Thank heavens for Artery Showcases! This means gratitude for the brave patrons who are willing to see experimental Avant Garde music on a Saturday night; thanks to the Home Audio curator Mara, thanks to the even braver hosts in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, Lee and his family, who have the courage for the patrons and the musicians; and thank goodness for the Artery website for setting all this up! Artery Showcases are similar to its music-only rival So Far, which is in London, New York City, and Washington, DC; and also similar to Washington, DC’s Flashband. The third company is a make-your-own rock band organizer and is run by WDC’s 7DrumCity music lessons-rehearsal space. All three of these organizations spotlight new talent and spontaneous events organized with websites, home venues, and new excellent talent, which many bigger venues might have a problem driving sales.
The Do-It-Yourself aesthetic of New York City and Washington, DC in particular found its pulse in the 1980’s all the way up to the 2000’s. Washington, DC was famous for its punk and heavy metal in the Reagan years, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan was a breeding ground for bands like the Talking Heads in the 1980’s, who wouldn’t be famous without the now defunct CBGB club, in the same way the Strokes and Interpol in the 2000’s wouldn’t be famous without the now defunct Cake Shop. Bands still find footing in the Lower East Side at venues like Piano’s NYC or Leftfield on Ludlow’s, but in the 2000’s the roaring edge of the music scene could easily be found in Williamsburg. If you’re looking for a trend here, a great wave of shitty do-it-yourself bars and venues closed in the 2000’s. My personal favorite The Annoyance Theater gave up the ghost and closed in 2017. These venues still exist, such as the Knockdown in Ridgewood, or TRANS-PECOs and Secret Project Robot in Bushwick, but the economics are brutal – their fragility is part of the romance around them. That’s why it’s such a beautiful, wonderful thing to go to a stranger’s house and listen to weird music through Artery, So Far, or WDC’s Flashband (obvious nuance caveat that Flashband is about making bands and jam sessions).
The first performer on Saturday, February 24, 2018, was Jason Anastasoff. This performer started with a strange synthesizer-looping machine. These beeps set off a strange concatenation of beeps, as if from a computer giving out a great sigh. In the crepuscular living room and Lee and Terri where the Home Audio was held, there was a strange hush of wonder around the audience, as the artist progressed to stranger ambient noises, and noise music. Anastasoff used a large double bass to achieve a strange variety of sounds. By dragging the bow across the strings, he made a door-creaking noise, or the noise from ocean waves, for a very long time. He made spanking noises by slapping the bass strings, which he would then loop as percussion. The song sounded like a beautiful factory with strange percussions overlapping bass long tones. His performance reminded the audience of experimental heavy metal band The Blood Brothers, or indie-rock band Animal Collective, or post-punk band Godspeed! You Black Emperor. This noise rock was jaw-dropping in its beauty, and also a spectacle to behold. About 100 people in the audience sat rapt in attention. This was far out!
One of the patrons, Aaron, who came from the Upper West Side in Manhattan, said about the musicians, “I thought they were awesome, their art was original, the voices were pure, and the sounds were unique!” Abi, from Greenwich Village, who was with Aaron, said, “Class act, this was a class act. Unexpected! This is what defines the New York Avant Garde, circa IQ18! That’s all I have to say!”
The second act of the night featured Gelsey Bell, who first used tongue fluttering and operatic singing in order to produce strange innovative noises by micro-phoning herself singing into the echoes of a corner in the wall. Her opera training gave her vocal control and while she didn’t say it aloud, she has connotations of what’s called in opera a “dramatic soprano” because she used astounding expressiveness as opposed to higher vocal runs. Gail’s second piece featured a keyboard, whereupon the artist sang into a synthesizer and distorted her voice. This piece had Middle-Eastern and Baroque connotations to surprising emotional effect. These sounds gave way to certain East Asian drum sounds. At this point the artist was also playing the harp. This artist had amazingly precise control of her voice and imitated Native American music, experimental music, and American Folk songs. This was truly a sight to behold. This music reminded one of the best music of Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Esperanza Spalding, and Arthur Russell. Gail’s forays into harp music and experimental tunings are similar to John Cage and separately, Alice Coltrane’s work in jazz. Gail played a strange march on Harp which subverted a 4/4 beat, and used sweeps and glissandos on the harp as if to evoke a dream sequence. Gail played a song that juxtaposed her voice versus a bass clarinet. It was very strange and wonderful. Part of what made this interesting was Gail was singing counterpoint while another woman was playing the bass clarinet, and both were stalking around the kitchen and the living room as the song progressed. Gail used her call-and-answer for melodies and harmonies with the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet player also used circular breathing, which gave the instrument strange Doppler-effect sounds.
“It was a great show tonight and I enjoyed it. I could really feel the space in the music,” said Mark, a lighting designer from Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx. “Home Audio is brilliant, welcoming experimental; it pushes the boundaries of art and music in an interesting way. Mara [the curator] brings in a lot of interesting artists from the music scene that she’s deeply involved with, which we’re lucky to have experienced in a casual environment,” said Adam, from Williamsburg, a video artist.
The last group of the night was a quartet led by drummer and percussionist Devin Gray, who had a double bass player, a saxophonist, a violinist, and a vocalist. This third act was no less experimental than the first two, and featured noise-based improvisation. Something all three of these bands did extremely well was use dynamics of going soft to loud, and the improvisation of this third act used interactions with each other. This music sounded like Central Park on an especially sunny day, or the Brooklyn Bridge during the sunset from the Dumbo neighborhood in the summer. This band sounded like a more experimental Miles Davis. The drummer played weird washes on his cymbals as the other musicians noodled on their instruments. This was absolutely on the farthest edge of experimental that exists up to this date. This stuff is far out!
One of the musicians from this third act, Joanna, said, “Great space to share unusual moments with friends and strangers!” Artery Showcases are intimate, romantic, and innovative. This show also featured visual art by Liz Kosack, which added mystique and intrigue to the night. This was a great concert and a thrilling, exciting time, and this was hands down, pencils down, so much fun.