in a landscape

it's great when several different threads converge, and you realize how perfectly natural they all seem together. that seems to be the case with the concept of monkeytown in general, as well as the whole first night i went to see a performance in their new space.

in the fall of 2004, i had the good fortune to have shannon fields of stars like fleas respond to my call for an experimental band to share a bill at the tank (when it was still on west 42nd street) that also included akron/family. SLF vocalist montgomery knott was unavailable, but shannon and keyboardist ryan smith played an improv set. in attendance were a/v artist jeremy slater and video artist berkoy. ryan later played a show as a million billion with us at the final installment of angel's night dogs blood rising, where i had been blown away by experimental electronic artist charles cohen. i had seen the video and music work of adam kendall at DBR the previous year, and started going to his own night {r}ake, where i believe i met aaron halley. adam and frequent {r}ake performers vortex played a show in manhattan last december with tianna kennedy of free103point9 (which i first went to to see my first stars like fleas show), where i ran into jeremy slater, who offered us a show the following week which included aaron halley as well as video artist andy graydon.

all the while, montgomery had been running monkeytown, his mutimedia performance space and restaurant. this past wednesday, the venue played host to {r}ake, which has been looking for a new location since leaving the confines of m shanghai den. the lineup featured berkoy with aaron halley, patrick mccarthy, and sean smith (also of socks and sandals), followed by andy graydon & charles cohen, and of course kendall & vortex. ryan smith and jeremy slater were in the audience as well, nearly completing the circle (sadly, neither shannon nor angel were there).

recently, monkeytown expanded and relocated closer to the de facto epicenter of williamsburg, adding a candlelit front room restaurant/bar. the back room is a relaxed environment, seating 32 people on soft futons, surrounded by 4 giant rear-projection video screens and an excellent sound system. the performers play in the center as food and drink is ordered and served, quietly and with respect towards the artists.

the unnamed quartet started off the night, with patrick mccarthy and sean smith laying down beds of rhythm and texture with laptops. it was solid music, but aaron halley and berkoy brought in additional elements that made the experience come alive. as dj north guinea hills, halley is prone to lugging around a turntable and pile of records as well as miscellaneous toys and noisemakers, using whichever strikes his fancy or suits the moment. tonight he spent a lot of time pulling in bursts of radio static and attacking forcing squiggles out of the fast forward and rewind buttons of the tape on his old school boom box. meanwhile, berkoy shot live grainy black-and-white footage, often in super-closeup, sometimes creating video feedback or her trademark blurry cloud effect. in the most interesting portion, she superimposed an increasing number of ghostly figures, walking in and out of the giant machines.

charles cohen is always a joy to watch and listen to, as he calmly pokes at his incredible buchla music easel built into a suitcase. beginning with sparse, bird-like sounds, he added looped layers that didn't sound looped, building in complexity and depth. hard to believe the whole piece was being improvised live by one man.

andy graydon matched him perfectly, starting from nearly black screens with digital patterns which expanded and became more colorful and varied along with the music. the most disturbing image was what initially appeared to be the empire state building on fire, smoke pouring out in a stomach-sinking visual echo of 9/11. then when the shot pulled back, it was clear that it was simply a smokestack spewing thick fumes from in between the camera and the building. graydon later blurred and manipulated sepia-toned images of the now smoke-free tower, like some slow-motion snagged and decaying filmstrip.

vortex take the audience on an exploration that's always interesting. shoko nagai plays a variety of keyboards, from toy piano to synthesizer, this time adding a hohner pianet to her arsenal. satoshi takeishi takes shoko's playing, as well as his own intermittent beats on small percussive instruments, and warps them through his laptop and a variety of outboard controllers. {r}ake frontperson adam kendall's video often starts off as something fairly mundane, but quickly morphs into surreal, dark, and psychedelic landscapes, this evening's monochromatic water towers and shifting center patterns gave an ominous industrial feel to the proceedings.

the evening ended with naval cassidy and the hands of orlak, but i wasn't able to stick around. i paid my check for the excellent vegetarian lasagna (amazing, unusual ingredients, like nothing else) and left, looking forward to returning.

the title of this post is the name of a piece by john cage, whose "address" was the basis for the first performance of this evening.