CMJ 2012 Day 1: New Zealand Showcase at (Le) Poisson Rouge
CMJ 2012 Day 2: Yukon Blonde and Country Mice at Webster Hall

International Street Cannibals Present Fishy Business

by Angela Sutton


Multimodal music ensemble The International Street Cannibals swam into St. Marks-in-the-Bowery on Sunday night for an eclectic mix of water-themed works. Although music provided the core discipline for the event, video, the spoken word, and dance were all represented. St. Marks' sanctuary functioned as a black box theater, with its wooden floor serving as a notional swimming pool for slithering dance routines that often resembled a low-budget Busby Berkeley routine.

The program featured three original premieres, plus one premiered paraphrase (Daniel Palkowski's reworking of Ravel's "A Boat on the Ocean"). Of the new works, Jill Jaffe's neo-Romantic "look sea, she lives" wa perhaps the most cogent. The small orchestra of nine players gave the work a good read, sounding almost symphonic in the echoing sanctuary.

About half of the remaining works were canonical art musc—Ives and Schubert songs, as well as solo piano works by Chopin and Debussy. Pianist Taka Kigawa gave clean and careful renderings of the solo works, though he had to fight through the hall's acoustics. Soprano Lynn Norris's readings of the art songs were a standout, arresting without being overworked.

Ives' "The Pond" also benefitted from one of the dancers' better efforts, effectively communicating a loose but clear narrative. In many of the other numbers, the dancers primarily engaged in attempting to cross the floor without using hands or feet—fun to watch as an acrobatic exercise, but otherwise distracting. Indeed, with so many things going on at any given moment, the program's biggest drawback was its lack of focus. Various art forms moved on parallel tracks, but were seldom part of one aggregate statement.

Perhaps, however, this is ISC's point: loosening the straitjackets that usually bind listeners during live music events. At the close, conductor and founding director Dan Barrett led the gang in a version of Taj Mahal's "Fishing Blues," with freely improvised dance, jazz vocals from Rob Solomon, and hand clapping from the audience in the balcony—an interactive alliance for intellectual entertainment.

ISC's next event takes place on Friday 10/19 at Spectrum