Performance & interpretation of new art forms are the two way streets that we enjoy as makers of the music and engaged members of the audience. NYC artist Dustin Carlson presents this with the presentation of “Shakes” as performed by Isabel Umali’s stage movement interpretations, filmed by Garrett Parker where the suites & stages of the song are then sprung to new inspired expressions in the spotlights. Originally released through Very Special Recordings in the summer of 2016, Umali illustrates the fascinating component of Dustin’s composition that showcases richness of the varying narratives that arrive in the ever-shifting experience that occurs in repeated listens.
Garrett Parker begins the b/w “Shakes” visual with Isabel Umali mentally preparing herself to perform the pantomimed interpretive gestures inspired by Dustin Carlson’s “Shakes”. From the opening moment of pause, Isabel leaps from the chair to transform the expressive song into a Broadway worthy event. Performed at the Abrons Arts Center, Umali enacts lyrical responses in step and sweeps of arms & varying expressions. Reaching out to a kindred member of the audience, Isabel expresses back and forth exchanges that illustrate struggles & ranges of emotion from leaping joy, to reckoning with senses of loss. Ecstatic moments of ballet are brought about in the brass cadence brought by Dustin’s brass arrangements. The next chapter of “Shakes” that enters into the solace centers of loneliness, where Umali acts out the reflective process in steps of solemnity that slowly walk to the darker corners of the stage’s elusive wings.
Experience the Dustin Carlson’s ambitious couplet Shakes/The Noise of Wings available now through Very Special Recordings where the intersection of aesthetics pertaining to the poetic & audio experimentalism are indulged & entertain on a mind-expanding scale.
Catch Dustin Carlson at the upcoming VSR Brooklyn Mixtape Release Party featuring Peoples Champs, Green and Glass, The Eargoggle, Ryan Dugre, Xander Naylor happening Sunday December 3 at Secret Project Robot at 8pm sharp. See the flyer for details:
We had the chance to chat with both Dustin Carlson & Isabel Umali in the following interview discussion:
Describe how you define what the most perfect sound landscape is.
Dustin: Well, there’s really just sound(s) the ‘scape is all about the mix, the choices of detail, how sounds contextualize each other. Generally I find that great music has a spatiality to it, masterful performers “mix” themselves live. Some examples of music that pointed my ear towards spatiality are Iannis Xanakis’ La Legend d”Er, the Vermeer Quartet’s recording of the Bartok String Quartets, the drumming of Paul Motian.
What challenges have you discovered along the way with your own approaches to arrangements & the processes of sketching-out drafts from your own musical visions?
Dustin: I would say any time one is trying to take something imagined and deliver it to an audience there needs to be a good deal of time spent with the materials; the songs, lyrics, melodies, sounds, techniques etc. I find that if I can allow the process to inform the initial idea (and vice versa) there’s an exciting creative-observational journey that happens, one where I’m listening as much as I’m doing, never making anything happen but just putting things where they want to be.
The musical compositions entitled “Shakes” and the “Noise of Wings” were each created as disparate pieces. I think of them each as variations on one approach to performing a solo set. They were both created using content that I felt would be inviting but also expressionistic. The desired effect was to take an audience that had no prior experience with my music on a sonic journey.
What types of transcendent anecdotes can you all share about the creation of the suite “Shakes/The Noise of Wings”?
Dustin: “Shakes” is sort of the sound track to Isabel and I falling in love and me becoming super disenchanted with being a sideman and only working in other people’s projects. Previous to meeting her I was into touring as much as possible, super boho, not worried about many practical concerns. It was written while I was on the road and coming back, we had a lot of desire to see each other, you could say it was an emotionally rich time in my life.
Dustin: Isabel and I actually met at the debut of the Noise of Wings at a storefront art space in Crown Heights. She asked me if I was interested in collaborating that night. The music to Shakes was basically written over the course of a year that I spend touring and returning to Brooklyn to spend as much time as I could with Isabel. It was a period of time where I began to feel disenchanted with the transient aspects of touring life. Our collaboration began by me sending her recordings of the songs I was working on, recorded in hotel rooms, stairwells, in the tour van etc. and her sending me footage of her improvising to it in the studio.
Isabel Umali: *The character developed during long absences from Dustin—times of loneliness, uncertainty, and emotional strain. The actual choreography came much later, after months of just listening to his work, improvising to it, daydreaming to it. By then I had a very in depth understanding of his music and a great retrospective cinema of what I had gone through while he was gone. The creation of the piece flowed.*
Tell us too about the visual stage piece for “Shakes”?
Isabel: The piece is really about the character that I created. It is constantly developing for each performance venue, and as my skill-set develops. The choreography is a blend of contemporary dance and theater. It started as a dancer going on an emotional journey. As I was cultivating my acting skills in my professional life, the piece became a story told through the language of dance, and in the most recent performance we added a poem that I read to a single audience member. Soon we will be staging the piece with live music, and the musicians will be part of the visual aspect of the performance.
Dustin: The stage piece that Isabel created is incredibly dynamic, she dives deep into a character that is exuberant, dark, dwelling in a reality separate from the performance space and yet incorporating the audience into the piece. As a collaborator she is constantly pushing the piece, adding nuance, she’s relentless in her will to make the experience as rich and powerful as possible. Currently we are working towards making is a full evening length performance and our next showing of it will include the live trombones.
Describe this whole continuum that is created that goes from some kind of space-country cosmic-cowboy delivery to utter ambiance of complete oblivion. It’s very transporting…
Dustin: I’m glad you find it transporting, that was pretty much the desired effect. Honestly the “cowboy” aspect is really just that I listen to, play and write songs that have that feeling. Its partially what works with my singing voice, but its also that for as much as I love noisier, frenetic music, or complex compositional structures, I can pretty much always be stopped in my tracks by a good and simple song. The sound moments are really just distilled versions of things I’m apt to do in an improvised set.
What other artists are we all missing out on that we should be very excited about right now?
Dustin: These are some people/projects who are largely unknown who have blown my mind on numerous occasions: Brad Henkel, Owen Stewart-Robertson, Sean Ali, Jakob Wick, Kate Gentile, Akie Bermiss, and VaVatican.
Check out details on the new VSR Brooklyn Mixtape below:
Very Special Recordings Brooklyn Mixtape
1.Sheen Marina “Splice”
Travel Lightly VSR010
2.Green and Glass “Night Runner”
Dire Deer/Night Runner VSR002
3.Ryan Dugre “Mute Swan”
4.The Eargoggle “Picking My Bones”
The Beautiful Creatures Really Are So Cruel VSR013
5.Dustin Carlson “Shakes” (edit)
Shakes/The Noise of Wings VSR007
6.Rick Parker/Li Diaguo “make way for the mane of spit and nails”
Free World Music VSR006
7.Beninghove’s Hangmen “Zohove”
Beninghove’s Hangmen Play Led Zeppelin VSR008
1.People’s Champs “American Dreamers”
American Dreamers VSR003
2.Super Hi-Fi “Space Needle (Victor Rice Dub #5)”
Plays Nirvana VSR010
3.The Eargoggle “You’re Feeling Like”-
Little Black Book VSR001
4.Ryan Dugre “Elliot”
5.Xander naylor “Appearances”
6. Council of Eyeforms “Planet Earth” (excerpt)
Council of Eyeforms VSR004
7.The Eargoggle “Hero”
Little Black Book VSR001
Available now via VSR.