If a tree falls in the forest... what do the surrounding conditions do to the sound? This question peppers Heights in Depths, a new album by the Hague-based composer Leo Svirsky. The title piece, which comprises the entire A-side, realizes its name by hitting great heights with regards to frequency; the B-side, "Depths in Heights," appropriately spreads out and expands thanks to its effective use of accordion. Each piece provides a collection of sounds that help listeners locate themselves and interrogate how everything—sound, bodies, heights, depths, memories, perceptions—mingle, and in what order. Using a reduced sonic palette, Heights in Depths is nevertheless able to powerfully test the limits of its environment and create a defiantly present listening experience.
This article appears in AdHoc Issue 14. You can pick up a copy at AdHoc shows around NYC. If you'd like to order a copy, you can do so here for a physical edition; you can download the PDF here. You can also find physical copies at the following locations in New York City:
Academy Records, Greenpoint
Artbook @ MoMA PS1, Long Island City
Cafe Grumpy, Greenpoint
Commend, Lower East Side
Coop 87, Greenpoint
LIC Corner Cafe, Long Island City
Little Skips, Bushwick
Printed Matter, Chelsea
Spoonbill & Sugartown, Williamsburg
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Who is Gary Wilson? It’s a question Beck fans likely asked twenty years ago, when he namechecked Wilson on “Where It’s At.” It’s one Stones Throw Records devotees likely asked in 2004, when the label—hitherto known for hip-hop-oriented releases by Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib—put out Wilson’s cosmic funk LP, Mary Had Brown Hair. And it’s something young Californians likely ask now when they see the bewigged, mess-making, 62-year-old Wilson on local bills with Ariel Pink.
The upstate New York-born, San Diego-based performer recently released the slick, libidinous LP It’s Friday Night with Gary Wilson, his tenth album since reviving a long-dormant career in 2003. Full of terminology and love interests—such as a mysterious woman named Linda—that have been recurring in Wilson’s work for decades, It’s Friday Night adds more layers to the existing Gary Wilson story, one that effectively began with Wilson’s self-recorded, self-released breakthrough LP, You Think You Really Know Me. When it came out in 1977, that scattered collection of keyboard-led pop songs betrayed a bewildering array of influences, from saccharine kitsch to twelve-tone composition. Alongside it, he developed a singular style of experimental performance full of peculiar costumes and messy stage antics.
The precocious Wilson studied cello and bass—as well as jazz, classical, and modern composition— throughout his childhood, while nurturing an interest in what he describes as “extreme art.” By the time he graduated high school, he’d played bass in lounge bands, shredded in the rock group Lord Fuzz, and compared notes with a surprisingly receptive John Cage, whom he met after looking up the legendary composer in the phonebook. You Think You Really Know Me, which he released when he was 23, brought those divergent interests together; according to the artist, it was also the moment when he “became” Gary Wilson—the same Gary Wilson that, forty years on, is still dancing provocatively with mannequins on stage and releasing bizarre, self-recorded pop LPs like It’s Friday Night.
Robert Rauschenberg once said that he tries to act in the gap between art and life. Does Gary Wilson exist somewhere between the two as well? After speaking to Wilson on the phone about the various stages of his artistic development, I’d argue that he’s gone ahead and eliminated those boundaries completely. Where many artists seek to create a distance between public persona and private self—assuming a new name, putting on a new look—there seemed to be little difference between the “Gary Wilson” I’d seen on stage and the verbose yet obtuse man I spoke with. When It’s Friday Night with Gary Wilson, it’s Friday night with the artist, the man, the story, the music, all at once.
AdHoc: You play at different types of venues with different types of audiences, from lounge music bars to DIY spaces. Do you cater your performance to the situation at hand?
Gary Wilson: You gauge things. I’ve always done both [lounge music standards and original music]. My dad worked at IBM in the daytime, and then worked four to five nights a week playing standup bass with a quartet. You get into a working band, and you do your original stuff also.
Now, the restaurant crowd, the hotel crowd—none of those people know who “Gary Wilson” is. I’m a sideman for a guy in his 80s who does Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. Just recently, I was playing with a lounge band, then I had to do a show with Black Lips and Ariel Pink down the street; I had to rush from playing conventional, Great American Songbook standards to doing a Gary Wilson show. I used to do that in small towns sometimes: I’d be covered in milk or flour from a daytime park show and then put a tuxedo on and start playing some sophisticated jazz-pop. The combination keeps me balanced: one extreme to the next.
Like Kleenex and Xerox, some names fit the products they're associated with so well, the two terms become synonymous. With over sixty releases in the last ten years career, the Bay Area-based artist otherwise known as Derek Gedalecia has developed a "product," as it were, that similarly locks itself into its name: Headboggle. So loaded with jittering, interpretable musical information is an album like In Dual Mono—Gedalecia's new tape on Hausu Mountain—that the only characterization that easily comes to mind is that the music, well, boggles its listener's head.Across In Dual Mono's two side-long tracks, the music's tempo, genre, technique, mix density, and aesthetic context change at gleefully discomfiting paces. It's hard to say that Gedalecia ever gets into a recognizable "groove," but, fully in control, he's able to establish a peculiar internal rhythm that keeps everything moving and, eh, boggling.
In Dual Mono is out September 16 on Hausu Mountain, alongside tapes by Tiger Village and Lockbox.
New York-based musician and performance artist Muyassar Kurdi is known, at least in part, for her powerful voice—a versatile instrument that fluidly mixes extended techniques (the kind characteristic to Kurdi's teacher, Meredith Monk) with more traditional approaches to folk and pop singing. In Kurdi's recent short film MACHINE//BODY, however, the artist's voice is silent; instead, Kurdi stages a conversation between, well, machine (a pulsing, circuit-bending electronic soundtrack) and body (Kurdi's own, painted chalky white, clad in leggings and, later, a torn trash bag). Contained within a white-walled, wood-floored room, the film cuts between shots of Kurdi's choreography: in some shots she's tethered by a rope to the room's column; in others she presses her body against the floor; then she stares into a mirror lying on the ground. In each segment, Kurdi, though vocally silent, speaks volumes with her expressionistic face, her waving arms, her contorted posture; coupled with the music, which maximally stretches its minimal means, Kurdi's elaborate exploration of her simple set-up conjures instense feelings of, on the one hand, containment and struggle, and on the other, the ability to, one day, dissolve boundaries.
Stream MACHINE//BODY below. Kurdi is performing throughout Europe in October as well as in Brooklyn in August—check those dates after the jump.
FRKWYS, RVNG Intl.'s series of album-length collaborations usually between an older artist and a younger artist, has batted right around 1.000 throughout its seven-year run. The latest installment in the series continues the streak, linking up two Californian synth geniuses—contemporary phenom Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani, an electronic music pioneer with decades of powerful work ranging from maximalist space disco to gorgeous new age. The result, Sunergy, tends toward the latter of those two strains, with both artists meditating on Buchla synthesizers; the album features two lengthy modular improvisations, the second of which, "Closed Circuit," is excerpted and placed atop a video of waves below. Though as minimal as one might expect, both pieces project a thrilling dynamism thanks to the bright melodies for which Ciani is known as well as the percussive blasts that appear so often on Smith's LP from earlier this year, EARS.
Those unfamiliar with the names Eilbacher, Moskos, and Moore might take the trio to be an exploratory prog-jazz unit; those more familiar may know that the three have played in, among other acts, Horse Lords, Drainolith, and Headband respectively—which, knowing each of those groups' instrumental prowess and impish character, could still certainly mean that their new LP, SEF III, is some sort of righteous spin on Medeski, Martin, and Wood. But no, SEF III trades slick chord changes for jilting sonic collages, glitchy processing, and the sonorous sound of Alex Moskos's voice, waxing poetic over his bandmates' clatter in a manner similar to his late-2015 tape, Moskos Reads the Zonal Poets, Vol. 1. Following an inspired update of "I'm Sitting in a Room" and the Dust Brothers-esque "Cut-Up Music" is "Bad Sesh at the Café," a twelve-minute enactment of its title. Moskos sets the scene: there's a cafe, someone named "Crippy," and plenty of hypnagogic imagery. The story ends quickly, at least verbally; environmental sounds come in only to get replaced by flowing walls of electronic noise, which in turn increase in interest and variation before ending abruptly (but not before frying your brain).
SEF III is out June 24 on Ehse Records. The trio's going on tour; dates are after the jump.
The clip for Pass, a recording by L.A.'s $3.33 (Celia Hollander) originally performed within Pierre Huyghe's video work Shore, displays a tired outer-urban backdrop—rundown small apartment buildings rendered especially dour by the overcast weather and the debris (unidentifiable white rectangles) scattered across the ground in front of them. Shot from a window (sometimes through the glass, sometimes not), $3.33's video quickly reveals the source of the debris: it's coming from the sky, floating down from who-knows-where. The quiet, floating minimalism of the airborn objects comes across in the music, which is likewise clean, airy, a little mysterious. But, like her fellow Angeleno Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, $3.33 crafts a composition (mastered by Sean McCann) that—though sedate and "ethereal"—carries with it a sense of earthly danger, undergirded by persistent deep pulses. These fuzzy sonic elements turn the potential peacefulness of floating ambient objects into a more urgent, perhaps apocalyptic scenario.
Is This Venue Accessible is a website that catalogues whether or not music venues are accessible to people with disabilities. Started by Birth (Defects) singer and Accidental Guest Recordings proprietor Sean Gray, the site has built up a comprehensive database of accessibility specs for venues both legal and less-than-legal in cities across the globe. "Accessibility for people with disability isn't just ramps," says Gray, "and access to the outside, but access to music, art, and culture." Impressively detailed and easily search-able, Is This Venue Accessible is now both adding capabilities (such as music festival information) and developing an app to make planning concert trips even more user-friendly. They're currently courting developers for the latter venture, but even if you can't code, you can always submit information about your favorite (or least favorite) venues on their site.
Everyone’s a curator these days. It’s an observation that spurred art critic David Balzer to write Curationism, a late 2014 book that aims to break down the when, why, and how of what Balzer terms the “curationist” moment. Noting the increasing abundance of art curators and, say, sandwich “curators” in contemporary society, Balzer explains that today’s curators seek to “cultivate and organize things in an expression-cum-assurance of value and an attempt to make affiliations with, and to court, various audiences and consumers.”
Curators elevate the things they like as a means of establishing their own agency or identity—a practice that seems necessary as we spend more and more of our time online, interfacing with others under the guise of social media avatars that make us look more or less the same (Twitter’s square profile pics, Facebook’s uniform cover photos, etc.). To combat this homogeneity, we “curate” these frameworks—posting a coherent body of memes, “attending” an enviable slate of events. Sometimes, referring to these online activities, we even label ourselves “curators” in our social media bios.
In the contemporary art world, Balzer says, curationism manifests itself in the proliferation of exhibitions packaged as “experiences”—shows that, due to the primacy of their overarching concept, make the curator, rather than the artists, the star. This explains the celebrity status of curators like the Serpentine Gallery’s Hans Ulrich Obrist and MoMA PS1’s Klaus Biesenbach. The former, known for his interviews with notable artists as well as multi-faceted group exhibitions like 2014’s Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future, serves as Balzer’s chief subject; the book’s prologue is titled “Who is HUO?” and posits Obrist’s jet-setting, star-making career as the pinnacle of curationism. The latter curator is well-known in New York and elsewhere for his ambitious curatorial concepts, like 2015’s multimedia Björk exhibition at MoMA or 2014’s expansive Rockaway! exhibition, which featured large projects by Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Janet Cardiff, plus a group show, all throughout Rockaway Beach.
Is there a Hans Ulrich Obrist or Klaus Biesenbach, then, of music?
It takes about half a second for "Sentenced to Life," the first single from Jealousy's upcoming Paid For It, to lodge itself comfortably in a longer aesthetic continuum. A simplistic, blown-out drum machine beat and a fuzzy, quivering synth line bring to mind the post-industrial, minimal wave greats and the numerous acolytes they've inspired. In its sense of erotic detachment, "Sentenced to Life" recalls in particular the early experiments of Chris & Cosey or Carol & Snowy Red: wavy, androgynous, falling apart and grooving along simultaneously. The meekly propulsive beat, coupled with tremolo'd synth interjections, ultimately give it an understated rock 'n' roll swagger, however—like Link Wray or, more appropriately, Suicide. Indeed, Jealousy's sole member Mark Treise comes across like Alan Vega slurping up codeine, fixated on "autoerotic" urban nightmares, mumbling to himself, dejected and rejected and all the better for it, as the beat goes on. By the end of the song, though, Treise—woozy, weird, and in his own world—establishes himself as a unique personality in the tradition of these aforementioned stars.
Paid For It, which features Germs drummer Don Bolles on several of its tracks, is out March 4 on Moniker.