage Store Gallery just in time to hear Phillip Greenlief and David Boyce's tenor sax duo. Their rich sounds filled the room, a perfect space for such a duo. And a like-instrument duo is an ideal group for a saxophone to my ears. The best way for a saxophone to unapologetically exist as saxophone, something a bit harder to do in the Bay Area's heavily textural free improv scene. Greenlief and Boyce were perfectly, mind-bogglingly synced up harmonically and rhythmically. It sounded like they were intermittently referencing tunes and structures in their collective vocabulary, but perhaps they just have an amazing sense for playing together. I think I heard some Sun Ra underlying their encore, but Greenlief chose not to sync up too directly. This was a great setting for this duo, and they played wonderfully. The audience responded very enthusiastically.



odds & ends: Dijkstra/Robair/Smith, Wittmer/Knowles, sfSound

Fantastic set from Dijkstra/Robair/Smith. Bold sounds, static and loud, turning on and off. Blaring sax long tones, electronic textures, arco grinding. Intensity and momentum maintained for a 40-minute set broken into 3 pieces. The double bass sounded HUGE in the room, more like I was inside the bass. Hands rubbed on the wooden body ripped through the room, with full body resonance audible, surrounding me. 4-string pizzicato with bows wedged between the strings sounded like the bass was about to be destroyed, but it all held together. Robair was all over the place with Blippoo Box textures, bowed styrofoam, cymbals, cookie tins on the cement floor, vibrators on everything. Dijkstra weaved in and out on alto sax, and added electronic layers with his Lyricon wind synth through effects. Very rich sound, and great pacing. Nice view of and through the windows backing it all up, and the art hanging there was also actually pretty good for a change. Veggie burrito from Cancun was only mildly better than the decrepit super pollo asado I got last time I went to the Luggage Store. The Market Street branch has fallen far, even though it has always been recognized as the worst of the three. Next time I dine at home, or follow Damon's example and hit up Tu Lan.

Last Saturday I made it to the Lab just in time to catch the last set of the night, the duo of Gerritt Wittmer & Paul Knowles. These guys are up to something interesting. Their set was a more developed version of something I saw them perform (for the first time?) at Bay Area 51 in the spring. Two tuning forks conspicuously hung above two vocal mics, suspended by fishing line from the ceiling. They spun on their lines throughout the final preparations. Wittmer & Knowles, dressed alike and looking quite similar, approached their respective mics in unison, and abruptly ripped the tuning forks from the ceiling, humorously usurping everyone's theories of their potential purpose in the set. Expressionless and with economy of movement, the duo alternated striking the forks on their shoes and holding them close to the mics, which were amplified by Gerritt's fancy Mackie PA. After two or three alternations, they turned to face each other and struck the forks together like swords -- the routine becoming more and more evocative of a synchronized dance for a pop stage show. Soon the two starting making hissing and gurgling vocalisations into the mics. Harsh noise mouth music, which sounded quite clear and good through this particular PA. Still expressionless and unmoving, like a pair of golems. Gerritt's laptop was recording these sounds, and soon they started to be re-played and layered on top of each other. The bright lights were replaced by strobes and vocalizations turned to yells and screams. The laptop started spitting out extreme digital noise, which again sounded great through the PA. And it was nice to see this sort of music performed as playback of pre-recorded music, or at least a pre-written computer patch, with live theatrical performance. Amidst the wall of white noise and assaulting strobes, the duo continued to scream. They turned to face each other and continued staring forward. Sexual tension mounted. They turned forward. They turned away from each other, extended their arms into crucifixion position and leaned into each other's bodies. They writhed and screamed. Electrical fault sounds erupted from the speakers, the lights went out, and the pair collapsed on the floor. Wow! The end of the music was more than an abrupt cessation of sound. It was more like the sound of digital or electrical failure. The sound of some equipment blowing up. A more satisfying end than the more typical mixer-power-off.

sfSound's post-intermission program was very strong. Clarinet, saxophone, viola, cello and piano took the stage, saxophonist John Ingle performed a last-minute adjustment on his rickety-looking baritone sax stand, and they were off. They opened with a quintet improvisation (clarinet, saxophones, viola, cello, piano), which showed the strings at their most comfortable, perhaps after taking their last rare dip into the pool of free improv just one week previous at the Skronkathon. Things were moving along quite well, then an amazing moment of drama and psychology occured. As Ingle played his alto saxophone, the baritone sax on its stand slowly, very slowly, began to lean. As it reached the point of no return, the entire audience audibly gasped in unison, and the tension was quite palpable, more emotion evoked by this spectacle than by any music of the night. The musicians, confused by the gasp, slightly halted their sound, allowing a terrific saxophone solo as the large instrument crashed onto the floor. Such a big sound, and with such emotional impact. After that the room was filled with much awkwardness. Nobody knew how to address this incident in the middle of piece. The musicians played a quick fading coda while everyone, including the musicians, sat in tense confusion. Then there was applause, and the musicians cleared the stage.

