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04.27.17 ISSUE Project Room hosted the opening performance of Bob Bellerue’s Ende Tymes VII Festival, featuring performances from Joe Colley, Jenny Gräf, TRNSGNDR/VHS, and a duo between Denis Rollet and Francisco Meirino. Apocalyptic and challenging, sometimes an endurance test.

Keiji Haino and Tony Conrad played a duo set at Issue Project room on Friday night. I loved seeing Haino play with Tamio Shiraishi last year; I don’t know if everybody will agree about this time but I think Okkyung Lee’s opening set blew Haino and Conrad off the stage.

Lee played at the back of Issue, darkened except for a single halogen light — giving her performance an eerie ritual atmosphere. I was far enough away that I couldn’t see her cello at all, just the backlit outline of her face. Acousmatic listening, though, only heightened my appreciation of the immense complexity of Lee’s playing. Though much of the piece was dense and noisy — impossibly deep bass scrapes and scrambled midrange saturation, with the high frequencies the only part that sounded like a cello — it always felt controlled, like the result of compulsive physical repetition, and so had a real form. I wish I could have seen her hands!

Haino and Conrad, on the other hand, ranged between two tables full of gear, but couldn’t conjure as much magic as Lee alone with her cello. Haino sang, screamed, waved his arms above a weird noise theremin, threw around his red devil-horns guitar and some kind of alarming amplified scythe. Conrad, who in his striped linen shirt and salmon trousers looks like a true posh weirdo, played his characteristic phased violin, a huge homemade one-string bass plank, and an assortment of other random objects.

I’ve come to feel, in a paradoxical way, that music can be more experimental when it’s performed on standard instruments. When Conrad’s playing a cut-up canvas with a violin bow, or Haino’s bent over a table of squalling electronics, there are a lot of sonic possibilities, but the one thing you know you won’t hear is conventional tonality. This kind of music often feels like it’s exploring a fallow, constricted musical space. (Right now I’m reading Adam Harper’s Infinite Music, which constructs an interesting spatial metaphor for composition which I’ll be writing more about very soon!) Standard instruments, though, aren’t limited to music’s antithesis, but can synthesize musicality and noisiness into a wider emotional range than either could accomplish alone. So the most effective part of the set for me was the one pictured above, when Haino played distended, echoed guitar while Conrad improvised on slide ukulele — they fluctuated in and out of consonance and clash, an unstable and thrilling tension.

Altogether, this was another incredible night at Issue, one of the most special places in New York.

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If you do have the patience and enjoy silence, and experimental music you can check out a part of Issue Project Room’s event featuring Julia Holter from last week.

Near the end of Kim Gordon’s performance last night at Issue Project Room, she wailed into a harmonica, her briefly abandoned guitar hanging from her shoulder—a signature moment of searing noise and elegant destruction. Gordon’s collaborator at the dimlit industrial-cathedral space in downtown Brooklyn was painter Jutta Koether—"the duo share an unabashed pleasure in disregard for technique,“ the program read. Koether paced through the crowd, distributing Xeroxed copies of a 1993 writing on the failures of advertising by Gordon’s late, longtime friend, Mike Kelley, the renowned visual artist, "anti-rock” musician and Sonic Youth collaborator. Gordon’s deadpan singing always has a physicality about it, but she felt especially present last night. Her performance was imaginative, tangible, and free; earlier, people had cheered. “What do you think this is,” Gordon asked, “a rock show?”
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Lea Bertucci: The Cepheid Variations from ISSUE Project Room on Vimeo.

Taking Issue

Anagrams created for the visual identify of Darmstadt’s month-long programming residency at Issue Project Room in New York, June 2009.
Each line appeared on an individual event ticket.

Poem: Juicers, roots.

Poem Score: I, Just, Or

Corset, Roe; I Jump So!

Rejoice! Opus Storm!

Eject Our Poor Isms.

Our promos ice jets.

I, composer. Jouster.

Jets or mice or soup

I eject sour promos.

Jeer I…poor, sot, scum.