Introduction/Caveat: I’ll Be Your Windbag
If it looks like there’s anything organized or thematic here, it’s faked: besides a little irresistible grouping, I transcribed/translated my notes chronologically. It’s also written with full awareness of how folks or, at any rate, I, tend to read festival reviews: non-linearly, with my own filters in mind, looking to reinforce my own live experiences, checking out how the band, who put out an album I love, holds up live. This intro being the only umbrella before the torrent, I should mention that summarizing a festival based on its musical content is about as unrealistic as expecting a reader to peruse an entire festival review by a free-associative, detail-oriented writer who just can’t shut up sometimes.
With that in mind, a little about the overall logistics of the festival, which was located at Pier 36 in NYC. There were two stages, one indoor and one outdoor, the former of which the schedule seemed to lean toward, especially late in the evening. Although the weather was nice, this wasn’t a huge problem, as the outdoor venue was all cold, hard concrete, while the indoor venue was a freakin’ huge warehouse-esque space, fully carpeted with some nice, couch-y spaces in the back. Overall, the spaces seemed large and pretty empty, especially during the underpopulated daytime: I’d vote in favor of some artwork or something around the edges so no one had to feel too cruddy about Blanck Mass being boring.
Only once did I notice the sound between the stages interfering (standing right at the threshold between Dirty Three and Dirtbombs, because I liked how they sounded in combination), and especially after mid-afternoon, the festival schedule wouldn’t allow for it: 45-minute blocks were flush up against each other with no overlap, a method that I used to hate because I’d felt like I was in a flock of mindless sheep, but which I came to appreciate for the simple die-hard-dom equations it provoked (“Jose Gonzalez is OK, I guess, but lord help me if I’m not as close to Dulli as possible”). There was a breezy dock and a boat that screened films, none of which I saw (titles ranged from classics for those who, I guess, just hate all the music playing like Harold & Maude and Brazil to more obscure titles). There were some pristine bathrooms indoors and a long row of I-can’t-walk-an-extra-20-yards johns outdoors; a scantily-stocked merch room; a sign marked “Press Room,” with an arrow pointing to a shower room (nasty joke?); stands selling drinks every 10 feet. All in all, I’ll forever rail against rules preventing anyone from bringing their own food, without really pointing my finger at ATP in particular.
I also, for the sake of journalistic integrity, attempted to at least stop in on every show, as such putting my body through the wringer and probably losing any vestige of journalistic integrity. Enjoy the autoecophysiological research, y’all!
Friday: On Taking a Convex Mirror to Noise and the Difference Between Collaboration and Remix
Comedians weren’t the worst soundtrack to loosen people up before the music on Friday evening, but they were even harder to enjoy from the periphery of what seemed like a needlessly clogged line than the outdoor musicians must’ve been to gateside rubberneckers throughout the festival. Even when I could discern Hannibal Buress’ words — something about Miss Piggy being a frogfucker — it would be unfair to pretend I was in step with him.
“Alright, Janeane — don’t get into the liberal commentary stuff. It just makes you angry and it isn’t funny.” This was Janeane Garofalo murmuring to herself mid-set, and if those words seem counter to everything you understand about Garofalo, know that she didn’t really resist the impulse (at one point she said straight-up, “I cannot understand why anyone who’s a person of color, a woman, LGBTQ, et cetera would ever be a member of the Republican party”). Besides, she was funny, as least as much so as, say, Keith Olberman was when I saw him give a ‘talk’ at Cornell. But the wildly different contexts in which Garofalo and Olberman present themselves go to show that, at least on the liberal end of the spectrum, slightly humorous political commentary with a big, cocktail-party personality isn’t the rock-solid genre that it could be.
Lightning Bolt’s famous live show melted everyone’s faces off. It was my first time. Brian Chippendale was wearing a mask that held his microphone on his mouth in a way that reminded me of the lesser-known performer Gull (insert plug for that guy’s live show here), and his voice was filtered and delayed and reverb’d to hell. The duo performed in their populist center-of-the-crowd arrangement (which meant that even though their set elicited some of the most obvious moshing of the weekend, all movement had to calculatedly evade the drum kit) and mounted a large convex mirror at an angle above them. This had an interesting effect: rather than anyone outside a certain radius fidgeting and attempting to catch a glimpse of the performers, we were all transfixed on the same flickering disc. An analogy to Lightning Bolt’s music sprang to mind: their insane attention to detail and technique might border on prog-metal riffage if it didn’t all somehow cohere fluidly and hypnotically. I was amazed, grabbing a beer mid-set, at how bright and psychedelic the music became when it filled the empty space.
Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer canceled their Friday show at such late notice that all the printed programs and even signs around the venues didn’t register the change. I was happy enough to recover with Edan’s classic all-vinyl vault-digging turntablism, which took me back to the era of Beauty and the Beat, before Girl Talk broke and Edan was making a subtle and convincing case for the integration of hip-hop, funk, soul, 1960s psych, world music, and other esoterica — harsh juxtaposition wasn’t nearly as important as strange, soporific unity. I was a little bummed that he didn’t stick to his guns throughout: the end of the set was denser with obvious post-Girl-Talk crowd-pleasers like “Once In a Lifetime,” “Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine,” and — wait was that — a detuned Star Wars theme?
Tyondai Braxton managed, at least until Mirrored, to occupy a Nico-Muhly-esque no-man’s land between classical and indie — and, like Muhly, he may continue to occupy it because of a certain lightness about whether there’s even a line there at all. But I can barely imagine anyone remaining totally relaxed when playing alongside Philip Glass; to quote one audience member, “You’re Philip Glass!” So I wasn’t too surprised when the first two pieces of their set, “Étude No. 1” and “Étude No. 2,” saw Braxton’s accompaniment, heavy swelling waves of guitar over Glass’ piano, as pretty cautious. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a neat textural counterpart to Glass’ style, but its careful lining-up of chords also didn’t prepare anyone for the onslaught of the lengthy closing piece “Étude No. 10,” for which Braxton took to a brain-slicing synth and proceeded to let loose, alternating between classic repetitive minimalism and some hella-dissonant sound-shapes. The degree of tension and release felt like a welcome addition to Glass’ piece, and even though Glass wrote the damned thing I couldn’t help feeling his piano just didn’t have enough heft to balance out Braxton. The announcement of this collaboration concurred with several remixes of Philip Glass’ work, and the idea of a remix, a cover, or a loosely interpreted performance simultaneous with its ‘original’ gives a sense of the dynamic at work. All told, the performance was captivating, but in terms of the tricky chemistry of collaboration there was a thread missing.
I deeply regret only catching the first four or five songs of Frank Ocean’s set, which was enough to make us miss our 1 a.m. bus back to Jersey anyway. For whatever petulant reasons I never gave myself fully to Channel Orange, but I was fairly sloshed at the time; he had me at “give you my bandana? Are you fucking crazy?” Anyway, he struck me as an incredibly warm and honest person, closing his eyes and meandering around the stage for the outros of what suddenly seemed like extraordinarily short songs, and the air seemed just like humid with the emotional intercourse of the performance. It was totally clear why people love this guy.
Saturday: On Fully-, Partially-, and Barely-Absorbed Legends
Many considered Saturday to be the focal point of the festival because it was curated by Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers/Gutter Twins frontman Greg Dulli and was basically a day-long celebration of the Whigs’ reunion and first tour in 13 years. A few of the day’s musicians have a history of collaborating with Dulli — who works strangely well in synthesis with others for such a singular personality — which led to both highlights and a degree of spottiness the ATP-curated portion didn’t have. By far the best thing about arriving in time for Italian has-beens Afterhours was simply seeing Dulli and frequent collaborator Mark Lanegan watching the set from only a few feet away. (“This is the best day of his [Dulli’s] life,” one stranger I was chatting with said. “He’s just walking around beaming.” And throughout the day it became clear that several of the former collaborators remain great pals, all of them walking freely among us.) As for the set, well, I’d given a quick listen to Afterhours’ moderately acclaimed career peak Hai Paura Del Buio a couple days before — it is a mediocre, occasionally neatly produced album that sounds of its time, but it didn’t prepare me for the gloriously awful, flat-out hair-metal homage I witnessed. This is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing Guns N’ Roses, or if that sounds too kind, christ, Twisted Sister or something. Singer Manuel Agnelli revealed the Dulli link by performing Twilight Singers’ “My Time (Has Come),” which was apparently cowritten by Agnelli and is something like the “Take Off Your Shirt” of 2006’s Powder Burns. I guess it was nice of Dulli to invite old friends from his, um, ‘wild years,’ and it’s not like the 12 p.m. slot was in anyone’s grill.