Lucier's Q (1996) was next, performed by clarinet, trombone, violin, cello, and double bass, accompanied by two sine waves performed by a laptop. With small microphones connecting their instruments to their tuners, the musicians droned with the sine waves, altering their pitches by precise measurements of cents. Micro-harmonies and beating patterns slowly shifted. Strange polyrhythmic patterns emerged from bow turnarounds and breaths. Timbres merged and clashed. Very nice.

The evening ended with Milton Babbitt's All Set (1957), a serialist piece inspired by bebop and written with jazz-like instrumentation. A fun and dynamic piece.

These last two compositions seemed more focused, devoted to a single idea, than the three compositions in the first half of the program, which all had moments I liked, but changed too quickly, too frequently. Matt Ingalls had some nice rhythms passing through the instrumentation, and some nice timbral juxtapositions. Olga Neuwirth's Fondamenta opened with a really fantastic section of unisons and microtones passed back and forth between bass clarinet, baritone sax, and cello. Amazing shifting timbres, beating harmonies, rhythm and tension. With the Lucier piece also on the program, I expected this continue for 15 minutes, which would have been great! Instead, it quickly developed into more dynamic and hyperactive music, which left me fairly cold, then it changed again and again.



Ø + Gay Beast

[Sähkö, 2008]

The internet tells me "Ø" is pronounced "ohm", "Oleva" means "The Existing", and "Sähkö" means "Electricity".

Mika Vainio is the gentler, beat-producing half of Pan Sonic, and that's just what this solo project sounds like. Chilled-out atmospheric tones, and glitchy, dubby drum machine patterns, minus most of the industrial noise of Pan Sonic.

#6 ("Resistor") is a very repetitive piece that sounds a lot like Pan Sonic, #7 ("U-Bahn") features Kraftwerk-like cold, pulsing melody lines, #2 & #5 ("Conjured"?) are dubby industrial pieces, and #4 ("Frequency") is a short one reflecting the noisier side of Pan Sonic.

On the atmospheric side, the opening and closing tracks (#1 & #12) are very similar, thick textures -- very good. #11 is very thin and sparse, as is #9 (ironically titled "Mojave"), which is evocative of Burzum's cold atmospheric work . A lot of the atmospheres seem to be informed by the sonic texture and harmonies mapped out in Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (#3).

rhythmic: 6, 7, 2, 5, 4, 3 (Pink Floyd cover)
atmospheric: 1, 12, 11, 9

Gay Beast
Second Wave
[Skin Graft, 2009]

Angular, mathy no wave with very intelligible singing. Like Frank Zappa and Arab on Radar playing emo. Like Mike Patton singing for Hella. But sloppier than all that, and more gay. And recorded worse. The synth sounds and mathy music remind me of Nintendo. The vox are a bit off-putting to me, but they might take this music to a new level for differently-minded folks. There's some sax on here too.

recommended: 8 (instrumental), 5 (mostly inst., includes DEVO cover!), 6 (vox), 10 (short inst.), 1 (vox), 9 (vox)

