(Return to playlists.)
Tom Djll was my guest today, talking about "Mockracy," his tour-de-force musical concert, game, play, and interactive multimedia whatchamacallit.
First performed in 2003, Mockracy is back in renewed, 2008-relevant form, for two performances: Oct. 18 and 19 at Oakland Metro, at 630 3rd St. near Jack London Square. (The Web site may list a different address; ignore that.)
About 2 dozen musicians and some singers are organized into factions (House RepuBloods, Senate DemoCrips) with written themes that are first presented to us, then mixed and blasted and improvised. Characters drawn from the political and media worlds show up in various other movements (there's a narrator, too, to keep us, the audience, informed). And finally, cue cards tell the audience when to respond and how -- kind of like the TV does. What you get are groups of musicians, single characters (Djll represents the office of the vice president, for instance), and the audience, all forced to work together under a Djll-handed bureaucracy. Oh, and there's live video being manipulated and shown back to the audience.
You can listen to the interview here, (MP3 file) or at least click that link to download it, depending on how your browser digests MP3 files.
AFTERMATH: I did manage to attend the Saturday show, and it was great. The five groups representing different legislative- or executive-branch coalitions is a really interesting idea, particularly in the "Campaign" phase when they start overriding each other. The "Whisper Campaign" later, representing a leaked rumor that spreads through all the groups, was clever, too. Not everyone in the audience was fully cued into the music, but they did enjoy the cue-card prompts to cheer or boo, and the narration, full of Joycean punnery ("Hell, Burton!") got plenty of laughs.
Inadequate photos posted here.
Also of note this week:
ARTIST -- "TRACK TITLE" -- ALBUM TITLE (LABEL, YEAR)
Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.
* Lindha Kallerdahl -- "Body and Soul" -- Gold (ESP-Disk, 2008)
I can deal with strangled, half-drowned sax, or electrocuted-cat violin screeches. I revel in all the weird, subtle little sounds drummers like Gino Robair and Jim Black pull from their bags of tricks.
But when vocalists do the analogous thing -- guttural croaks, whiny whistles, exaggerated phonetic shrieks -- it's just annoying. Apologies to Jaap Blonk, Phil Minton, assorted similar artists, and all their fans. It's just me. (Likewise, when people tell me they can't stand my music, I understand. We've got common ground.)
Kallerdahl is either a genius or a charlatan, which I guess can be said of most geniuses and charlatans. She combines jazz singing with wailing, careening sounds. She'll strike up a straight, loungy jazz standard that soon morphs into a wailing monologue. I appreciate the concept and the (oh god I hope) humor that's infused into it. I just don't like the sound of it. Luckily, all the tracks on here are quite short, and her voice isn't bad at its base -- tart and dry and loud, a good public speaking voice with a rubbery malleability that threatens to swing her out of control even when she's singing normally.
Anyway, judge for yourself with this video, which is mostly improvised speak/song vocalizing but gives you a feel for what she'd do to a jazz standard. In a more humorous vein, you can watch her mess with a cat.
I do appreciate that Kallerdahl is using her talents to do something beyond the pale and ordinary. That's cool. It's just not always my cup of tea. In Austin, Texas, Tina Marsh has worked along similar lines but generally sticks closer to jazz in her overall sound. The results might be less avant-garde, but I think they're more effective and sometimes quite powerful. Which reminds me, I'm way overdue to give "Riddles" another spin on the air.
* Fire Room -- "Line of Lead" -- Broken Music (Atavistic, 2008)
This particular track caught my ear with its hard-sawing cello at the beginning, but it dissolves into sugary synth tones later. Not my Cup of tea, but it could be useful to the show here and there.
* Junk Box -- "Back and Forth" -- Cloudy Then Sunny (Libra, 2008)
* Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio -- "The Triumph of Color" -- Cult of Color (Shamrock, 2008)
* Wayne Horvitz -- "Action 3: Worth of His Food" -- Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voices, and Soloist (New World, 2008)
*! Chumbawamba -- "Lord Bateman's Motorbike" -- The Boy Bands Have Won (PM/Trade Root, 2008)
* Art Tatum -- "Tatum Pole Boogie" -- Piano Starts Here: Live at the Shrine (Sony, 2008; recorded 1949)
Tatum recorded these tracks live, but the tapes didn't come out
well enough to be fully restored. So someone got the idea of programming
a Disklavier (think player piano) to play each one exactly the way
Tatum did. Theoretically, it should sound exactly the same as
the master. Whether the experiment succeeds is up to you (not me;
I haven't had time to listen closely enough, so I'm wimping out on
making any judgement).
* Cuong Vu -- "Solitary Confinement" [excerpt] -- Vu-tet (ArtistShare, 2008)
Previously noted here.
* Glass Farm Ensemble -- "Deafening Silence" (composer Peter Hebert) [excerpt] -- In Four (Innova, 2008)
* Bloom Project -- "Spots" -- Prismatic Season (Edgetone, 2008)
With any CD, especially some of the more abstract stuff, the faster tracks tend to catch your ear the most. They're exciting, edge-walking, and just grab you, while the slower tracks take a patience you might not have at that precise moment. It's a sad, shallow fact of life. And "Sweeter Than a Plastic Bag" opens this CD with just that kind of crowd-pleasing fun.
Many of the pieces, though, put up a persistent yet restrained flow. They're not quiet, but they match up the sax and drums, softly played, with a backdrop of silence to create a kind of lush trio. The 14-minute "Rattlebag Jimmy" is a suite of these moments, often heating up to a medium-intensity boil but never losing control -- it's a terrific listen. I also like the warmly lonely feel of "A Strong Glue Is Not Necessary," which includes the effect of a sax played back at high speed and small volume, like a mosquito buzzing from ear to ear.
"Me Softly with His Kill" opens in a placid place, then lets the sax get increasingly edgy until you've got a nice jazzy groove going. "Moose Clock" features both musicians (I think) reciting a long, surreal menu in unison, a spoken-word answer to overdubbed unison saxes on tracks like "Philosophy of the World/Wiggins."
So, Piano Music could be a meaningful name for this project, indeed. Then again, if you look at those song titles ("Which Way to Domino's"?!?!), maybe they really are just screwing with us.
Billy Bang -- "Holiday for Flowers" -- Valve No. 10 (Soul Note, 1992)
* The Giants of Gender -- "Perennial Plant" -- The Giants of Gender (Edgetone, 2008)
* Kahil El-Zabar -- "In the Land of Ooh!" -- Ooh Live! (Katalyst, 2008)
* = Item in KZSU rotation
! = Pop anomaly
? = Item not in KZSU library
-- Go back to Memory Select playlists.
-- Bay Area free/improv music calendar: http://www.bayimproviser.com.