On his records, Mark Lanegan often pokes a smirk at how elemental his rasp is — dude even looks like Tom Waits — by performing against a broad swathe of backdrops: drum machines, synths, glittery 1980s guitars, all of which sound bizarre at first, yet addicting in the long run. But besides some apparently undiagnosed technical difficulties that left the bass dubstep-nauseous (in order to make his bass-y voice more audible? I couldn’t piece it together, but suffice to say they don’t make earplugs for that shit), he played his pounding, late-night, cocaine-addled trucker vibes relatively straight. I dug when the sequin-kitsch of “Harborview Hospital” rose out of the murk, Lanegan’s poker-face brow knitted as ever, but I could’ve gone for a truck stop, a little more open space — a “Strange Religion” or “Morning Glory Wine,” perhaps. But at a festival that’s well-known for resuscitating past successes, it’s telling he was as glad as I was not to get into Screaming Trees territory.
Columbus’ Scrawl was a different story, a group that, for my money, needs wayyy more than their current footnote-status in the story of the 1990s: forget riot grrrl for a second (or, “foxcore, my ass” as they apparently put it) and focus on the churning bass of such glorious Albiniian buzz and twang; the smears of distortion (“Garden Path” vivisected); vocals that sear until your throat swells shut. I have to hand it to bassist Sue Harshe — having thought of Scrawl as mostly Marcy Mays’ group, I was surprised to see a healthy split between their stage personas. And for a group whose last album was recorded in 1998 but never, to my knowledge, actually disbanded (and for a group that deals with some corrosive shit: see, “I think I’m turning into a slut”), they seemed to be having the time of their lives up there. Maybe it makes some sense that they didn’t draw a single song from their bleak opus and probably best front-to-back collection of songs, Velvet Hammer, instead opting to close out with major-key crowdpleaser “Charles.” I guess “Blue Green Sea” or “Disappear Without a Trace” might’ve ruined what everyone knew was coming at the Whigs show. Which I’ll just give away the spoiler several paragraphs too early: “My Curse,” a song of the Whigs’ album Gentlemen that Mays guested on, kinda unfairly demolished all competition for best song of the evening.
But first, a few others under the motley banner of Dulli’s fine taste. TMT favorites Emeralds were the only band of their type that day. I thought they peaked with 2010’s Does It Look Like I’m Here because of their keen awareness of framing, but their uninterrupted set with a focus on brilliant, subtle transitions was more aligned with their earlier work. The first half-hour or so the duo was workmanlike, and it felt the way I imagined those Tangerine Dream sets Lester Bangs used to joke about might have: I kinda wished I didn’t already know they had such a thin slot, so I could’ve suitably zoned out. And they were at the outside stage, an absurdity that really could have been avoided. As if realizing the blazing sun partway through, they broke into a euphoric (‘hypnagogic,’ phah) stretch of volleyball music whose tubby bass and endless, reverb-drenched solos kinda overstayed its welcome.
I was sure to check out Joseph Arthur, him being one of the only musicians of the weekend I neither knew nor felt that I should have known; I suppose I was getting the SXSW itch. Struggling to describe his sound, I found I could only call his music ‘singer-songwriter’ (a genre name I find particularly flaccid), and his set stood as a testament to the transferability of ‘singer-songwriter’-dom. The genre transfers easily between spheres of obscurity: without even intending any sourness here, I found myself thinking of cringers like Howie Day as often as of ‘authentic’ DIY-ers like Jeffery Lewis and nearly as often of fully absorbed legends like Dylan (although “Daddy’s On Prozac” was clearly a tribute to mostly absorbed legend Nirvana). ‘Singer-songwriter’ transfers across scale: I can’t say whether these songs were anthemic or intimate. Perhaps most promisingly for Arthur, ‘singer-songwriter’ transfers across musical identities, which is to say that Arthur benefited from not necessarily having one yet. For the faint aw-shucks absurdity of “Where Is My Van?” Dulli came on stage with a pack of toddlers to sing funky harmony (the kids’ spontaneous mistakes weaving in and out of time really worked). But Arthur got in the zone for “I Miss the Zoo,” a new track. At first I smelled gimmick (Arthur frantically painting on a canvas while spoke-sung words just poured out of him) but quietly, cumulatively, the song became moving: something about the breathlessness and the desire to use nostalgia as a vehicle to tap into the expansive vein of youth and drugs and addiction, and the summary — I miss the zoo — got to me. A friend compared its momentum to EMA’s “California,” which I hear, though Arthur’s final destination struck me as somehow, word count notwithstanding, simpler.
