Jason Urick (ex-WZT Hearts) had a banner 2009. Finally releasing his solo outing signed to Thrill Jockey, Husbands is a glorious burst of swirling experimental instrumentals, at once sunny and brooding. The album received much fanfare, both local and national, and Jason played a number of phenomenal shows locally before shipping off on a European jaunt in early 2010. He even worked on a killer split 7″ with Jason Willett for WildfireWildfire. This is his first show since coming home, and the perfect opportunity to see and hear how his worldly travels have affected him.
Fellow WZT Heart Jeff Donaldson isn’t doing so shabbily himself, continuing to push the boundaries of the chiptune genre with his noteNdo project, and some killer game system-generated visuals. Since WZT Hearts’ dissolution, Donaldson has been working out of New York around the Tank and 8bitpeoples scene. After playing the Windup tonight, he will hang around town for a the 8-Bit Alliance show on Sunday featuring fellow NYC’ers Anamanaguchi at Sonar. Check out our exhaustive interview with Jeff from 2008.
Microkingdom will debut their newest iteration, Prism Leisure: the core of Will Redman, Marc Miller and John Dierker will be supplemented by experimental cellist Audrey Chen and Microkingdom first-timer Chris Pumphrey on Fender Rhodes piano. Their abstract jazz paintings are near and dear to us at Aural States, playing one of our favorite sets of 2009 opening for our showcase featuring So Percussion. According to Will, we can expect a little bit of old, a little bit of new, and surprises as always. One of Baltimore’s most challenging and extreme acts, on what’s sure to be a night filled with instrumental bliss.
Aural States presents So Percussion, Microkingdom, Gestures, more TBA at the Metro Gallery on Wed Oct 28th
(BALTIMORE, MD — Sept 14 2009) — Defining the boundaries of what we know as music and classifying its endless offspring are both ever-evolving, vital enterprises. In celebration of this constant growth, Aural States has brought together musicians who we feel excel at making music a malleable and dynamic entity through bold experimentation. We are proud to present So Percussion, Microkingdom, and Gestures at the Metro Gallery on October 28th 2009 in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore.
Brooklyn-based quartet So Percussion take up the cause of showing the world that percussion is much more than a primitive means to an end, expanding far beyond drums laying down beats. Lauded as “revelatory” (David Lang), “brilliant” and “consistently impressive” (The New York Times), and “astonishing and entrancing” (Billboard Magazine), their genre-bending work has lead to collaborations with innovative musicians like Dan Deacon and Matmos, with whom years of work will bear fruit in a late Spring 2010 release on Cantaloupe Records. They’ve prepared bracing performances of pieces from visionary composers such as David Lang, Steve Reich, John Cage and Iannis Xenakis, as well as crafting their own compositions. Their music has taken them around the globe to stages and audiences of all shapes and sizes, from the Lincoln Center Festival to Carnege Hall, the Kennedy Center, and even Whartscape 2009 at the Baltimore Museum of Art where they performed excerpts from Steve Reich’s Drumming. This summer, So created an annual summer institute at Princeton University consisting of an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for college percussionists.
In their only Baltimore/DC area performance, in an unusually intimate venue, So will perform works from Steve Reich, their 2006 album Amid the Noise, and their latest original work entitled Imaginary City, which has its world premiere just a few weeks before as a commission for the 2009 BAM Next Wave Festival.
The trio known as Microkingdom’s Pro Hour is one of Baltimore’s avant-garde powerhouses. Its members hold pedigree second to none: guitarist Marc Miller of math rock pranksters Oxes, percussion whiz and composer Will Redman, and the musically polyamorous John Dierker’s fierce reeds. Playing “sinuous, powerfully dynamic improvisations” (The Wire) or self-described “No Jazz,” Microkingdom have been called “dynamic, challenging, confident” (Pitchfork). Over the past couple of years Microkingdom has played shows with: Wzt Heart, Ecstatic Sunshine, Thank You, Singer, Food For Animals, Daniel Higgs, These Are Powers, Jack Wright, White Mice, Talibam!, Peter Brotzmann, Pontiak, Extra Life, The Homosexuals, and many others. They’ve also self released color vinyl Wrenches: My Heart/Double Abacus as well as putting out the CD-R EP Spectacular Edges on Human Conduct. This fall will see them playing Brooklyn-based Death By Audio’s You Are Here: The Maze installation and performance festival in late September.
