Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Jesus Lizard V's Sunn O))) V's Men Without Pants @ Villette Sonique, Paris

Villette Sonique 2009

Villette Sonique is an annual music event in Paris aimed showcasing new and old Rock, Pop and Electro artists ... this blurb is from their website

Will Future in music pass by a return to primitive instincts? These days, everybody speaks about tribalism, tropicalism and the new sound sensations quest. Villette Sonique 2009 takes place right in this mutation with a line up out of the usual musical boundaries. Following a breathtaking 2008 edition with rare bands performing amazing concerts (Devo, Shellac, Throbbing Gristle), this year’s leitmotiv is an unstoppable metronome.

We caught the opening night in the Grand Halle which was a bit of a rock all-sorts evening.

Men Without Pants at Villette Sonique

Men Without Pants were playing as we arrived, purported to be a "supergroup" composed of Dan The Automater (Gorillaz) and Russel Simmins (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion).

The live band only featured Russel Simmins. I love JSBX, they are a favourite live experience (especially when Jon Spencer is on fire with his "Elvis meets Jerry Lee via the bastard soul of a satanically possessed southern preacher man" persona) but Men Without Pants had none of that attitude. Simmins is a great drummer, but there were only a few interesting songs, and there was little interaction with the crowd. Russel Simins just walked off stage as soon as he had finished drumming for the last track without even acknowledging the crowd, or the rest of the group who were still doing their thing. They certainly weren't a supergroup, go and see Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Sunn O))) at Villette Sonique

I have seen Sunn O))) before and know what to expect from their performance ... lots of extremely distorted, slowly strummed, heavily sustained chords, lots of smoke and the sartorial splendour of a medieval monk. That was exactly what we got.

Tonight SUNN O))) were performing The GrimmRobe Demos, but to my ears it wasn't that different to the gig I saw in Brisbane when they were touring Altar, an album they recorded and toured with Boris.

There was much smoke, much raised fists and slow punching of the air, much slow sustained, distorted chords, much more smoke, much holding guitars aloft to increase the grace bestowed upon them by their god of sustained, distorted chords, much more smoke ... and robes with hoods.

Sunn O))) are a bit of a joke for me ... a Jim Carrey type of joke with only one facet; he pulls "funny" faces; they play slowly strummed, heavily sustained, majorly distorted chords. I get it. I like the guitar sound but after 15 minutes it gets a bit dull. And they have all the stage presence of watching a fire without the flame. They were even booed after the set finished, although there were many fans with fists aloft at the front of the stage who seemed (un)happy enough.

The Jesus Lizard at Villette Sonique

Then The Jesus Lizard took to the stage as a part of their current reunion tour. Opening with a diatribe on the crappiness of the first two bands, which I didn't completely disagree with, they then proceeded to tear the venue apart.

There was much stage diving, crowd surfing and spitting, and that was just from front man David Yow ... the audience joined in too. The power and energy from the stage was palpable.

Microphones were destroyed, kids kept invading the stage, sweat, spit and beer covered the stage, bodies leapt and were passed over one another, and still the music threatened and pounded.

The Jesus Lizard were the saving band of the night. Go and see them on their reunion tour.

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists by buying some music. Check out these links:-

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pierre Henry @ Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, Paris

Pierre Henry @ Theatre de la Cite Internationale (it was very dark)

Almost a month ago we were lucky enough to see one of the elder statesmen of electronic and experimental music in France, Pierre Henry, performing live at a six night spectacular of music and dance celebrating his amazing creations at Théâtre de la Cité Internationale.

Pierre Henry was possibly the first formally educated musician to devote his energies to the (then) newly evolving electronic medium. He was a member of the first group responsible for the development of musique concrète, one which often utilises "found sounds" and "synthesised sounds" rather than traditional instruments or voices and it does not necessarily contain elements traditionally thought of as 'musical', such as melody, harmony or rhythm.

