All this month, Issue Project Room has been highlighting various members of the instrument family, exploring their furthest-out possibilities. Last week was devoted to strings, and Friday night's offering was anything but conventional.
The first set featured cellist Alex Waterman, whose playing sounded like it came from the bottom of a well. His improvisations had a basic sonata structure, but nothing was played directly: his bow scraped gently across the strings, producing an ambient hum, if any sound at all. He stomped his foot and reached down to play the spike, as if in heat. Guitarist Kenta Nagai contributed a desolate soundscape of bended notes and violent body slaps.
Todd Reynolds offered a multi-media presentation, with live visuals by video artist Luke DuBois. I first encountered Todd when he was the lead violinist with contemporary string quartet Ethel; I've since seen him with both Bang on a Can and indie duo The Books. (We met during a raucous night last summer at the Mohawk in North Adams.) You gotta give the guy credit: he was regularly filling huge venues, and chucked it all to go follow his vision before 20-odd people in an old Gowanus factory. All I can say is, it was a privilege to be one of those lucky few.
Todd's playing was somewhat less experimental, mixing avant-sounds with minimalism and even some down-home fiddlin'. He played an amplified violin while unleashing a symphony of samples from his iMac, triggered with a row of foot pedals. Accompanying Todd was Satoshi Takeishi on percussion and electronics, laying down a subliminal beat on gongs, tam-tams and various rattles.
The visuals, which started as a closed-circuit projection of Reynolds and Takeishi, soon became diffuse and abstract, like a Braque painting. Eventually, the images morphed into vertical lines representing all the colors of the spectrum, as if we were staring up through a prism. It was all spectacularly beautiful, like a psychedelic rock show from the 60's. Todd told me after that this performance came off really well, and you'll no doubt be seeing it in larger venues come summer.
Issue Project Room concludes its festival this week with a focus on the voice. New music paragon Robert Ashley will present a solo concert this Tuesday, presenting a sung version of a lecture he presented in 1979. Show's at 8p, $10 at the door.