Tag Archives: albany sonic arts collective

[Review: Location Ensemble, ‘S/T’]

The Location Ensemble is a motley 9-piece guitar ensemble whose membership reads like a who’s who of experimental Albany-area musicians. It currently includes Thomas Lail and Patrick Weklar from soundBarn, Tape Drift owner Eric Hardiman, Ray Hare from Century Plants, other Albany Sonic Arts Collective regulars Holland Hopson and Matt Weston, an Albany rock club owner Howard Glassman, Tara Fracalossi, and Jason Martin. The group came together in 2010 when soundBarn joined with other ASAC members to perform Rhys Chatham’s “Guitar Trio,” which has been expanded since it was composed in the late ‘70s to allow for six to ten guitars.

This self titled CD out on Tape Drift is the debut release of the group and captures their performance from last year in Saratoga Springs where they performed original compositions by three members of the band.

Thomas Lail’s “Untitled (All the Times She Loves Me),” is a gamelan-influenced take on alternative tunings used originally by Sonic Youth. Inspired by a live performance of Sonic Youth’s “I Love Her All The Time,” Lail took the multiple tunings found in the Sonic Youth song and split them between members of the ensemble creating two distinct tuning groups with one half of the ensemble using one tuning and the other half using another.The effect creates a haunting and dissonant sound that is still somehow ephemeral–at least as ephemeral as eight guitars can  be over the course of 18 minutes–with different parts shimmering for brief moments only to disappear as the piece moves through its three distinct segments.

Eric Hardiman’s composition, “Diversion #3,” takes an almost Krautrock approach in that it is propelled by an internally forceful minimalism. While “Diversion #3″ lacks that steady motorik beat of a lot of Krautrock, the piece chugs right along driving you forward with it as it incrementally speeds up. The piece lurches around, speeding up as if everything was frantically trying to move at once then suddenly locking up, only to do it all over again. The performance is tightly fused together but always on the verge of overwhelming itself and having everything be torn apart.

Drummer Matt Weston, the unsung hero in this guitar ensemble, shines here, pummeling his way through the song, dragging the guitarists along with him faster and faster in this big insane machine. His drum patterns are very physical in nature contorting the listener to the music, the repetition pulling them along.

While “Diversion #3” has a manic machine-type cohesiveness, Holland Hopson’s “Six Chords Every Rock Guitarist Should Know” has a much looser feeling almost to the point where the piece seems to be in danger of decaying right in front of you. It is, in a way, a call and response piece with Hopson playing a phrase and the rest of the group playing it back in turn. This creates a dizzying sound that spirals up with sheets of sound whipping around, building up and then falling apart.

Throughout all of this, one wonders what was lost of the performance in the recording. With seven or eight guitars fighting for space in a mix you can’t help but feel that the recording must fall short at times trying to capture those moments where all those instruments coalesce into something much larger. For those who have yet to catch one of the all too rare performances by the group this recording will have to do, and–make no mistake–it does it well. Each piece is great and the album as a whole is a fascinating listen for the three different takes on the sonics of mass guitar. But for the full impact of these pieces, one can’t help but think that this recording is nothing more than a tease for the live experience. Fortunately, the ensemble will be opening for Disappears (Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Brian Case of The Ponys) and Lotus Plaza (Lockett Pundt of Deerhunter) on April 18th at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany.

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Review by Andrew White


[Free Music Friday: Continents, ‘Live 1: 1.29.12′]

Here is a live performance by the Albany duo Continents that took place last Sunday at the Upstate Artists Guild benefit show hosted by the Albany Sonic Arts Collective.  Recording was provided by Tape Drift’s Eric Hardiman. For more Continents stuff, along with various other projects, check out the bandcamp site for their label Lo-Fi Kabuki Records.


[Visually Sound Sunday: Shape Shifting Shepherds Live at the Upstate Artists Guild]

Shape Shifting Shepherds

Tonight the Albany Sonic Arts Collective is hosting an event at the Upstate Artists Guild to help raise money that the UAG needs to stay in its current location. Here is a video from a Shape Shifting Shepherds performance that took place at the UAG back in August.

While you can read more about the situation here and you can check out more info on the show here, the short version is this: a very important upstate institution that supports experimental arts needs help to keep going. If you’re in the Albany area make sure to swing by and show your support.


[Preview: Crispin Glover, Cobra, Com Truise/Ay Fast, ASAC @ UAG

Tons of good stuff happening this week so on tonight’s show we’ll preview each of them.

Crispin Glover

-Tonight actor/director Crispin Hellion Glover will return to the Market Arcade for a performance and film screening. To set the stage for the two-night appearance, we’ll hear a track off of  Mr. Glover’s 2006 album The Big Problem ? The Solution. The Solution = Let it Be. That’s right, the guy makes weird music, too.

-Friday night, Wooden Cities will be staging a performance of John Zorn’s improvisational-game piece Corba at Hallwall’s. Those unfamiliar with the Corbra concept can tune in to hear a past Cobra performance.

-Also, Friday night Soundlab will feature Oneida, NY, native and Ghostly International recording artists Com Truise, along with Buffalo producer Ay Fast.  We’ll hear tracks from both these electronic beat makers.

-And on Sunday, many members of the Albany Sonic Arts Collective will perform at the Upstate Artist’s Guild in Albany. We’ll hear songs from a number of artists that will be at Sunday night’s show, which is being put together as a benefit for the UAG. The UAG needs help to stay in its current gallery space and the ASAC, which has worked closely with the Guild since 2007, is hoping to raise as much money as possible to help the Guild out.

Show starts at 10pm on 91.3 FM WBNY. Stream at WBNY.org.


[2011 in Review: soundBarn, ‘Valentine’]

While soundBarn is the experimental guitar project of Thomas Lail and Patrick Weklar, the name soundBarn also refers to a performance space–run by Lail and his artist/gallerist wife Tara Fracalossi located in Valatie, NY–which often hosts performances by the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. Furthermore, soundBarn exists as a press entity and recently published a series of poetry chapbooks including one from Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth.

The connection between the music of soundBarn and Sonic Youth is apparent on the duo’s 2011 CD Valentine whereby–true to Sonic Youth ideals–the duo utilizes prepared guitars to create sprawling tracks loaded with feedback-laced mayhem.

Yet, for a recording of some guys simply making noise with their guitars, there are moments throughout Valentine that defy what one expects. What is particularly striking about the recording is how, as the sound unfolds, the listener is able to find a wide range of moods and emotions to be enveloped in. There are points where the screeching noise drops down to delicate-sounding spots, where it then builds back up to a cacophonous clatter, or eerily shifts into a horror film score-like atmosphere. In other words, this diversity and unpredictability makes this one of those longer tracks that you are able to keep on repeat, letting the sound circle you while the shifting moods in the track color the experiences around you.

Surprisingly, Valentine, released by Tape Drift—the label of fellow Albany Sonic Arts Collective member Eric Hardiman–is the duo’s first release in the twenty years of their making music together. The single track that comprises the release was recorded live at the soundBarn venue around Valentine’s day (hence the name) with only minimal editing prior to its release.

Valentine is a great release and hopefully it will not take the duo another twenty years to release something else. Fortunately, the duo performs regularly in the Albany area, and at the soundBarn venue, including an upcoming fundraiser for a local gallery and ASAC venue the Upstate Artists Guild.

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Review by Andrew White


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