Lucid Culture


A Challenging, Relevant New Album From Avant Garde Piano Titan Kathleen Supove

Kathleen Supove is not only the most virtuosically dazzling pianist to emerge from the downtown New York scene of the 1980s; she’s also a champion of some of the most individualistic composers of the past few decades. Her new album Eye to Ivory, a collection of five world premiere recordings, is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing the album release show on Nov 24 at 3 PM at Spectrum; cover is $15

She opens the album’s title track, by Mary Ellen Childs, with a stern, grimly marching lefthand, adding increasingly cynical, emphatic righthand accents. Ghostly flickers can’t derail this stomping steam train even as it slows to an echoey pause. Supove’s legendary technique comes front and center with the insistently challenging staccato of the second movement. A stygian, deadpool call-and-response is followed by a lively contrapuntal waltz and a twisted, increasingly savage boogie – the dystopic ELO classic From the Sun to the World taken to the next level. The menace rises with the sun over Supove’s chillingly minimalist, looped righthand.

Akin to a slowly melting ice sculpture, the late Nick Didkovsky’s slow, Terry Riley-ish Rama Broom has slowly increasing, Debussy-esque activity over subtle variations on a hypnotic fifth interval anchored by a lingering low A note. There’s also a cut-and-pasted spoken word component: dread seems to be the central theme, which makes sense when you reach the end. No spoilers here, ha!

Talkback IV, by Guy Barash, is an electroacoustic piece, echoey phrases disintegrating into distortion amid eerie insistence and flailing chaos. A caricaturish march emerges, only to dissolve into a hammering reflecting pool. Likewise, an echoey calm following a return to belltone disquiet is subsumed in persistent atonalities.

Randall Woolf’s nine-part suite In the Privacy of My Own Home makes its point, although it could be shorter. Everyone who’s not living in a cave (or glued to a screen 24/7) is aware of how the confluence of the surveillance state and social media imperil us. Here, an attractively uneasy, slowly unfolding series of loopy riffs contrast with samples of laughs, sighs, gasps and a burp or three. Yes, TMI is ugly: yes, the pornification of even the most mundane moments is too.  For what it’s worth, Supove negotiates the piece’s tricky metrics with an agile aplomb.

Supove closes the album with Dafna Naphtali’s Landmine, a dissociative, occasionally creepy four-part electroacoustic suite. Mechanical, Louis Andriessen-style staccato accents and an increasingly ominous belltone melody mingle with split-second bursts of various timbres, sometimes like a scan of a busy radio dial. Although there are no explosive moments until more than midway through, everything does get blown to shreds here.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kathleen Supove’s Three-Day Stand in Tribeca: A Must-See for Fans of Edgy Piano Music

Kathleen Supove, the go-to pianist of the New York underground,  debuted her most recent, hauntingly surreal theme program, modestly titled Digital Debussy, last night at the Flea Theatre in Tribeca. It continues with shows tonight, April 26 at 7 PM and two on Saturday the 27th at 3 and 7 PM. If cutting-edge piano music is on your agenda, don’t miss this. Supove, who doesn’t shy away from a challenge, put herself in the position of having to play along to a collage of keyboards mixed with found sounds of storms and god knows what else, and she was up for it, even though that meant taking cues not from melody but from stormclouds and seemingly random, possibly backward-masked sonic markers.

And she nailed it! Supove – who is always great fun to watch, opening the show decked out all in white with a white piano along with watery film projections – began by negotiating her way through the rain-drenched, hauntingly immersive, deceptively minimalist funhouse mirrors of Joan LaBarbara’s Storefront Diva: A Dreamscape. Inspired by Joseph Cornell’s dreams of Debussy playing in a storefront window, it was like being transported to a sonic Cornell box. Supove chose her spots  As much fun as this was to witness, it would be fantastic to hear on album (reputedly there’s a DVD in the works). There’s a visual aspect that gives Supove – a very physical performer, albeit a lithe, graceful one – lots of room for balletesque movement. Throughout LaBarbara’s otherworldly, Lynchian resonances, Supove played Lynch Girl at the keys to the hilt, exchanging melodies between hands whether or not she was playing them. The surrealism of it all hit hard, a hurricane tableau as seen from a safe interior, resonantly comforting despite itself.

Annie Gosfield’s Shattered Apparitions of the Western Wind – like all of the pieces on the program, a new commision from Supove, this being an update on Debussy’s What the West Wind Saw – seemingly illustrated a triumphant human spirit in the face of cruel distractions. Ostensibly, the sound collage that Supove played against reimagined Debussy fragments along with samples from Hurricane Sandy. Aside from a gusty, swooping interlude late in the piece, it was hard to tell what was organic and what was machine-made. Perhaps that was intentional. Throughout it all, beauty triumphed amid chaos, Beatles quotes and endless, hypnotic circularity.

Up to this point, Supove hadn’t been able to indulge in much humor (give her an inch and she”ll take a mile or two: she can be hilarious). So it was fun to watch her tackle her longtime Dr. Nerve  art-rock bandmate Nick Didkovsky’s Triumph of Innocence, a sarcastic title if there ever was one. Supove played hypnotic, distantly Indian-tinged cascades and circular motives while narrating fragments from a Bette Page memoir, actress Georgia Ximenes Lifsher acting out the stripper’s deadpan, seemingly innocent recollections of Estes Kefauver’s foreshadowing of the Meese Commission, Page’s fondness for her photographer/pimp Irving Klaw (what a name, huh?) and her terror of growing old and losing her looks. As it crescendoed, Supove’s breathless narration channeled an increasing violence to match her rapidfire work on the keys. It was enough to make you forget that there was, at least ostensibly, a stripper onstage, no mean feat. Tickets for this explosive and entertaining show are still available as of now. Supove also books the intriguing, vastly cross-pollinational annual Music with a View series here: watch this space for a series of June concerts that promise to match  this kind of excitement.

April 26, 2013 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment