Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Playful, Picturesque New Album and a Fort Greene Show by the World’s Most Mysterious Drummer

Why on earth would anyone be interested in an album of solo percussion? Because the world’s most mysterious drummer, Carlo Costa, is playing it. While he’s best known for his sepulchral, otherworldly sound, his new solo album, Oblio – streaming at Bandcamp – is the funnest, funniest and by far the most colorful project he’s ever been involved with. He’s playing the release show this Nov 29 at around 9 at Jack in Fort Greene. The intense improvisational trio of cellist Leila Bordreuil, bassist Sean Ali and violist Joanna Mattrey open the night at 8; cover isn’t listed on the club’s calendar or any of the musicians’ gig pages, but it’s usually $10 for shows here.

Costa’s new album has two tracks. The first clocks in at a bit more than twenty minutes, the second at about seventeen. It’s likely that most if not all of it is completely improvised. Here’s what happens: entertainment coming at you right down the pike.

A gentle drone punctuated by wavelike gong pulses, then a mysterious flicker or two! Somethihng is afoot! The crank of an antique car engine, a jaunty whistle or two, a perplexed persistence…the motor sputters but never quite starts.

The way Costa mimics a cello or violin simply by rubbing his drumheads is astonishing. Persistent squeaks over calm ambience, agitated chirps alternating with playful rattles…then a jungle begins to come to life! That, or a bagpipe gone off the rails while a thunderstorm looms in the distance. The clouds burst, and suddenly it’s a hailstorm!

A squeaky if steady crank slowly loses its grooves. More of that distant boom alternating with sand in somebody’s hourglass…or shoes. A shinto temple in the rain before 3/11 ruined everything…is that mosquitoes, a cash register about to self-combust, or the most brilliant approximation of a rainstorm ever recorded by a multi-percussionist?

Scurrying insectile phrases against lingering, high washes conclude album side one. Side two opens with a kitchen-sink feel that grows to a LOL-funny series of Rube Goldberg machine polyrhythms, once again over that ominous series of cumulo-nimbus gong hits in the background. Tree frogs! A woodpecker! A dude with a bandsaw trying to cut down the tree with the woodpecker in it?

Rain on the music box…hacksaws on a particularly stubborn pipe…Dr. Seuss clockwork…a squeaky wheel that gets no grease…and there you have it, the most psychedelically entertaining percussion album of the century!

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November 22, 2018 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leila Bordreuil Cooks Up Murk and Mysticism at the Kitchen

That Leila Bordreuil could sell out the Kitchen on Thanksgiving eve testifies to the impact the French-born cellist has had on the New York experimental music scene. After a long residency at Issue Project Room, she keeps raising the bar for herself and everybody else. This past evening she led a six-bass septet through her latest and arguably greatest creation, the Piece for Cello and Double Bass Ensemble II. To call it a feast of low tonalities would be only half the story.

At the concert’s stygian, rumbling, enveloping peak, it was impossible to tell who was playing what because the lights had been turned out. In the flicker of phones, backlit by the soundboard’s glow and the deep blue shade from the skylight, six bassists – Zach Rowdens, Sean Ali, Britton Powell, Greg Chudzik, Nick Dunston and Vinicius Ciccone Cajado – churned out a relentless low E drone. As they bowed steadily, keening flickers of overtones began to waft over a rumble that grew grittier and grittier, eventually shaking the woofers of the amps. Yet only Bordreuil seemed to be using a pedalboard, first for crackling cello-metal distortion, then grey noise, then flitting accents akin to a swarm of wasps circling a potential prey. Still, the overall ambience was comforting to the extreme, a womblike berth deep in a truly unsinkable Titanic, diesels at full power behind a bulkhead.

The rest of the show was more dynamic,and counterintuitive. Bordreuil didn’t begin to play until the bassists had gradually worked their way up from a stark drone, Ali and Dunston introducing fleeting high harmonics for contrast. Beyond that, the six guys didn’t move around much individually. The second movement began with the composer leading a pitch-and-follow sequence of slow midrange glissandos, then she deviated to enigmatic microtonal phrases over the somber washes behind her. The final movements were surprisingly rapt and quiet – and much further up the scale, a whispery, ghostly series of variations on high harmonic pitches.

