field report no.101619

LOCATION: Revolve AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Thalia Zedek / Chris Brokaw

OBSERVATIONS:
I have a soft spot for the indie rock survivors. Coming of age in the grunge era, I witnessed the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy: bands that would never reach more than cult status, snatched up by labels with outsize expectations of their sales potential. There’s no shortage of bands who were grist for that particular mill. Some of them came out the other end, and thankfully, soldier on to this day. Theirs is a will create one ought to respect.

Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw led the harrowing indie rock band, Come: a slowburn indie-punk outfit originating out of the Boston scene. Thalia’s career reaches all the way back to the early 70s, with Dangerous Birds, Uzi, then Live Skull. I’ve followed Zedek ever since hearing Come. Her low, raspy voice is perfectly pitched for excoriating tales that would give bluesman pause. Hers is the voice of hard-won experience.

Come did a short reunion tour a few years back, (that I caught in Brooklyn), but this intimate show in a local art gallery brought the two back together (again). They each did a solo set—flipping a coin to see who would go first—then ended the night with a handful of Come songs. They may have been through the grinder, but I hope they’re proud there’s still an eager audience for songs they wrote over 20 years ago.

Now I just hope Zedek’s new band, E, perhaps adds Asheville to their potential tour schedule, too.

NOTES: Thalia Zedek; Chris Brokaw
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.110817

LOCATION: Revolve AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Glenn Jones

OBSERVATIONS:
Sitting at the front a gallery listening room, flanked by his collection of guitars and banjos—each in a different tuning—Glenn Jones makes his finger-tangling folk songs feel effortless. Hands down, Jones is my favorite inheritor of John Fahey's American Primitive guitar innovations. His command of dynamics turns his instrumentals into it's own type of storytelling. Songs dip and swell, surge forward or hold back, like breathing things.

Before Fahey's reappraisal in the 90s, the lore of six-string folk was mostly an oral history, so Jones (like many of the apostles of the style) is an encyclopedic storyteller. He wove winding tales introducing each song—each tied to figures he's known. Jones grants you a glimpse of his private lore, tracing the titanic footsteps he knows he's followed, but he never fails to push those traditions further with his own accomplishments.

NOTES: Glenn Jones; House & Land
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

field report no.092817

LOCATION: Revolve AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Rafael Toral

OBSERVATIONS:
A very unscientific poll implies Rafael Toral's fans are split along the two portions of his career. I've found little overlap between his ambient-electronic guitar manipulation pieces and his  homemade electronics improvisations. While I've enjoyed both, it's by dint of viewing the two phases of Toral's work-to-date as if by separate artists.

When I heard this show announced in a preamble to the Daniel Levin show (the week before) at Revolve, I could hardly believe it. That he would play a gallery space in Asheville, NC, seemed too improbable. Toral's work seems so isolated and niche, I counted myself lucky catching him a few years ago, in NYC.

Toral performs with smaell, curious, make-shift electronic devices that seem homemade. Many of them work, on some level, with feedback. This emphasizes gesture, making him move his arms in wide sweeps to control the sound, occasionally using his body as a dampener. The delicacy of his control, his expressive touch with these somewhat crude tools is nothing short of impressive.

Unfortunately the tools themselves are not nearly as expressive as he is. Monophonic and with a throttled tonal range, he wrings everything possible from them, yet it can still feel two dimensional. I would rather, given a chance to see him again, catch a duo or trio setting. He'd thrive in a scenario where there's something for him to play off. He could even introduce some expansion effects—variable delay or reverb—to add a depth of dynamics to the sound.

NOTES: Rafael Toral; ANKA
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.092217

LOCATION: Revolve AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Daniel Levin

OBSERVATIONS:
I'd only just caught wind of Daniel Levin with the recent Live at Firehouse 12 set. I was busy playing catch-up with his discography (as is my wont) when I saw this show, in an Asheville gallery space, announced. The relative scarcity of high calibre of improvised music in our remote region made it must-see for me and the (maybe) 50-or-so people who could cram into Revolve's listening space this night.

The solo performance we witnessed was in the Tristan Honsinger / Tom Cora tradition: the cello serves as a resonant sounding board to be tapped, scraped and rubbed with any traditional soundings relegated to mere filigree. At times it's a more of a focal point for the activity around it, almost a prop to remind us of the performance's musical origins. Yet, it's hard not to search for the rhythmic pulse at the heart of it all, even as he stomps the earth and flaps crumpled pages of a notebook about, arms outstretched. Such is our minds' visceral need to order sound, no matter how abstract.

NOTES: Daniel Levin, solo; Sonic Parlour & Constance Humphries
PRESENT: AMS