The Children, Norman Westberg, Eleanor Bostwick at Striphanger, April 12, 2014
video by Clint Spaulding
Each month, the cutting edge DIY space Striphanger takes a break from its usual roster of local lens jockeys, and hosts an evening of music. Striphanger #4 on April 12 provided an evening of dead plane cerebral noise — a No Wave resurgence with nothing original or fun, but with an excellent bar.
First up, Eleanor Bostwick. Her set created a slow minimalist creep of three chord progression accompanied by atonal pixie chants and yelps. Her vocal range progressed from sad kitten cry to huge pitch changes, at times recalling Karin Andersson of The Knife. Things got interesting when stylistic electronic back beats gave her music more momentum.
Next up to bat is Norman Westberg. This geriatric troubadour armed with a Gibson hollow body and sooo many pedals made the performance more eh then ah. For about twenty minutes it was the same ol’ ambient gratification with a few rhythmic crackles ‘n pops that just made me think assimilation, not independence. Now, I’m sure that when he was coming up with his grand scheme in the living room, he was hoping it might change the world. Unfortunately, all I could picture was Norman, lost in the desert, with no cash and no way to get home. I get that most contemporary musicians dig the whole minimal sound, a big loop and a couple of chords for twenty minutes, which in my opinion kills the human element of anything with a beat. Loud, quiet, loud is a good for the soul. You need to hear dynamics to bring you up from the downs of the horrible play of life. If you’re going to copy Phillip Glass with solo guitar, GET A DRUMMER!!!!!!!!!!
The Children, comprised of former members of Swans and Cop Shoot Cop, provided a somewhat challenging experience to the crowd; moods of bliss conceived as pulsating loops, accompanied by kalimba, duduk, and atonal screams that brought the listener to the inside of a collapsing star. Vocalist Michael Weiner was surrounded by the audience. Standing in the center of the universe, his back was turned to them, (nobody likes a jerk) in a two piece woman’s suit, gauging what vocal violence he wanted to spring on the crowd.
Using zeitgeist-y imagery from constellations, quotes, and Egyptian gods, the projections gave the band’s performance an edge that would that would give a brainy joyride to the assembled hipsters. It’s been said that the Egyptian god Horus was the sky; flying over humans, answering prayers, and warning the dammed worked perfectly with noise from Jim Coleman using modular synths with drone-shadowy soundscapes. Midway through the performance I did notice a type of surrender from the crowd to the band, like an unstoppable force (the kids) that met an immoveable object (the band was literally in a corner of the space).
Honestly, No Wave is pretty much hit or miss for me. Combining minimal musical passages with snippety-snips of film seems lazy, and over the years I’ve witnessed an arc that trades the raw organics of guitar and drums for the Adderrall-induced noise shows that cater to the upper middle class white transient.
When you are on stage you become a piece of art yourself. Singing your cherished poetry into the mic, moving the body to the 2s and 4s, never having the intention that people are gonna get it, because sometimes they won’t or they just don’t care. Even though everybody has their own taste, you do need some type of rhythmic pulse that’s not universal, but maybe simple. Because just like mama said “its nice to see people come together.” Yet only you can control the things that you see from perception, meaning: maybe the musicians had a message behind their performances, maybe not. Cause we all like to go out on Saturdays and be entertained and waste ten bucks. So if there was one thing I appreciated about my evening at Striphanger studios, it was a wake up call to discover that the human beat is dead, damn.
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