I have no sophisticated sonic analysis of Charles Bradley, the “original screaming eagle of soul” (wasn’t his debut just last year? Wasn’t he, indeed, a James Brown impersonator for awhile?) but I will say that witnessing that kind of explosive energy in person was riveting. His face contorted with emotion even as he expressed undying love and gratitude between songs (“thank you for rescuing me from being homeless; thank you” as pirates shifted uncomfortably); his lyrics discussed suffering almost apocalyptically. But even when he slung the mic stand over his shoulder to possibly represent the cross, he didn’t seem remotely contrived.
I’m one of those Antlers fans, caught in a position totally antithetical to critical parsing that I know I share with at least one or two other TMTers, only gradually coming to grips with the strength of Burst Apart because it isn’t Hospice. Interviews suggest that Silberman, glad to have documented the events of Hospice and with a sort of bemused pride that something personal hit so many people so hard, keeps the album at arm’s length nowadays. So I wasn’t too shocked that only one of the seven-song set — “Silvia,” which Silberman confessed they hadn’t played in more than a year — was from that era. And it was one of the weaker performances of an excellent set, somewhat ill-adapted to Antlers’ musical direction (the original song riding a tense line of distortion right into its climax, jumping right into fleshy berth and losing dynamic range for it) and especially Silberman’s penchant for falsetto. But holy hell did they create a breathing, unified entity otherwise: transitions between songs were masterful, the interstitial material of this year’s Undersea EP valuable, comparisons to early Sigur Rós ringing true for the first time. The way they swapped the jazzy organ in “Rolled Together” for a crashing wave of white noise bordered on religious. Anyone suspecting that this group’s trading of emotional heft for an emphasis on texture would be convinced by this performance of their indivisibility.
If we take the sequencing seriously, the headliners for the day were The Roots, but that was a weirdly calculated taste-gauge on ATP’s part; Afghan Whigs’ set was so damned cathartic The Roots afterward felt like elevator music. Every element of a great show was in place, and Dulli’s technique of re-appropriating well-known tunes in his intros and outros felt both silly/spontaneous and carefully-orchestrated; occasionally, smashing the audience over the head with an Afghan Whigs song right when the chorus of, say, “Purple Rain” ought to come in made their songs sound even more twisted and noisy than they would have.
Then there’s Dulli himself, off of whom I really couldn’t take my eyes (despite realizing the real novelty was the presence of original members John Curley and the cagey Rick McCollum): I love the guy because I can’t get a handle on him. I have no idea, even briefly eyeballing the audience at this show, what type of person tends to be an Afghan Whigs fan, or what the group’s place in history might be, but I find myself inexplicably drawn to his (or his unending character’s) almost sociopathic combination of primal urge and dishonesty, bold yet clammy, libidinal yet brooding. The screaming and noise had a sort of majesty, but the best parts of the concert came when everything hushed, he grabbed the mic off the stand and had his chilling, reptilian moments with the audience. Best example was probably his terrific cover of Marie Queenie Lyons’ “See and Don’t See”: “If I ever, if I ever face reality/ I know that would be the end of me.” He seemed to make eye contact with every one of us.
The Whigs’ setlist was interesting. All Tomorrow’s Parties will forever be linked to the unending Don’t Look Back concert series, which, like the 33 1/3 book series, features some obvious classics and some retrofitting wedges. While none of the shows this weekend were technically part of the Don’t Look Back series, the Whigs sequenced their set in a way that hinted they might be interested in playing not 33 1/3 pick and list-dominator Gentlemen but its torrential 1996 followup Black Love. Gentlemen would be my pick too, but it is a bit of a depressant for such an exciting moment, and the Whigs made the Black Love glut work: I can’t fathom a better set opener for them than “Crime Scene, Part One,” and they closed out with the last three tracks from that same album, an almost excessively exhilarating suite that on the album clocks in at nearly 20 minutes. On the release of Twilight Singers’ Dynamite Steps last year, I argued Dulli was cleaned-up enough to present himself as the legend he might be, but I also worried he might not be capable of confronting his old Ohio demons should the Whigs reunite. The show felt like an officiation of Dulli’s ability to manage both at once. The evening belonged to him.
