Rhys Chatham Trio / Alan Licht & Lichens / Neptune
Brooklyn's Issue Project Room played host to a month long celebration of adventurous rock and improv, throughout January called "The Independents" festival. The space itself is incredibly unique. Two round structures, which in a previous life were oil silos, stand like sentinels in a compound, next to the Gowanus Canal. The spot is reminiscent of some art-vortex in the Netherlands. The mystique of the premises is furthered by a mysterious covered boat which made me think of Miami Vice, and a stand of young trees which made me think of Scandinavia. The performance space is located on the second story, up an exterior metal staircase. The round room had dozens of far-out speakers hung from the ceiling like houseplants. The capacity was limited to around a hundred folks at most, and the audience was often asked to sit on the floor.
Presented in cooperation with Tennessee-based Front Porch Productions, the festival featured showcases by Ecstatic Peace, Table of the Elements, Locust, Tompkins Square, XI, Pogus, and Family Vineyard. I was lucky to catch an evening during the final weekend which consisted of Neptune, Lichens with Alan Licht, and the Rhys Chatham Guitar Trio, presented by The Table of the Elements.
Unfortunately, I missed Neptune in this space but I was lucky enough to see them twice in 2006 in two other, very unique venues. The most memorable was in a 200 year old stone chapel at the University of Virginia on April 13th 2006. I can imagine how bad-ass their set was at Issue Project Room. Neptune has been around for over ten years, making their own electronics, homemade drums, and hand-welded Road Warrior-esque guitars. Now a trio, after many incarnations, Neptune has really hit their stride and continues to seem more inspired each time they play. I
have included a recording of Neptune at the chapel on this page for listening pleasure.
The collaboration of Chicago based Lichens aka Robert Lowe (of the 90 Day Men) and minimalist guitar composer Alan Licht was striking and enveloping. Rob's voice was heavily processed and soaring above Licht's drone and ambiance. Sometimes reaching for falsetto registers, Lowe used his voice in a way seldom seen or heard, as he himself became a complimentary human drone. The audience sat rapt and attentive throughout the subtle shifts of the piece.
The Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio All Stars featured Rhys Chatham with Ernest Brooks III (Modern Lovers), David Daniell (Jonathan Kane's February, San Agustin), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Free Kitten), Jonathan Kane (La Monte Young, Jonathan Kane's February), Alan Licht (La Monte Young, Jim O'Rourke), Robert Longo (famed visual artist, feature-film director), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Colin Langenus (USA Is a Monster), Byron Westbrook (Rhys Chatham's Essentialist) and Adam Wills (Rhys Chatham's Essentialist, Jonathan Kane's February). They performed the same piece twice, once with a hi-hat dominated rhythm, and a second time with more expanded drumming and layers of stunning black and white slide projections provided by Robert Longo. A building, overlapped with a shadow of a running man, a woman and her child, horses led thru a field, a plane and a lighthouse, light streaming down from the heavens, all stacked with thoughtful aplomb were perfect accompaniments for the piece. These images were from his 1979 series, Pictures for Music.
Each time the movement began with Rhys droning on a chord then one by one working from the outer edge of their semi-circular configuration, bringing folks in with a nod from side to side in stereo until eventually all eleven folks were droning the same chord in rhythmic variations. Accents and meters created phasing, discord, playful counter-rhythms, syncopations, and cacophony and eventually a very unified blissful wave of sound. The event had the feel of something unique and provocative, and I felt honored to be there.
folks of the Rhys Chatham Trio performance...note Mr. Lee Ranaldo's arm, far right, of course
Matthew Clark February 2007