Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bob Marsh-(for the) Rock(s) Concert-Bob Marsh's lawn, Richmond CA; 6/20/15

The first Punk Rock show that Disaster Amnesiac ever attended was done so by accident: 14 year old wanders unknowingly into a beer tent that has been set up in the courtyard of a Rohrbach, Germany housing project, in which a Punk Rock band is playing for five or six drunken pals, the singer spitting out his words as the band crashes through their set behind him. To this day, thirty years later, I marvel at the immediacy of that whole scene, how it felt so CLOSE, so alive and so available. I still crave attendance at performances such as that one, and thankfully was invited by Bob Marsh to his (for the) Rock(s) Concert, performed on his lawn in Richmond, California, and it most definitely had that same feel.
Bob choreographed a number of rock groupings upon said lawn, and proceeded to perform a 35 minute set for them as they danced in their spots, using his cello and vocals. At times it felt a bit difficult to hear his extended techniques and shamanic chanting, on account of the constant traffic whirring past on Barrett Ave., but close, attentive listening was rewarded. As always, Marsh's emotive effect cuts through any environmental barricades that may be present.
The world needs many, many more of these types of performances, where the barriers between the performer and those in attendance is slight, if present at all. At least, Disaster Amnesiac sure does. Thanks to Bob Marsh, along with those Punkers in Rohrbach, wherever they may be now.

Below: Bob Marsh plays music for dancing cairns

Above: Marsh breaks down

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Voicehandler-song cycle; Humbler Records, 2015

 "A music that transports the listener to the moment where he is."
    --John Cage

As Disaster Amnesiac has dug into and enjoyed the sounds of Voicehandler's song cycle, I've reflected more than a few times on John Cage's aesthetics, mostly as regards his works for percussion. These reflections come not so much from any explicit outward similarity between Cage's works and that of Voicehandler, but more so from the way in which percussion is brought to the forefront within both, and the ways in which this is so masterfully done therein. The above quote is included because it sums up the effect that song cycle has on me: with the "melodic" forms that accompany great vocals by Danishta Rivero being so much achieved by actual percussion or percussive synthesizer and hydrophonium, Disaster Amnesiac has been compelled to stay in the moment, to really listen closely and deeply for the "hidden" melodic tones that emanate from the instrumental work of Jacob Felix Heule. 
song cycle announces its presence with the gently struck gong tones of sonando, in which Rivero intones beautifully in Spanish, her vocalizing, based upon Eduardo Galeano's Memoria del fuego, initially framed by the alternately chirping and rolling sounds before Heule presses out some fantastic rolls on his large bass drum. The feel of this one is most definitely incantatory, especially within the dramatic wails and rolls that come from drums and vocals deep into the piece. This action pushes off with what sounds like bowed cymbals (hydrophonium?) and leads into jungle sounds of empty and without pain, in which Heule's ample percussive chops really shine forth as he punches and clatters all manner of tones, framing Rivero's cathartic shouts, growls, and whispers derived from Knut Hamsun's Hunger. Along with the Cage-ian ruminations, Disaster Amnesiac has also reflected upon Braxton's "gravillic weight" concept as I've listened to this one; the term as I've come to understand it describes the "physical" feel of a given player's sound, whether that sound is "lighter" or "heavier" on the senses. Jacob's "gravillic weight" has struck me as being on the heavier side-not to say that he's a "basher", because he is not, but his sounds just really impact this listener in that heavy way. This feel may also come from the amount of discrete space included between each of his various hits, which is subtle and ample at the same time. Danishta's vocal skills come to the fore on the Jorge Luis Borges El fin-influenced a meager labyrinth, sounding like private liturgical movements and framed by more gongs and chiming metals. The overall aesthetic here is somewhat mystical and reverent, making the listener feel as if they are slowly wending their way through some humidly labyrinthine imaginary space. Upon leaving that space, Voicehandler gets downright Zeuhl in the vocal department, with Rivero delivering clipped glossolalia on mi falible mano. Seriously, she'd fit in fine in duet with Christian or Stella Vander on this one. Heule gets these elastic, dragging riffs of the head of the drum, along with more metallic clang and scrape, all of which really move within their reverberations. Last up, I am a recording instrument, which evolves from the ultimate 20th Century literary document, Naked Lunch, clatters, jars, and simply rocks the perceptions in ways similar to those experienced while reading Burrough's breakthrough novel. Voicehandler deliver the Noise goods here, casting out all manner of the disc's previously heard sounds, with bubbling, aggressive synth and equally aggressive percussion leading the charge as Danishta pretty much goes crazy on the vocal side. Disaster Amnesiac has particularly enjoyed the way this one ends, with a s-l-o-w fade, a drone lasting over two minutes. Listen and imagine yourself sailing away from Interzone's shore in a stolen boat, sweat-beaded and lucky to be alive after interacting with its sonic Mugwumps. 
Getting back to the Cage allusions that I initially mentioned, I guess that the idea being pursued was this: post-Cage (and others, such as Ellington, Varese, Stockhausen, Sun Ra, etc. etc.), there have arisen multiple ways with which to produce and listen to music, ways that offer the listener opportunities to be really present. Groups such as Voicehandler offer opportunities for an active, engaged listener to do so. Trust Disaster Amnesiac when I say that in the case of song cycle, the aesthetic payoff is very much worth the work. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Of Human Passings-Ornette Coleman, 1930-2015

Disaster Amnesiac realizes that there will be millions of obituaries and reminiscences of Ornette Coleman, and this is as it should be. The man was one of a select pantheon of American 20th Century Artists. His influence on music ranged FAR beyond that of Jazz, the form from which he first gained mass media attention. Musicians, visual artists, poets, novelists: all these vocational types felt the vibes that he put out for the past sixty years.
For me, personally, I was always touched by the sound of the human voice that emanated from his playing, on all instruments. Ornette imbued every note with the cry of humanity; the voice of real people having real feelings was always tantamount in his sound.
It's also great that he got monetarily rich doing it! I tip my cap to the astuteness of his business, not an easy endeavor within the music business.
Disaster Amnesiac loves so many of the bands and musicians that learned from him: Anthony Braxton, James Blood Ulmer, Grateful Dead, Arthur Blythe, David Boyce, Rent Romus, Joe Baiza.....on and on and on. Surely his Harmelodic Theory will continue to bear fine musical fruits from diverse quarters.
Ornette, you have now left the Planet Earth, may your spirit fly far and wide into the Greater Omniverse! Godspeed, Ornette, and thanks for sharing your vibes with the rest of us humans!