Sunday: “Anyone Seen My Brain?”: Tidy Simulacra, The Musician Qua Musician, Supplements and Abysses
Not much could be more alluring from afar than the krautrock-meets-cockrock vampage of Endless Boogie, whose entire shtick seemed akin to some of Purling Hiss’ more repetitive stuff: unforgivably trashy but selflessly drawn out over extended grooves. The stage was filled with denim and cigarettes and possibly even a glass eye; the pale, sag-faced ‘singer’ occasionally murmured what sounded like his own blitzed-out mental ticker-tape: “Has anyone seen… my things? Anyone seen… my thangs? … What’s that purple thing… over there… Anyone seen my… Brain?” Not so sure I’d buy or even steal a record of theirs, but I thought they were great. I went straight from there to an early afternoon Psychic Paramount set, expecting better-veiled burnout — I’m a huge fan of Laddio Bolocko but I feel like St. Ivany’s recorded work slid off a bit — but they played a fantastic set. St. Ivany’s lone guitar was weirdly clean and precise, and I ended up sensing their noisiness was all in the rhythmic interpretation. This came to a head in their closing song, a guitar loop that cohered into a merciless drone inside which the drums sorta sloshed around before assimilating.
Noise didn’t even enter my mind during Lee Ranaldo’s set later that evening, though I confess ‘burn-out’ might’ve. Sacrilege, I know, and maybe had I seen the “suspended guitar performance” with Leah Singer that he canceled (a quick scan suggests that this phrase was pretty unique to this one evening) I would feel differently, but he always seemed a little bit more likely than his bandmates to lobotomize SY’s contribution to music. He played mostly solo stuff, which I’d compare to J Mascis’, save that Ranaldo doesn’t effortlessly coil hope/loss into his voice like Mascis; what was once debonair-flat is now just flat. So while I could roll with his little anecdote introducing “Xtina As I Knew Her,” a recognizable meditation on home & youth & friends & time, and these themes may even be important, it was hard to feel excited about them.
Snuck in earlier in the day were a few elder statesmen of esoterica that, in particular, made Ranaldo seem like he was throwing in the towel. The jury’s still out on the overarching significance of The Magic Band’s recent performances, though on the surface this one had all the characteristics of a good simulacrum: the sound was accurate, and there’s no one more authentic to take on the part of Van Vliet himself than right-hand-man Drumbo. Besides, the question of Beefheart’s music was always one of meticulous design by way of spontaneity and vice versa: for Trout Mask Replica, Drumbo was the main transcriber of Captain Beefheart’s crooked, impulsive, maverick-irreverent pieces, so there was something appropriate about his taking this transcription to the next level here. But if something seems… amiss to you from where you’re sitting, you surely aren’t alone, and maybe that explains why even though they could’ve, they didn’t headline.
Generally I’m a little bugged that The Album Leaf have cornered a market of listeners that prefer chilling to challenge, but as a wearysome twentysomething who felt an ache in, yes, his bones, but also in his brain, I really couldn’t resist how easily their mostly instrumental, glitch-y/lounge-y “post rock” went down; there was a strange comfort in knowing that even a frenetic drumline would become longitudinal, a source of stability for any given song. In a festival that seemed dense with musicians trying to give definitive performances, there was a tacit admission in their film projections (footage of teenagers skipping stones, at one point just a shot from a car window) that they wanted to deliver in concert exactly what they’ve always delivered to any fan who likes to turn boredom into religion. I wasn’t quite in the right mindset, but they made their case directly and refreshingly, especially compared to trend-caked trio Braids, whose own glitchy, toned-down set was pretty vacuous.
I went out of my way to see TMT-loved-em-before-p4k-fuckers Thee Oh Sees and found the chameleonic group compact as hell, a knot around the drummer, and maybe understandably less prone to psychedelic wizardry and Jack Wild babytalk. But with, as we know, plenty of upended bubblegum melodies and Dwyer’s glorious freakouts with his guitar held along his collarbone, they rocked with distinction. I saw several groups — mostly garage punk, The Dirtbombs and the like — over the three days who were good enough but failed to grab my scrutiny, so I have to offer words of praise for innocuous non-garage-punkers Tall Firs and their vaguely anachronistic way of attaining focus. Saturday, dozens of what looked like newspapers titled Tall Firs Supplement suddenly appeared scattered over every clear surface at the festival. The pages were filled with, apparently, autobiographical vignettes written by the two band members, stories about hanging out with homeless eccentrics, embarassing one-night stands, and the chin-up trials of being a full-blown teenage alcoholic. I found myself immersed in the document while I had plenty else to pay attention to, then found myself looking forward to the set Sunday. I’m already a sucker for the Bedhead thing, gorgeously interlocking guitars in space and frictive vocals, but the uncommon backdrop lent it clarity amid the festival’s surfeit. They were charmingly open and even funny regarding the flat-out depressing nature of their music (“let’s go for a 10 on the ‘downer’ scale for this one”) and they varied their sound just enough to keep (relative) momentum: they brought ‘Samara’ (Lubelski? Just an educated guess) on to play some gorgeously phonographic violin, but, like some critics, I wasn’t sure the introduction of drums did much for them.
