In which the two front-guard members of the once lofty Tigerbeat 6/IDM movement effortlessly woo and entrance our intrepid reporter.
Arriving a little late, I slipped noiselessly as possible into a free seat, blinked my eyes open, and let a long tunnel of cinematic noise overtake me. Endeavoring to stay awake and focused after an unreasonably short previous night, I grabbed a pencil and began to note the details of the journey as an erratic tribal stampede came up short at a cloud of worrisomely oversized jungle insects, smacking their mandibles as they evolved, in seven seconds flat, into deranged large feline predators stalking lost doo-wop groups though drafty cathedrals operated by authoritarian machine-men with circular saws for arms and a weakness for the woozy pleasures of morphine emulation chips, obtained at great cost from scrapyard black marketeers just as the central steel tower tolled its bell in a detuned klaxon-blast, summoning all back to prostrate themselves before the snarling entropy that opened its many-toothed maw over the grim iron alter at dusk, drawing the chosen worshippers into its gauzy grey esophagus to clutch at shimmering threads of knowledge constantly reeled just out of reach.
Gradually, all shapes broke up into the formless neutrality of the early universe. Now the dim forms that slide at the edge of vision are nothing but vague potential. At last the feverdream breaks and feet touch down again, first into muddy ground and mist from which dark birds spring forth and scatter in alarm, before even these shapes resolve into the familiar confines of the Issue Project Room, where skilled sound manipulator Wobbly is finishing an improvised set. Very different from the chopped hip-hop I recalled from his Tigerbeat 6 debut some years before. Since then, the occasional Negativland collaborator has been self-publishing newer work free on his website. The hallucinogenic set I witnessed, though improvised fresh from the basic samples, most resembles his latest free EP, Throat Solvent Renaissance. This is also probably the place to note that my listening was not augmented by anything unusual, besides the sleep dep.
A couple tracks on Throat Solvent also fittingly feature the strange talents of one Blevin Blectum, Wobbly’s bill-mate for the evening, and once and future member of Blectum from Blechdom. A historical note, which can be skipped only if you have absolutely no interest in American electronic music history, follows:
Around the turn of the millennium, Blectum from Blechdom were a part of the first wave of bands releasing on seminal American IDM imprint Tigerbeat 6, two classically trained musicians producing their own very weird (even for Tigerbeat 6’s lo-fi glitch and shredded hip-hop of the era) form of sinister carnival concept techno. The concept involved was largely concerned with toe-devouring snauses and amorous mallards. They were irreverent, inventive, and, after splitting in 2001, lamented. After years of focus on solo projects, the pair have reunited and will be playing during CMJ this week, Wednesday night at Rocky’s Rock Star Bar in Williamsburg.
But on that night, with Kevin Blechdom off playing Monkeytown, Blevin Blectum was free to follow Wobbly’s improv set with one of her own, again recutting old samples (some dating perhaps as far back as those early-00s duo recordings) with new to create something unexpected. Glossier and more structurally comprehensible, Blevin moved from Wobbly’s narrative drift into broken rhythms and cheerily haunted twists of melody. The busier compositions held a lot of arcane detail amid their clutter, just barely peeping out and enough to make the savvy listener keep a nervous eye on the floor for stray snauses.
Within those vague tendencies, the individual (if unseparated) pieces ranged, from Wobbly-like natural sound sources mutating as they passed into deadly processing plants, to damaged, aquatic Christmas music for chime, organ, and apocalyptic noise cascade. A voice incanted the words “above the natural history museum” from an oozing pulpit as beats arced up into a sort of dance party of the damned. Later, utopian xylophones accompanied rhythmic airlocks until mania kicked in and everything came apart. The only part missing was the live violin accompaniment Blectum would surely be quite capable of. Finally, the parlor filling with lava, a family attempted to save the wheezing Victrola from harm, at which point Wobbly reappeared at his laptop and effects array, brandishing a Colt 45, with the words, “I just can’t believe they serve malt liquor here!” Which turned out to be oddly appropriate segue to the final eight minutes of tandem improvisation.
(Photography note: Issue Project is the sort of seated venue in which I am loath to use flash, so these were taken in the wan existing lights by steadying the camera on a tripod that I staked into my shoulder like a suicidal vampire. So, yeah, they’re pretty grainy.)