Happily, for the second week in a row, I found myself at a nice, small-venue show featuring an eclectic group of musicians and sound artists, this time inside the black-bricked confines of Liminal Space's Void Room, accompanied by the ever-patient Jeanine, and with my brother onstage masquerading as an occult detective.
I hadn’t stumbled across the two opening acts before, so all I really had to go on were the vague descriptions on the back of the flyer (if one discounts the internet, where I did a quick listen). The description for Vulcanus 68, to quote the flyer, is as follows: “Dominic Cramp (Evangelista, Borful Tang) and Jared Blum (Beaks Plinth, Blanketship) delve into the dark and hazy landscapes of the modern age”. Zachary James Watkins is described even more vaguely: “Black spirituals, Resonant relationships”. As we waited, recorded birdsong filled the small space, reminding me a bit of Birdsong Radio.
After a bit of a delay, Zachary James Watkins appeared in front of the small audience and commenced with his set. At first, there wasn’t much flow, and Watkins himself seemed unsure about which direction his set would take. The discordant sounds seemed isolated from one another. Things improved a bit in the middle of the set, with some gritty guitar textures and wordless vocals, creating a meditative atmosphere that had been lacking earlier in the set. At the end though, I found his set inconsistent. There were some good moments, and some moments that just didn’t seem cohesive.
Vulcanus 68 utilized keyboards of various vintages. I must admit to a lack of knowledge when it comes to the equipment end of this type of performance, so descriptions of exactly what type of equipment they were using won’t be forthcoming. The sounds the duo produced though were quite pleasing, especially when they gelled into ominous, rhythmic atmospheres. As I type, I’m listening to the Vulcanus 68 CD, simply entitled “2”, which I bought at the merch table after the gig. The music takes me places, mostly ones I wouldn’t want to visit in person – places that are blasted and bleak. Nice.
This particular Thomas Carnacki performance featured the usual quartet of characters, Jim Kaiser, Jesse Burson, Gregory Hagan (who I saw last week with Common Eider, King Eider), and Gregory Scharpen, the last of whom is my brother, so I must again mention that there is admittedly a bias where this ensemble is concerned. That said, even if I didn’t have any friends or relatives involved, I think I would have quite enjoyed the set, which was visually embellished by a plethora of small electric candles and some great architectural images, courtesy of Jerry Smith, projected behind the performers. After a false start, caused by the misbehavior of the reel-to-reel tape player, we were treated to a splendid, atmospheric set full of the usual pleasing sonic textures and strange juxtapositions. Instruments this time out featured such devices as window shutters and a robot butterfly. I didn’t focus much on what the four performers were doing, instead relaxing and soaking up the ominous atmosphere, which was bolstered nicely by Smith’s images of buildings and empty rooms filled with half-seen and imagined presences. It’s a good sign that each time I see a Thomas Carnacki performance, I think it’s the best one to date. Bravo!
11/25/12 update: Here's a video from the evening, shot and edited by Jerry Smith. Yowza!