Even after Arthur’s “Where Is My Van,” I was shocked to learn after the fact that Quintron & Miss Pussycat were shuffled from Dulli’s original Saturday list. This was my second time seeing these lunatics, and in theory their set, replete with a seemingly unscripted puppet show that makes me feel both puritanically anti-psychotropic and an almost humiliating nostalgia for my awkward youth, should be fun to describe whether I liked it or not, but I derive a strange delight from recommending everyone see Quintron’s show themselves at least once in their life. Suffice to say, the music (likeable: after about 10 minutes of oscillator and possible technical issues, not actually that far off from the garbage drone of early Oneida) aside, they were this festival’s Saul of the Mole Men.
Meanwhile, I had to double- and triple-check that The Make-Up’s inclusion in the festival lineup had nothing to do with Dulli. If we’re talking about the revitalizing power of reunion, Ian Svenonius — whose recent work in Chain & The Gang has left former believers somewhere between disgust and indifference — is a prime candidate; the biggest surprise might have been that it was The Make-Up that reunited, rather than Nation Of Ulysses. (If I’m acting as if it’s entirely up to the frontman, well, I think Billy Corgan’s gotten to my head.) But I actually think The Make-Up provided the perfect intersection between time travel to When Shit Mattered, self-referential/-parodical overperformance, and especially the group’s brand of enigmatic post-punk (I had a personal bias toward picks from 1998’s Save Yourself). Svenonius himself was a spectacle that, like Dulli, knew how to put on a great show, spoken-word interludes and and all, albeit with a stapled-on sneer and moves like Jagger running from the Keystone cops. The audience didn’t seem entirely willing to keep up with his amperage, but I thought the set was killer.
Every year or so I dig out my Godspeed You Black Emperor records and re-listen, because I know they’re hugely revered in a community I sometimes say I belong to, and while I don’t think any of them are bad or even mediocre, their ‘timeless majesty’ has always been a bit lost on me: dated is a word that always leaps to mind, kinda like how I don’t really listen to much Do Make Say Think anymore. But with an intimidating juggernaut of a 2-hour slot, the I’ll Be Your Mirror 2012 headlining set was exactly what I needed to come around. For the first 20 minutes or so, they absently let their equipment drone tremolo’d atop the same shuffled playlist that preceded most shows, and the effect was of dread lurking amid the everyday, which was about where they picked up when they took the stage. Their visual display was a blur of 16mm black-and-white images, starting with a pattern that lurked somewhere between noise and information (scattered flashes of the scratched-out word HOPE reading cheesy on paper, maybe, but constituting a small miracle in the show) gradually cohering into distinct photos, video, and prophetic text over the course of the show. Even when it shifted to protest footage, it never seemed polemical or ham-fisted; ultimately, the set didn’t seem to be so much about history as our neurotic, hapless need to document it.
Amid such a huge, mostly-static group of people, violinist Sophie Trudeau stood out as the member most capable of shifting moods, and especially in any comparison to Do Make Say Think’s lilting triads or other points of reference, she defied expectations and delivered the goods: her screaming violin loops were anything but complacent, leaving me with something closer to the dizzying mental abyss left by this year’s The Seer. I had to break out of the core crowd about halfway through, but seeing the entire warehouse of Pier 36 filled with spread-eagled bodies and sound was almost as great. So see these guys if you can (and this is coming from a relative nonbeliever). Godspeed in concert may well be one of the greatest artistic experiences available for public consumption.
Demdike Stare, who command nearly as much respect at TMT as G!YBE but still seemed like a curious final set for ATP, were not there to blow minds, and the fairly small group remaining was too cooked to really care. It was a nice opportunity to zero-in on their subtle touch with percussion, how every spiraling and distant beat added something complicated to the mix as they snuck in the monolithic figures of Elemental highlights like “Kommunion” and “Mnemosyne.” Whispering frantically to one another but otherwise not moving behind their side-by-side MacBooks, the duo were generating sound but not really performing in the classical sense, which was appropriate in a venue wherein people were scattered over a huge space. It was the perfect time to think about how I’d summarize this unique-but-ordinary union of wildly disparate sounds and talents:
[Photos: Amanda Bellucco]