Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mob Mentality

Mobtown Modern: Too Cool for School @ The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

pastlife laptops and attic instruments (2004) - Erik Spangler
Brian Sacawa: alto saxophone
DJ Dubble8: turntables

The Anvil Chorus (1990) - David Lang
Steve Owen: percussion

Lick (1994) (remix by Hybrid Groove Project) - Julia Wolfe
Brian Sacawa: soprano saxophone
Matthew Everhart: electric guitar
Nathan Bontrager: cello
Joel Ciaccio: bass
DJ Dubble8: turntables, laptop

paint box (2006) - Anna Clyne
Jody Redhage: cello

Grab It! (1999) (remix by Hybrid Groove Project) - Jacob ter Veldhuis
Brian Sacawa: tenor saxophone
DJ Dubble8: turntables, laptop

Spinnin’ wax, playin’ sax and makin’ music with poise,
we’re the best, oh so fresh, and all the rest is noise!
- from the chorus of the HGP Anthem

Mobtown Modern brings chamber music to the street, and with it comes a mix of poise and credibility that leaves both the music and one's perception of it altered in its remixed wake. The ears are challenged and left a little more open after a good dose of schooling from a selection of works by composers just outside comfortably scholastic confines. The willingness to re-arrange - partially out of necessity and partially through a creative impulse to include turntablism as a viable part of the chamber ensemble - recasts this body of this music while remaining true to the sonic intent of these works.

pastlife laptops and attic instruments is a piece I've had the fortune of hearing evolve over a span of recordings and live performances. The collaborative duo of Brian Sacawa and Erik Spangler has continued to mold this framework into a vehicle for stretching out with improvised details. The addition of a digital delay to the saxophone pulls the live acoustic instrument even deeper into the pool of samples, beats and electronic textures. It also highlights the healthy expansion of materials as Hybrid Groove Project has grown into this piece. The inclusion of the chorus from the HGP Anthem as one of the samples added a tag of identity into the sound that clearly states the ambition and personality behind Mobtown Modern.

With Lick the remix transforms the funk-driven can banging into a canvas for the Dubble8 treatment of the percussion and piano parts. Samples snake through as the multiple pulse lines of live and electronic parts propel toward Nancarrow-esque precision. It's a different Lick as the cut-up video images completes a transformation that takes the Downtown sound a little further downtown.

Grab It! applies the remix aesthetic to a work already steeped in sampled accompaniment. The rhythmic voice part taken from the video that accompanies the live tenor saxophone falls into a bed of bass and drum lines molded along the mixed meters of this composition. A melding so tight, and so natural that the original version feels stripped down in comparison.

Programmed between the Hybrid Groove treatments was a pair of solo pieces. The Anvil Chorus offering a feast of metallic percussion and human-driven groove while paint box presented the theater of Jody Redhage cradling her cello on stage using the body of the instrument to augment the sound of a music box as accompaniment to an electronic track thick with cello.

In an evening marked by ear-driven textures the presentation added a cohesive layer of audience friendly atmosphere. The informal nod toward back-to-school nostalgia included video footage of '80s era Saturday morning cartoons and a table of complimentary snacks of fruit roll-ups and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on cut triangles of white bread. New music worth staying up late for on a school night.

No comments: