New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: sontag shogun review

Christopher Tignor Puts on a Tuneful, Enveloping Bill at the Silent Barn

Friday night’s enticingly tuneful show at the Silent Barn, assembled by violinist and Slow Six founder Christopher Tignor, could be characterized as an exploration of new voices in postminimalism…or simply as good music. Moving in waves, each act followed a distinct trajectory, both in terms of dynamics and melody. The trio Sontag Shogun opened: you wouldn’t necessarily think that an ensemble whose music is as stately and slow as theirs generally is would be in constant motion onstage. Pianist Ian Temple played artful variations on warmly neoromantic, downwardly cascading figures while his bandmates, Jeremy Young and Jesse Perlstein built a lushly enveloping backdrop with a whirling vortex of loops, terse percussion and icy washes of vocals processed with huge amounts of reverb and delay.

One of the percussion effects was an electrified paintbrush, delivering gentle wavelets, a miniature pond licking the shoreline. How’s that for dedication to a sonic mot juste? Through an elegant waltz, fragmentary vintage 4AD-style pastiches and long, cinematically shapeshifting preludes, the three moved, sometimes frantically, between turntables, a reel-to-reel player, mixers and that paintbrush, Temple’s matter-of-factly rippling lines lingering above. Sontag Shogun are at the Can Factory, 232 3rd St. in Gowanus on Sept 28.

Hubble, a.k.a. guitarist Ben Greenberg made his relentlessly assaultive, similarly reverb- and delay-drenched volleys of broken chords, played solo on what appeared to be a vintage clear plastic Danelectro model, seem effortless. But his split-second precise double-handed tapping was actually anything but that. Perhaps as a way of not only releasing the tension of the music but also the tension of holding a single position on the guitar, he’d pull away with an aching bend at the end of a phrase before returning to his sonic mandala’s spiraling, Bach-like patterns. Echoes of both Indian ragas and Scottish bagpipe music spun through the mix. He slowed down his first piece, reducing it to lowest terms to end on an gently elegant note. He did just the opposite with his second, throwing dynamite on the fire with a sudden menacing pounce on a volume pedal, leaving a long, pealing roar going at the end as he stood his guitar upside down, bending the neck for every keening overtone he could coax out of it, finally detuning the strings for extra rasp and bite. It’s a trick that goes back as far as Les Paul, and it was irresistibly fun.

Tignor headlined, a one-man string orchestra playing slow, plaintive, methodically shifting compositions with echoes of Brian Eno, the baroque and indie rock, some of them deceptively and hypnotically working variations around a root note. Tignor’s lyrical songs without words were rich with irony, frequent sardonic, self-effacing self-awareness and plenty of raw angst. He ran his violin through a laptop and Moog pedals that added low bass and cello-like textures, and kept time with a steady, emphatic thump on a kick drum. His themes unwound slowly like shifting banks of clouds, hints of a storm and then the real thing floating through the ether and then offering a clearing amid the mist. One of the pieces had distant echoes of plainchant, another a somber canon. It was almost unsettling watching him casually pick out a melody on the strings with a tuning fork: with all the processing, there was hardly less resonance than when he played with a bow. Tignor’s next show is an especially enticing one, an indie classical/postrock string composer summit on November 21 at around 8:30 at Littlefield with cellist Julia Kent and cinematic guitarist Sarah Lipstate a.k.a. Noveller.

Sontag Shogun’s Elegantly Trippy Atmospherics Evoke Brian Eno

Does Sontag Shogun‘s name imply that they’re weekend warriors? Whatever the case, they have a strangely tuneful, individualistic sound, part piano-based art-rock, part ambient noise. They’re playing the album release show for their new one – most of which is streaming at Soundcloud and Bandcamp – on May 1 at 8 PM at Body Actualized, 143 Troutman St. (between Central and Evergreen; M to Central Ave.) in Bushwick. Cover is $6; there’s also music by Aaron Martin and Living Things plus a listening tent for new site-specific sound pieces by the group members, plus “an interactive scented-installation, popcorn and fortune cookies.” Quite the deal, huh?

The new album’s first two tracks center around Ian Temple’s attractively melodic neoromantic piano, which starts off very minimal in both instances and grows more animated. There are also layers of atmospheric, sustained electronic drones and sampled dialogue, which appears to be random. The fact that much of it isn’t clearly audible adds to the randomness/weirdness factor. Let the Flies in is a pretty much straight-up art-rock song, like a Richard Wright Pink Floyd ballad circa 1970 with hints of Britfolk, trippy keyboard echoes and vocals that allude to Radiohead. The piano eventually enters on the heels of snippets of noise and samples on the next track, Jubokko, then builds to a moody, stately theme that itself gets looped before receding into white noise and a few bubbly effects.

Orbit Insertion references Eno with its NASA sample, simple theme and shifting layers of atmospherics. It segues into Beyond Wind Bey, the most psychedelic of all the pastiches here: it isn’t Revolution 9 but it might qualify as Revolution 2 or 3. The Musk Ox, an icy hymn of sorts, also evokes Eno with its simple, stately resonance. The album’s concluding cut opens with seaside sonics that quickly go off into outer space; once again, the piano eventually joins the mix, carefully and gracefully. It’s interesting stuff: just when you think it’s about to drift off into the ether for good, there’s a surprise to lure you back in.