At the event there were two dance performances using music created by Pierre Henry, but I'm not a big fan of dance so won't say very much about this. The man himself, assisted by Bernadete Mangin, played pieces which - over the six nights - spanned his career from 1950 until 2006.

For his performance, Pierre Henry was assisted to the front row of the audience, also facing the stage. On the dark stage there were a large collection of different speakers all facing towards the artist and the audience.

The room was darkened and (for our night) found sounds, creaking doors and windows, entered from the speakers on stage and surrounding the audience. We were then treated to an hour of electronic squeeks and belches, found sounds and synthesised stabs. It was great fun to see such a master at work.

Among his best known works is the experimental 1967 album Messe pour le temps présent, one of several co-operations with choreographer Maurice Béjart, which features the popular track "Psyché Rock."

In 1970 Henry collaborated with the British rock band Spooky Tooth on the album Ceremony and he also collaborated with The Violent Femmes for their 1998 track "A Story".

But I can safely say that Pierre Henry's best-known influence on contemporary popular culture is via the theme song of the TV series Futurama . The tune is inspired by / a tribute to / ripped off from (choose your own position) Henry's 1967 composition "Psyché Rock", posted here for (as usual) only a few days for your listening pleasure.

Pierre Henry - Psyche Rock

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists by buying some music. Check out these links:-

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Hommage to Alvin Lucier @ Saint Merry, Paris

stage being set up for the Alvin Lucier performance @ Saint Merry

Last Saturday there was a very interesting music/performance/science experiment at Saint Merri, this time celebrating Alvin Lucier.

Two pieces were presented, Music for Solo Performer (from 1965) which is a performance for enormously amplified brain waves and percussion and Music on a Long Thin Wire (from 1977) which is a sound installation for audio oscillator and electronic monochord.

Alvin Lucier was an american composer and music professor who was most famous for his more experimental compositions. His performances were sonic science experiments as much as musical experiences, often creating relatively simple sounds and allowing them to forge a life of their own within the performance space.

The prelude to Music for Solo Performer was as entertaining, and almost as long, as the performance itself. The audience arrived for the scheduled start of the evening's performance and were treated to the artists still preparing the event, with a selection of percussion instruments spread across the stage.

Alvin Lucier "Music on a Long Thin Wire" performance @ Saint Merry

Each of these was to be triggered by EEG electrodes attached to an artist's scalp (which we also witnessed being applied). The EEG machine (lent to the performers for the evening by a local hospital) detected bursts of alpha waves generated when the wired artist achieves a meditative, non-visual brain state. These alpha waves are then amplified and the resulting electrical signal is used to vibrate the various percussion instruments distributed around the performance space.

It really was as much a piece of science and theatre as a musical performance, with the rattling of plastic, metal, wood and water attached to or spread across the other end of the EEG machine creating something more akin to a clatter than anything resembling rhythm or melody, but it was a much appreciated and very entertaining performance which I enjoyed immensely.

It was then time for the artists to clear the percussion instruments and EEG machine from the stage and to set up the next piece. But this provided an opportunity to wander through Saint Merry, with only the distant glow of the lights from the stage and the nearby candles with the early evening light filtering through the stained glass windows.

Saint Merry at night

For the performance of Music on a Long Thin Wire a 50(?) foot length of wire was strung across a section of the church and activated by an amplified oscillator and magnets on either end, producing changing overtones and sounds. The wave of the tone created was changing quite subtley during the performance and as we moved around the cavernous space of Saint Merry the quality of the sounds changed further.


As the artist adjusted the modulation settings on his effect pedal, and also fully stabilised the slightly off-balance table to which one end of the wire was attached, this in turn impacted the tonal quality of the single note being generated. This note continued to feed off itself within the various cavernous areas of the large church.

Both pieces were interesting, entertaining and amazing works to see in the vast, dark space of Saint Merry.

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists by buying some music. Check out these links:-