High Zero Festival 2009: Sunday

Running on fumes and spicy palak paneer, I took in the last night of free-form expression at the High Zero Festival. Martin Blazicek's inventive film projections returned for yet another inspired collaboration (this is Blazicek's Web site, if you're curious) and, as anticipated, the festival ended with a blowout.

Don't miss out on the free concert download from yesterday's write-up. And don't miss out on the two (two!) downloads below.

Twi Harper performs at the 2009 High Zero Festival. i i

hide captionTwi Harper performs at the 2009 High Zero Festival.

Michael Muniak
Twi Harper performs at the 2009 High Zero Festival.

Twi Harper performs at the 2009 High Zero Festival.

Michael Muniak

Twig Harper, electronics.


Download The Twig Harper Concert [Windows: Right-Click and "Save Link As"; Mac: Control-Click]

Under a single pinspot light, vintage turntables, various wires and machines, and a reel-to-reel player (with such photogenic red reels!) sat on a table. Baltimore's Twig Harper sat with his back to the audience after a spoken word invocation to the performance. The Nautical Almanac member and Heresee Records founder then strung a series of industrial-strength analog electronics together by tugging at the tape on the reels and sending cracked records and any matter of sounds through warped manipulation. While the volume escalated to deafening levels, Harper never lost control of his machines. He only egged them on.

Twig Harper recording credits: Carlos Guillen, live sound; Josh Atkins, recording.

Because this kind of music is best seen, Baltimore YouTube activist dennisovich has uploaded Twig Harper's set in three parts: part one, part two, part three.

Kenta Nagai, Kate Porter, Rose Burt. i i

hide captionKenta Nagai, Kate Porter, Rose Burt.

Stewart Mostofsky
Kenta Nagai, Kate Porter, Rose Burt.

Kenta Nagai, Kate Porter, Rose Burt.

Stewart Mostofsky

Group Four: Shelly Blake-Plock, guitar, feedback; Rose Burt, reeds; Kenta Nagai, guitar; Kate Porter, cello; Will Redman, drums.


Download The Group Four Concert [Windows: Right-Click and "Save Link As"; Mac: Control-Click]

As the night before, the final set at High Zero was a high-energy free-for-all. The performance was like a film loop of a train repeatedly hitting a car. Shelly Blake-Plock swirled cross-currents of feedback against his guitar amp and Rose Burt responded in kind with her baritone sax. Kenta Nagai and and Kate Porter were natural sparring partners: him unleashing a taut Chuck Berry scrawl, her pushing a fierce vibrato against the bridge of the cello. In the final minutes of the all-too-short set, Will Redman pummeled his drum kit, looking like a polished '50s drummer out of hell.

YouTube user dennisovich strikes again with video in two parts: part one and part two.

Christofer Varner, Paul Neidhardt and Kenta Nagai. i i

hide captionChristofer Varner, Paul Neidhardt and Kenta Nagai.

Michael Muniak
Christofer Varner, Paul Neidhardt and Kenta Nagai.

Christofer Varner, Paul Neidhardt and Kenta Nagai.

Michael Muniak

Group One: Martin Blazicek, projection; Paul Neidhardt, percussion, friction; Christofer Varner, trombone; Kenta Nagai, guitar.

With improvised visuals again by projectionist Martin Blazicek, this trio rarely erupted outright, proving that silence is just as powerful as noise. Both of my favorite discoveries of the weekend were in strong form here. Paul Neidhardt kept close to the kit and gave brief glimpses of Rashied Ali-like rolls between cavernous rubs on the kick drum. Guitarist Kenta Nagai teased just a little of the bent harmonics from the night before, focusing more on ecstatic chords and warped Dick Dale leads. The innovative trombone player Christofer Varner connected with Neidhardt immediately, echoing the otherworldly textures he coaxed from the drums. (He even took it a literal step further when he clapped a small cymbal to the bell of his horn.) The trio measured these techniques and let them breathe until a new voice needed to be heard.

Update: Now with video! Part one and part two.

Margarida Garcia, Jorge Martins, Kate Porter. i i

hide captionMargarida Garcia, Jorge Martins, Kate Porter.

Michael Muniak
Margarida Garcia, Jorge Martins, Kate Porter.

Margarida Garcia, Jorge Martins, Kate Porter.

Michael Muniak

Group Two: Margarida Garcia, upright electric bass; Jorge Martins, electronics; Kate Porter, cello.

I had high hopes for this trio, especially given bassist Margarida Garcia's doomy low-end discourses the night before, but nothing quite clicked between these three. Jorge Martins was a foreboding presence at his perfectly square table on a dimly-lit stage. He barely moved a muscle as dark ambient atmospheres emerged out of his console. Garcia and cellist Kate Porter bowed longingly at their instruments, perhaps to complement Martins, but the process ultimately felt laborious.

Killick, Ava Mendoza, Dave Ballou. i i

hide captionKillick, Ava Mendoza, Dave Ballou.

Michael Muniak
Killick, Ava Mendoza, Dave Ballou.

Killick, Ava Mendoza, Dave Ballou.

Michael Muniak

Group Three: Dave Ballou, trumpet; Max Eilbacher sax, electronics; Killick, modified banjo; Ava Mendoza, electric guitar.

Ever the seeker of new instruments, Killick came out not with his trademark h'arpeggione (aka "devil cello") but some kind of modified banjo. It had only two strings, thumb piano spokes and a rope to pitch the notes. And true to Killick form, there was nothing "traditional" about his approach — he tapped on the instrument, rubbed its sides and muffled the strings. Oh, Killick. The improvisation ran from touch-and-go reactions to full-on bashing with little notice, spearheaded by Max Eilbacher's Ayler-esque squawks. Ava Mendoza played her guitar mostly in her lap, but midway through the short set, traded avant-blues jeers with trumpeter Dave Ballou.

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