So Percussion with Matmos, Tiger Hatchery | Museum of Contemporary Art | Rock, Pop, Etc, Experimental | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sat., June 12, 7:30 p.m. 2010
Price: $20, $16 members, $10 students
Formed in 1999 by four music grad students at Yale and initially devoted to rigorous contemporary classical works by the likes of Reich, Varese, Cage, and Xenakis, New York's So Percussion has since shrugged off the traditional trappings of the recital hall. The performers do without music stands, instead playing from memory, and over the years they've increasingly embraced multimedia presentations; they often write their own material these days, and they've developed a gentle, bright, accessible sound. For the past few years they've been working with eccentric Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos—they played a concert together at the Chicago Cultural Center in October 2006—and that collaboration has finally resulted in an album, Treasure State (Cantaloupe). So Percussion's pedigree is evident in their dazzling technique and intricate interplay, but the music on Treasure State—all of it written by members of the two groups—covers a much wider range than what most people are used to calling classical. "Treasure," the lead track, collides Martin Denny exotica and gamelan music, bombarding a simmering froth of tuned drums and gongs with soothing bell-like cascades, prerecorded animal sounds, and squealing electronic tones. The perverse influence of Matmos, aka M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, seems to be encouraging So Percussion to look in stranger places than usual for their sounds, and here they make instruments of beer cans, cactus, and bits of ceramic, among other things—though their tones are so heavily processed it's hard to tell. "Water" tops serene Reich-inspired steel-drum patterns with samples of sloshing liquid, surprisingly splashy typewriter sounds, and sputtery trumpet (courtesy of Dave Douglas); "Shard" and "Swamp" (the latter an improvised piece) deliver a kind of dry, dense funk, with the live drummers locked into synthesized grooves. For this performance the musicians will use traditional percussion instruments, electronics, and a variety of unorthodox noisemakers—including bird calls, aluminum space blankets, and of course that close-miked cactus. The program will include deconstructed versions of pieces from the album as well as some unannounced covers. —Peter Margasak



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