Lesley Flanigan at The Fuse Factory’s Frequency Friday

Lesley Flanigan performing in Columbus as part of the Fuse Factory's Frequency Fridays series (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)
Lesley Flanigan performing in Columbus as part of the Fuse Factory’s Frequency Fridays series (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Wild Goose Creative, at the bottom of Summit St. in Columbus, is a far cry from Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, the last place I saw Lesley Flanigan perform. About 400 miles and God only knows how many seats separate the two venues. One, the picture of intimacy, the other the epitome of the Big Stage, with a stage so big it could swallow the former whole—many times over. Friday’s show, part of the Fuse Factory‘s Frequency Fridays series, was of the former variety.

It cannot be easy presenting an electronic music series in a city where DIY and garage bands dominate landscape and synthetic dubstep is the most readily available electronic music. And yet, Columbus isn’t without it’s electro-acoustic bright spots, Brian Harnetty, Masterer of Appalachian field recordings (and favored collaborator of Will Oldham) being among the most obvious examples. Within that community, Fuse Factory plays an important role in bringing national acts to Columbus as well as spotlighting local talent, like Tone Elevator, who opened the show Friday.

Peter and Jessica at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)
Peter and Jessica at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

A small setting, like Wild Goose—with two dozen folding chairs set only a few feet from the performers—leaves little to the imagination. That immediacy, the intimacy, far from being a hindrance to the music, breathes new life into the listening experience. While the sight of a dubstep DJ propped in his perch pumping phat beatz into the club can truly be one of the most mind-numbing sights in all of music, even a slight cable malfunction early on in the Tone Elevator set injects a bit of dramatic tension into the music’s emergence from nearly-white noise while Tenori-On lights blink white from a tabletop corner. In the hands of Peter and Jessica Speer, incidental sounds like the chirping of birds and presidential speeches take on the form of intentional music.

Sound is a visceral thing. In purely physical terms, it is a disturbance, a disruption. The entire history of music is little more than the story of man’s effort to harness and control those disturbances. In an earlier Skype interview with Lesley Flanigan, we discussed in purely abstract terms the physicality of sound and ideas like sound sculpting. But at a distance of eight feet, abstract terms become a physical reality.

Lesley Flanigan at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)
Lesley Flanigan at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Less a “glimpse of the artist at work” and more an entering into the work, the relationship between recording and live experience is more akin to the difference between visiting the Rothko Chapel website and entering the Rothko Chapel—one is interesting on an abstract intellectual level, the other is a conflation of small and broad strokes into a confrontation with one’s own mortality.

I won’t go so far as to say “I saw God Friday night”—I would hate to saddle any artist with such immense responsibility, and besides, it would be a lie—but I saw many other things. A twist of the wrist and sudden scrape of microphone against speaker cone. The near-violent trembling of a small piezo confronted with the presence of its own sonic reflection. In short (to borrow and adapt a phrase from EJ Koh*), I saw the Thingness of Sound.

And that is the importance of a series like Frequency Fridays. In a world super-saturated with passive listening experiences, artists like Lesley Flanigan are taking incidental noises and even minor annoyances like electronic feedback—the sounds of everyday life that so many of us go out of our way to drown out of our lives with our earbuds and iPods—and molding them into new forms, giving the intangible a physical presence.

Fuse Factory have an annual Frequency Friday crowd-funding drive (to pay artist fees and expenses, the usual). There is one week remaining in the current drive. If you’d like to donate, there’s an indiegogo page here.

*We’ll get to EJ Koh soon, hopefully next week.


Cathedral City – at home in the in between

Leaving the majesty of the Modernist and Deco-dotted Chicago skyline behind me, I lived in Columbus, OH for many years before discovering any beauty in its architecture. But I’d cast my sight too high, in search of drama rather than subtlety. It was only three years ago that I happen upon—or rather into—the work of Peter Eisenman, the master of deconstructivism. I walked up an incline that I could have sworn sloped to downhill (to a performance space where, later that night, I would first meet Shara Worden) and was immediately seduced by the paradoxical instability of it all. Later, I would find a book about Eisenman (Blurred Zones: Investigations of the Interstitial) and in it, a new obsession.

interstice – the narrow space between parts
interstitial – the things that live there

It is there, in that crack between genres, where Missy Mazzoli and post-chamber rock quintet Victoire have established themselves. Victoire first drew the attention of critics with an EP, A Door Into the Dark, released exclusively through eMusic in the 2009. Eighteen months later (September 28) will see the official release of their debut LP, Cathedral City, on New Amsterdam.

It is rare that an artist ticks all my boxes—glitchy lo-fi electronics, rhythmic instability, microtones, meandering melodies, ostinato, and sampled vocals to name a few—and even rarer to hear them woven together seamlessly. And yet, with Cathedral City, Victoire have done just that. Eschewing soaring melodies and sudden dynamic contrast, Victoire opt instead for a drama built on subtle variation, rhythmic and harmonic dissonance, and asymmetry. It is music so intricately constructed that it is not until the title track, three songs in, that it becomes clear that Cathedral City has long since firmly implanted itself in your consciousness.

From the brooding opener, “A Door into the Dark”, Cathedral City builds through the title track and trip-glitch “Like a Miracle” to a climax with “A Song for Arthur Russell”. The album draws to a close with the ruminative “India Whiskey”, but not before calling on numerous new music luminaries including Bryce Dessner (The National), Mellissa Hughes (The Little Death, Vol. 1), William Brittelle, and Florent Ghys while evoking the spirits of Philip Glass, Giacinto Scelsi, and a sedated Autechre or Aphex Twin. The result is a distant voice, filtered through a fog of influence and experience—a voice that’s fallen through the cracks.

The Interstitial. It’s one of the most beautiful concepts imaginable: the water frozen in fissures that reduces a mountain to dust—the artists who haunt the cracks and closes of aesthetics. And it is here that Missy Mazzoli and Victoire have been hard at work building a magnificent Cathedral City.

Download: Victoire – A Door into the Dark mp3