Gestures’ “shambolic drums-n-brass band” was named D.C.’s “Second-Best Use of Air Pressure” by Washington City Paper’s Best of D.C. 2009. A horn and drum collective consisting of tuba, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, and two drum kits, think manic marching band meets frantic free-jazz structures and you’ve got a pretty close approximation of their sound. Fascinating and brazen blasts of dissonance test and probe the limits of your endurance while simultaneously forming vivid mental images and narratives like some crazed sonic bard, drunkenly dragging off-kilter harmonies out of entropy. Gestures’ debut EP Nice will be out soon.
I still don’t know what to make of Microkingdom’s core duo, Will Redman and Marc Miller. It seems like they’re out to do exactly what they’re doing, and sounds like what they make is on-par with their standards.
But what of the people themselves? They met in a high school cafeteria; both went on to create lives revolving around music in one way or another (Redman getting his PhD in music composition, Miller working with Oxes). Years later, both living in Baltimore, they met up and began jamming once more, a practice that eventually turned itself into what we call Microkingdom. Basically an umbrella term for the works of Redman and Miller. I had a chance to talk to percussion guru Dr. Redman after their improv-rock set at Whartscape 2009, and strikingly enough, he appeared to be the most stable minded individual at the whole damn festival. Coming from the man whose music often moves like a swarm of angry insects, I figured he’d be a little more in the clouds. Not the case, for he was straightforward, easygoing, relaxed, all of those neutral qualities employers look for in job interviews, and then some.
After our short conversation, the compostion maestro handed me a copy of Microkingdom’s latest effort, Spectacular Edges. Now, unlike the disc’s title, it finds the free-jazzers in a softer, more deliberate place compared to the rocky landscapes of 2008’s Wrenches: My Heart/Double Abacus. Where the latter hikes chaotically through the cavernous trenches of the trio’s (including Mr. John Dierker’s) raw instrumental prowess, the former gladly gains some composure and takes some time out for production to work its magic.
The music is cushy: oversampled sax lines feel like feathers across the surface of Redman’s amoeba-like rhythms. I hesitate to bring up the word “glitch” in this post, mostly because a free-jazz-glitch genre sounds too ridiculous to be real, but hell if Microkingdom don’t give it a shot. The clipped reedwork of John Dierker gives “Squirrel Level” and “Aire Metal (Chopped And Screwed)” just the right amount of pizzaz necessary to pull off the tracks without having sounded like remix jazz. And even if you’re looking for more standard issue Microkingdom jams, the good people behind the name have even planted a taped session (by Jeff Mewbourn), entitled “Family Day Red Room,” containing some of their finest material.
The release ends on an unpredictably beautiful note: “Quring Startet.” Composed by Will Redman, this is a piece written for a simple string quartet, its electronic accompaniment adds a little spook to its already lonesome nature. Though it sits as Spectacular Edges’ odd duck out, it effortlessly characterizes the bulk of Microkingdom’s recorded catalog–and in just over a minute at that. Chasing one of their songs feels like navigating through an unfamiliar city. You can’t tell if the sounds you’re currently hearing are going to go anywhere, but you most definitely want to find out. Then, at long last, it’s all over. But you want just a little bit more.
Hunting for safety from the sun’s rays made me feel something like an animal Sunday. I was leaning against the old rusted fence in the MICA parking lot, watching Santa Dads do their own thing–and it is totally theirs to keep, when I became aware of all the Wham City members working their butts off in the draining heat. I remember running into (who I believe was) Stefani Levin of Wham City at the Load of Fun on Saturday night. She was clearly fatigued, and (not knowing who she was) I asked “hell of a show, right?” She exhaled loudly and replied, “I’m working.” You might imagine what hell organizing and executing this monstrous Whartscape must have been. For those of us who attended, I think it’s time to give a quick thanks to the people that put this rad fest on.
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