Loren Connors at Issue Project RoomSupport: Isobel Sollenberger| Steve Dalachinsky
February 11, 2017 at Issue Project Room
Early last October, French guitar and electronic pioneer Richard Pinhas played to a packed crowd at an Ambient Church event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The show highlighted the reverberant cathedral’s natural acoustics, and Pinhas obliterated everyone’s ears with a dense, overwhelming dirge of noise that left little to subtlety.
It can be quite fun to unleash this kind of music upon an unsuspecting audience. In popular music, louder often equates with better, but it is far more difficult to craft nuance rather than turning everything up to eleven, to resist sheer volume in favor of playing with quiet steadfastness. One of the most understated shows I’ve ever attended (“slowest band in the world” Low might be a close second), Loren Connors performs a freeform guitar improvisation at Issue Project Room at the border of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Resisting the urge to blast listeners with distortion, feedback, or even furious playing, Connors savors his long chords the way a sommelier tastes an exemplary vintage. His strumming is tender, almost frail, gloomy and introspective, creating an eerie intensity. The guitar’s plucked strings and squeaking frets waft across the high-ceilinged space, allowing listeners to sink into the piece’s unhurried pace. At such a low volume, one hears patrons shuffle, and children (future experimental musicians?) shout in the lobby, the environmental sound invoking John Cage’s ‘4’33”.’
The introduction of Bardo Pond flautist and vocalist Isobel Sollenberger halfway through the performance heightens the mood. The flute is considered the closest instrument to the sine wave, enabling Sollenberger’s pure notes to flutter unfettered in a register above Connors’ minimal arpeggiations. Connors and Sollenberger weave together their instruments, with Connors sporadically receding for Sollenberger’s lone, elegiac notes.
New York poet Steve Dalachinsky has been sitting at the back of the stage the entire time. He signifies his entrance by flicking on a desk light, and recites a long poem with the music’s accompaniment, a frequent practice he engages. Even within the slow and minimal context of the other two musicians, the poetry takes on a velocity that would be absent were it spoken a cappella. References to “when the good pipes drain the swamp” and living “within these alternative facts” are familiar to any news reader, but in their new context, the words are distorted like a fever dream. The occasional political tinge seems unavoidable, though the words are not wholly bent toward this direction. Some lines, like the “terrorist on a suicide mission without a mission” and “the sound that can only sound like a sound” miss the mark, while others, like repeated imagery of humans as “abducted…the last of a dying species” and “let us feast on each other and dance” provoke dystopic imagery and sober contemplation. As always, Issue reminds us to challenge ourselves.
Connors’ long meditations can be heard on the Untitled collaboration with Tom Carter, Are You Going to Stop… In Bern? with Jim O’rourke, or the noisier solo performance Live in New York. If you missed this show, Loren Connors has another at the experimental venue Trans-Pecos in Queens on February 28th.