Methodically working a series of mixers and a small keyboard, opening act Dylan Scheer turned in an entertaining, texturally diverse, industrially icy set of kinetic stoner soundscapes. Flying without a net is hard work, and Scheer made it look easy, dexterously shifting from an echoey, metallic drainpipe vortex, to gamelanesque rings and pings, starrily oscillating comet trails and hints of distant fireworks followed by allusions to a thumping dancefloor anthem that never materialized. That the set went on as long as it did – seemingly twice as long as the headliners – could have been intentional. It was also too loud. The Kitchen is a sonically superior space: sounds that get lost in the mix elsewhere remain in the picture here. So there was no need to blast the audience with almost supersonic highs which gained painfully, to the point that the earplugs the ushers were handing out became necessary.

Bordreuil’s next show is at Jack in Fort Greene on Nov 29 at 8 PM with her trio with Ali and violist Joanna Mattrey.

November 21, 2018 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, experimental music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carlo Costa’s Natura Morta Conjures the Ghosts of Improvisations Past

Carlo Costa is an anomaly as a drummer. He specializes in magical, mysterious, raptly quiet improvisations. His most rapturously interesting project is his sepulchral Natura Morta trio with violist Frantz Loriot and bassist Sean Ali. Their latest album together, Decay, is streaming at Bandcamp. Their next gig is Feb 7 at around 8 PM at the Full Salon, a house concert series at 221 Linden Blvd (Rogers/Nostrand) in Crown Heights on a triplebill with guitarist Lautaro Mantilla‘s electroacoustic project and the piano/tenor sax duo of Mariel Berger and Anna Webber; more info is here.

Natura Morta’s self-titled first album was a flitting, flickering masterpiece; this latest one is slightly more animated. As with the first album, lows are mostly the domain of the drums: you’d probably never guess there was any bass on most of it since Ali’s contributions are generally confined to minimal, high washes and overtones. The opening track, Sirens sets a midrange drone over cloudbanks of brushed drumwork and high overtone loops, rising and falling with a whispery hint of a shuffle that grows to a sort of Black Angel’s Death Song Jr. You could call most of it ambient music for organic instruments and you wouldn’t be off base. The twelve-minute Miasmata begins with the creak of a crypt door and a hint of temple bells, an astigmatic walk through a sonic catacomb that picks up unexpectedly, a brief, brightly hammering interlude giving way to squirrelly creaks and squeaks, muted smoke-signal tom-toms, and a stealthy submarine bass drone.

The album’s most epic track, The Burial of Memories layers scraping, muted, plucked textures, up to what’s essentially an acoustic motorik groove, followed by a snowy, shuffling stroll, keening whispers, hints of a music box and far-distant artillery, more of those temple bells finally rising to a whirlwind. It’s the most hypnotic yet the most dynamic of the four pieces here. The album winds up with As the Dawn Fades, which paints an early morning rainforest tableau with chimes and slithery, insectile fragments of sound. It’s all best enjoyed as a whole, late at night, with the lights out. Unless you’re really tired, it will keep you awake as you go deeper and deeper into the night.

February 2, 2015 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Crepuscular Magic from Carlo Costa

Over the last year or so, drummer Carlo Costa has carved out a niche for himself as a first-rate improviser and bandleader with a penchant for suspenseful, frequently haunting soundscapes. His latest project, titled Natura Morta, is a fascinatingly ghostly four-part improvisation featuring violist Frantz Loriot and bassist Sean Ali. Seldom do any of the instruments serve their usual purposes: other than some ominous, hesitantly rumbling motifs by Costa on a couple of occasions, it’s hard to tell who’s doing what. Loriot hangs around the low midrange while Ali bows high harmonics much of the time, when the two aren’t supplying the occasional, seemingly random series of pizzicato accents, sometimes flitting in and out of the mix, sometimes scurrying furtively. What they’re doing isn’t melodic in any conventional sense – when Ali finally moves up a half-step from the root he’s been hammering, off and on, toward the end of the fourth track, it’s the first and really only time a real tune insinuates itself into the equation. Otherwise, if this is death, it’s an entertaining if disquieting place, something akin to the Chinese proverb about the luck of being born in interesting times.

