transmission / transition

the above image is a good metaphor for last night at free103point9. it's a great place that began as a microcasting (read: really short range, like six blocks) radio station and has grown into a lot more, putting on live shows in their williamsburg space and other places such as the tank as well as broadcasting online.

the night's music was fairly freeform and avant-garde. the musicians often seemed to be transmitting from some other place, while they themselves were receiving signals directing their playing from another dimension. sometimes it worked, sometimes not. or maybe my own receiver needed to be retuned. in any case, the george steeltoe ensemble, pictured (barely) above, made a good impression with their spacious avant-jazz. the upright bassist (left) warped the low end, the drummer kept things sparse but moving along, the guitarist did excellent microphone and soundhole feedback in between playing well-chosen notes. the saxophonist (center) spent most of the set balanced on his toes, swaying while clenching his eyes shut, listening for the next appropriate moment to add his beautifully rough bursts of melodic fragments to the music. it's wonderful to see players who interact with each other well and know when not to play.

my main reason for going was to see nick forte, who has an excellent album called pasted lakes, which is utterly unlike anything else on schematic records. tonight he was playing in an ensemble called hellsbells. forte used very few effects pedals but worked with them just as well as when he played with a few more toys on the schematic tour at tonic last year. as then, he manipulated a kaos pad with his shoeless feet. tonight he was joined by a guitarist who played more chordal, delayed structures and looped rhythms, while a keyboardist tweaked a synth and drum machine run through yet another labyrinthine set of pedals. by contrast, greg peterson played a hollowbody guitar through a "brand x" amp from the 70's that gave a clean or lightly distorted tone to his simple yet beautiful and effective melody lines.

the set was excellent; deep, full of rich textures, and balanced between spacey and earthy. i hope this configuration of musicians plays together again. i found their name amusing, since there was nothing hellish about their sound at all. peterson told me afterwards that he wants the band name to be pronounced "hubble," as in the telescope, possibly to avoid the horror of people with no sense of humor, or those who hate ac/dc. in case you're wondering, i number among the latter, although i have a soft spot for the song "back in black".

the title of this post comes from tvc15 by david bowie.