Charlie Parker's Yardbird at the Apollo Theater
Katherine Jenkins at the Café Carlyle

Lesley Flanigan presents Hedera at National Sawdust

by Robert Leeper

The pursuit of sonic bliss has driven Lesley Flanigan to be a ceaseless experimenter. Her background in sculpture is often referenced in the way she seems to give a physical form to sounds which she then shapes and bends to her will. So what is she up to now? A new experiment, naturally. 

The release concert for her most recent album, Hedera (out this Thursday on Physical Editions ), at National Sawdust last Friday was compelling both both aurally and visually. As it goes for almost twenty minutes, the work explores dislocation in a variety of forms - the artistic space between journey and destination or perhaps purpose and perception. As with her previous work shaping the sonic world of speaker feedback, Hedera takes otherwise unremarkable moments and expands and amplifies them to a point where they become not only apparent but undeniable.

2016-04-01 Lesley Flanigan - Hedera - National Sawdust - JPG75 (7 of 8)
Lesley Flanigan at National Sawdust

The base layer of the work is a sample of a malfunctioning tape deck. Above its relentless onslaught, Flanigan’s solitary vocals loop and layer to creating a chorus overflowing with idiosyncratic energy. The juxtaposition could be particularly elegant or menacing - though most likely it is is a bit of both. And for Flanigan, the array of electronics are more than tools - they are a celebrated visual part of the show. Though she stayed fairly close to the recording, which not as improvisatory as some of her past work with speaker feedback, wires and pedals again gave a visual form to the music showing not just the end result, but the mechanics that created it.

The bracing and eclectic program also featured Daisy Press’s setting of the music of 12th century abbess Hildegard of Bingen amongst Nick Hallett’s frothing electronics and C Spencer Yeh performing from his album Solo Voice I-X.

2016-04-01 Maria Chavez  - National Sawdust
Maria Chavez at National Sawdust

Ms. Flanigan's most notable associate was Maria Chavez. The avant-garde turntablist explored the clicks and pops of vinyl lps and 45s, the scratches of tone-arms sometimes with multiple needles and skimmed the surface of records. She even found scraps of tunefulness within the record's’ grooves, elongating and contracting spoken word, music, and noise. Most interesting was different jagged shard of vinyl combined on a single turntable. The results of this experimentation with broken records was impressive both as a sound source as well as aesthetic statement in themselves.

Flanagan's tour in support of the new album continues this Thursday at Bard College and future shows are here.