Labels: ,


last weekend, so much music

I woke up Saturday at noon after two nights in a row of playing really strenuous Ettrick sets at really late-starting, slow-moving, not-home-until-3am rock shows. I immediately grabbed an apple and walked 5 blocks down the street to the Golden TrapperKeeper Lodge for Godwaffle Noise Pancakes. It was only 5 minutes past noon, but My Daddy Ate My Eyes was already playing (as verbally confirmed via Q&A with a pancake-eating in the adjacent kitchen). Really pleasant music for waking up. A constant mechanical metronome pulse underlaid some nice electronic music. I want to say reminiscent of classic tape music, but I can't really remember what it sounded like, other than that I was enjoying it a lot. I was the only person sitting in the room with the musicians (actually right between them) and the speakers (ditto), which is an unfortunate aspect of that performance space, as the music sounded notably better than it did heard from the kitchen. The musician sitting on the floor next to me was playing simple-but-effective sounds on a processed guitar and a drum machine. The guy standing to my left had the metronome standing on a hi hat, and some electronics. Pain for the Party played similarly pleasant music with Max/MSP, accompanied by ASCII/Walt Disney animations. 60s Residue was loud and active noise, very choppy, kind of cartoonish. It went well with the video still being projected. Barry Threw closed the show with some nice laptop ganulator stuff. The set was cut short by some technical problem, which was too bad. The watermelon was great, the pancakes have become thoroughly edible over the years (though the last one or two I ate were too rubbery to cut with my fork), and alas the coffee man didn't show up.

After making my own coffee at home and gathering my belongings, I walked to Civic Center, hopped on BART and made my way to 21 Grand for the Skronkathon. Right after Corpsevapor (Heule/Korber/Dryer) played, an impostor set up his gear and played in place of some folks who had not shown up. Really fucking loud noise generated by a turntable with a carving fork in place of a tone arm, and a circular saw blade in place of a record. I laughed as I retreated to the alley, and laughed even more when Tom Duff revealed that the masked noise musician was crashing the show. Hanuman Zhang played a pretty weird solo set with constant arrhythmic kick drum beats accompanying and punctuating him haphazardly wailing on piles of garbage and playing electronic toys through the PA. I'd like to see this guy at a future Godwaffle or Pharaoh Maybelline's show. Z_Bug had interesting instrumentation: 2 drum sets, 1 guy playing both bass guitar and Moog synth, and 1 guy playing amplified shorts, or anyway a microphone amplified by a small amp in his pocket which was audible primarily when he was making it feedback. RTD3 was very good, as usual. Great sounds, great pacing, etc. You can tell these guys are very comfortable with each other. David Michalak on lap steel sat in on their last piece, and fit in really well, keeping things pretty minimal. John Hanes & Steve Adams played a really nice laptop duo, both using lloopp. The sound was so united it didn't feel much like a duo. Electronic sounds mixed with warped drum samples, speaking, etc. PG13 was a drum/guitar/alto sax rock trio – very energetic, and made a lot of people smile. sfSound played a really nice improvised set. The woodwinds in particular were a very tight unit, and sounded great. Baker/Djll/Hegelin/Stackpole played a really beautiful brass & gong drone set that made me wonder about releasing a bootleg cassette and blowing the minds of the masses of neo-hippy hipsters blissing out to “non-playing motherfuckers” attempting this same sort of thing. They broke out into other sounds as well, but the long drone intro was what really did it for me. The Robair/Neuberg electronics duo was a nice close to the night. Gino in particular was getting a lot of great sounds out of his Blippoo box set-up. I ate a couple great sausages in the alley, and maybe a half dozen ass-kicking brownies.

Brutalsfx Fest #62 at Pharaoh Maybelline's Sound Trough No Toilet was a natural continuation of Saturday's shows, sort of like a hybrid of the two. I arrived as Copy Lake (the guitarist/drum machinist from My Daddy) was soundchecking his watermelon. Hand in a sloppy hole with a contact mic amplifying all sorts of slurpy sounds. I started snacking and opening tightly sealed jars of pickled vegetables. Ninety seconds later, I turned around and the set was over, Copy Lake was covered in fruit juice. I guess I heard the sounds get louder for a half minute, but the set was damn short. Sound check looked and sounded great, blinked and I missed the real show. Gumball Rimpoche did some weird whining vocalizations over electronic percussion. Donald the Nut started his set with a really nice acoustic guitar trio, which didn't have any chance to shine after the singing started. Circuit-bent SK-5 and other electronics by Anti-Ear really brought a lot to the music. I'm glad his tiny amp was pointed straight at me since he was being perhaps a bit overly polite with his volume level according folks listening from the other end of the alley with the masses. Gino Robair started his Blippoo Box bleeping through the mini-PA and started scraping and hitting everything in sight. Highlights included the marimba-like wooden fence, and the USPS mail crate sanded down on the pavement. Shifted more attention to the electronic performance toward the end of the set. Really great stuff. Fred Rinne's art hanging inside was cool too.

Just for the sake of completeness, I'll mention that I checked out the Upset the Rhythm showcase at the Lab later that night. What a weird sounding room.