The opening track, Entropy, is far less entropic than its title suggests: following a series of cues, the trio scurry and rattle against a drone. For awhile, everything is muted: mournful bell-like tones, distant footfalls and white noise, then Loriot introduces an element of scrapy, unvarnished horror. Harmonics oscillate up with a groan as it goes quietly into the night. The second track, Hive, has an unexpected humor, all three musicians rustling singlemindedly as if trying to get a grip on something that keeps slipping away. Drones – the rubbing of a drum head, maybe? – circulate through the mix and establish a circular, hypnotic rhythmic quality which the viola then sends packing, Costa moving from tentative to deliberate as he navigates his way gingerly down into the abyss. Track three, Marrow, is basically a drum solo in a catacomb atmosphere – is that a gamelan gong doing those almost subsonic booms? An echoing polyrhythmic effect disappears amid a series of quickly disintegrating scrapes and swoops, Costa eventually shifting to a matter-of-fact bustle against Loriot’s screeching overtones. The final track, Glimmer, spaces sepulchral single notes – a muted cymbal, a fragment of a bass figure, a hint of sustained viola – within a glacial tempo punctuated mostly by silence: the first minute or so is barely perceptible, it’s so quiet. Only the drums have any resonance, and only for a second at a time, low and booming and fading completely in what seems less than a second. In its own extremely well-conceived, twisted and defiantly perverse way, it’s a tremendously compelling listen and makes a terrific companion piece for Costa’s Crepuscular Activity album, a duo set of nocturnes with bass flutist Yukari that made the Top Jazz Albums of 2011 here.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dream Zoo Lives Up to Its Name

Dream Zoo’s new album – streaming in its entirety at bandcamp – is crazy fun. Surreal, trippy and eclectic to an extreme, frontwoman/cellist Valerie Kuehne’s stream-of-consciousness narratives leap genres in a split second. The band also includes Lucio Menegon on guitar, Jeff Young on violin and Sean Ali on bass and percussion. Much of this is similar to the work of Amy X Neuburg. For example, consider the album’s most interesting track, The Spell. In almost nine minutes, there’s a nicely apprehensive, atmospheric intro; trippy, theatrical vocals over pizzicato cello and what sounds like sandpaper on the strings; a pensive, minimalist solo cello passage that builds with layers of overtones to a quiet cacaphony, then winds down, then back up again, a chorus of voices growing more and more anguished: “Forget about geometry!” is their mantra. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Who knows.

Kuehne matches her vocals to the lyrics: it’s an acting job, and she pulls it off, especially on The Flight Crew Was Rude, the surrealistically entertaining Paris-Berlin flight narrative that opens the album. Like a lot of the compositions here, it’s mini-suite of sorts, bracing pizzicato cello switching over to jarring astringencies and then to warmly consonant atmospherics which eventually go completely nuts. The bizarre, disjointed Architecture eventually coalesces as a stately, somewhat menacing, insistent art-rock theme (with a chase scene involving a chicken in a kitchen). Likewise, Plane Crash No. 2 alludes to and then finally comes together as artsy folk-rock, with a playfully swoopy guitar outro. Kicking off with baroque echoes, The Chase could be a spoof of classical music for strings. The most “outside” piece here is The Train, a strange pastiche that suddenly becomes claustrophobic and then morphs into variations on a Rasputina-esque cello rock vamp.

In addition to her work as a musician and composer, Kuehne is also an impresario: she books the Super Coda concert series at Bushwick’s Cafe Orwell, an edgy, eclectic, improvisationally-oriented mix of indie classical, jazz, world music and styles that defy categorization.

July 25, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment