I’m sure anyone who blogs must go through the phase where you ask the question, “is any of this worth it? Do people really care?” I think I’ve arrived at the point where even if no one gets anything out of this, it’s at least a documentation of my own journey through musical appreciation. I can look back, read my thoughts about things, be reminded of exactly how I felt/thought at a certain time, and find something worthwhile in my growth, my process. Sort of like a public diary, I guess.

So I went back to CD Cellar this past Tuesday night for a wonderful evening of ambient / noise / experimental goodness. This time there was a significant turnout at the record store, which gave me more hope than last time. I schmoozed a bit, but this time, the performance schedule was prompt and the first of four acts came on at about 8:05pm. I don’t remember the names of the two of them, but it was a piano and bass duo. It seemed that they improvised mostly for 15-20 minutes. The pianist had a good sense of abstract, free jazz-esque spurting and twinkling, while the bassist produced very interesting textures. I distinctly remember him playing the strings in a circular manner, ranging from aggressive, sharp tones, to smoother, longer pitches. My favorite part of their performance was probably at the midway point when feedback produced by the mic’ing of the keyboard created a deep drone, and added a whole new accidental texture, to this already interesting performance.

The next performance was pretty incredible. Perhaps it was the highlight; it’s hard to say because the whole evening was such an impressive show. Jeff Barsky (of Insect Factory and Plums) and Jason Mullinax (Pilesar) played an apparently improvised set. Barsky’s guitar work was so unique, muscular, and deliberate. The use of effects, loops, and textures was inspiring. Mullinax pounded the drums, creating driving polyrhythmic jams. I thought the middle of the set had too much kitchen-sink percussion and noodling around, but the bookend parts were incredible. I can’t wait to see these guys perform again, separately or together, and I can only pray that the recording from this show makes it up onto the District of Noise website.

In a somewhat unusual manner, the headliner Forsyth came on next. Janel and Anthony were to close out the evening after Forsyth’s performance. Chris Forsyth was a very pleasant guy. He calmly introduced all his pieces, explaining the inspiration behind each piece and talking a lot about the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, which clearly had a major role in shaping his new record, Kenzo Deluxe, out now on Northern-Spy Records. (Northern-Spy, by the way, is the best. Just thought I would mention that again. Really great people and always supportive of KZSU. Oh yeah, all their records are fantastic, too.) He started off with the self-titled song from Paranoid Cat, on Family Vineyard, and then proceeded to play the majority of his new album. I was really impressed. His playing reminded me of Sir Richard Bishop, Jon Porras, and Barn Owl, generally. The compositions were long, hypnotic, dreamy. I remember the last song he played was a slow-burn emotional tugger. Truly a great performance, and I consider myself lucky that I got to see him play in such an intimate setting.
Janel and Anthony closed out the night with a mix of improv and dreamy ambient-type stuff. The only negative I can point out was that the first piece’s distorted guitar sounded like a toy guitar amp. The distorted guitar was buried too low in the mix, and the effects were too simple. It really rubbed me the wrong way. The rest of the set sounded great; Janel bowed her cello, slowly and smoothly, and the orchestral duo were even joined by DC noise artist Violet (link also contains performance with Janel & Anthony). Violet came in to manipulate electronic equipment, tape decks, and the like. The last piece was definitely arty and weird improvised goodness.

That’ll do it for me for now. I’m a bit exhausted. Hope to make it out to some more musical performances this summer!

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