Synconation: Space Is The Place

This year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival is already looking like a full weekend– with performances from Sonny Rollins, Madeleine Peyroux, and Chick Corea among the highlights—and yet, one late breaking piece of news really makes the weekend for me. Orlando-area improviser/composer/jazz scholar Jim Ivy is going to stage a musical commemoration to Sun Ra and the Intergalactic Arkestra! Joined by the cream of avant-jazz musicians from around the state, Ivy will lead his ad-hoc Angel Race Big Band through a selection Of Sun Ra’s most dizzying works as part of the opening of the +Solo Gallery and in recognition of the Man From Saturn’s life and work. Any attempt on my part to sum up the cosmic life and work of Sun Ra, a man whom the New York Times hailed as “open of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz,” would fall pitifully short. So let’s leave it to Jim Ivy…

I hear tell you’re doing a full-on Sun Ra/Arkestra commemoration for the grand opening of +Solo? This is incredibly exciting. How did it all come about?

Jacksonville’s own Jamison Williams, saxmaniac extraordinaire, and founder of +Solo, invited me to perform at the grand opening of the +Solo Gallery. I tend to challenge myself in conceiving performances that are very different from each other. This gives an edge of unfamiliarity that calls for fresh eyes and ears to each new approach. I’m not really interested in covering the same grounds.

The grand opening of +Solo sort of coincided with the anniversary of the passing of Sun Ra (May 30, 1993). Now, I realize that the nineteenth anniversary celebration is not as typical as the twentieth, but I’ve never been one to be patient. So I notated a few themes that I felt fit nicely together and were themes Sun Ra used often in performances, then sent out a call for participants.

Who are some of the players involved? Are there any particular albums you’ll be focusing on? The Arkestra was very much a visual experience as well as a sonic one, will you be approximating their costumes as?

The ensemble consists of musicians from all over Florida: Steven Bristol, piano, keyboards, and Jeff Abbott, drums, percussion, are from Miami, Kris Gruda, guitar, is from Winter Park,  Jason Dean Arnold, baritone and tenor saxophones, trumpet, and Joseph Arnold, drums, percussion, are from north FL, A.J. Herring, trombone, is from Gainesville, and Jamison Williams, soprano saxophone, is from Jacksonville.

We will be concentrating on pieces that Sun Ra wrote between the late 50s to mid 70s, but performed throughout the lifespan of the Arkestra. I wanted the themes to fit together in a single semi-conducted piece and be fairly familiar themes, as they will be used more for jumping points.

The Sun Ra Arkestra is a very visual experience. That said, I’m not impersonating the Arkestra and will not be dressing in costume for the event. If the participants wish to perform “in character” they are certainly welcome to, but not required. Besides, I could never pull off that style. Sun Ra was one of a kind.

However, a more pertinent aspect of Sun Ra performances that I will try to simulate is his method of conducting the ensemble. I was very fortunate to have witnessed over a dozen Sun Ra shows before his passing and have a pretty good feel for what I’ll attempt. Unfortunately, as the musicians are from all over, there will be no opportunity to rehearse, so I will need to keep the conducting to a minimum and simplify the methods.

Whenabouts will you be hitting the stage that evening? And are you doing any other performances either solo or in smaller ensembles that night?

The Sun Ra set will be at 8pm Friday, May 25th. I wanted to give it plenty of time before the Sonny Rollins gig, as we will all be going to see him. I’ll also be part of the Trapbomb set later that evening. Everything else is still up in the air.

Why, to you, is Sun Ra such a pivotal figure in music?

Sun Ra, in all his glory, is unique to all music, not just jazz or avant garde. His influence is felt far beyond those categories and can be heard in music from Sonic Youth to John Coltrane to the MC5 to Moondog to Hieroglyphic Being to the Beastie Boys to George Clinton to The Residents to Public Enemy.

His uniqueness saturated not just the music he wrote, but all aspects of his life, from his philosophy to his cultural stance, even his approach to race relations, all of which made him not only unique, but controversial.

What was it that first hooked you about Sun Ra? How long have you been a devotee?

I first heard of Sun Ra in the early 1980s but the experience of seeing him for the first time in 1986 at the Tropical Heatwave Festival in Ybor City sealed the deal for life. I became a passionate collector of Sun Ra rarities, I’ve got all but two of the original Saturn LP releases (those two are now available on CD), and traveled good distances to see him whenever I could.

Is there a particular album or piece of music you’d recommend to the uninitiated?

That’s like asking what food I would recommend to a hungry tourist. It depends on the flavor you are seeking. A few Sun Ra releases stand out for me, personally: Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy, The Nubians Of Plutonia, Landquidity, and Art Forms Of Dimensions Tomorrow. But really, it’s well worth diving deep into that history.

Will you be checking out Sonny Rollins at the Jazz Festival as well?

Yep. Gotta see the great legends anytime you can. Rollins is more traditional post bop that I prefer, but he has always been a phenomenal reedman and did, albeit rarely, dabble in the experimental, take East Broadway Rundown or Our Man In Jazz for instance, where he gathered the likes of Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones around him.

Jim Ivy is an improviser and composer currently residing in Apopka, FL. His main form of expression is using reed instruments (in particular, saxophones) but he can also be found performing on shakuhachi, electronics, balloons, and an arsenal of game calls and whistles. He has worked with such International artists as Davey Williams, Wade Matthews, Simeon Coxe III (Silver Apples), David Dove, Emily Hay, Jill Burton, and Doug Mathews. For more information, visit – jimivymusic​.com.

The +Solo Gallery is located at 107 East Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville. The event will begin in the early evening and feature free jazz performances late into the night. There is no charge for admission. For more information on the +Solo Gallery, visit sologallery​.org.

Originally published on Synconation.

Synconation: Jaap Blonk – Flux De Bouche

Okay, look, I know that there are two very distinct ways of dealing with hearing Dutch sound artist Jaap Blonk’s work for the first time.

(1.) This is a joke! This is a put-on! I could do better! (Then why aren’t you?)
(2.) Realzing that Blonk’s music is exciting and strange, but very clearly in the tradition of Kurt Schwtters (my favorite Schwitters story is when George Melly used one of Schwitters’ soundpoems to chase a mugger down the street) Yoko Ono, or even wilder and more freeform beatboxers.

Laughter can be a healthy response too at the seemingly improvised audaciousness and lunacy of Jaap Blonk; like the first time you heard Carl Stallings’ wackier cartoon music or one of Mortician’s one minute songs where the first forty seconds was a badly recorded horror movie sample and the last twenty was a gory burst of overloaded grindcore. This is truly out there stuff, and I think it deserves to be heard.

Jaap Blonk will be at MOCA on Tuesday the 27th at 7:30pm. It’s part of UNF’s stellar Cage Festival, He’s travelled a long way to perform for us. It’s free, so come down and see it for yrself, bring your garlands or your tomatoes, whichever – Jaap Blonk (or John Cage) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Originally published at Synconation.

Synconation: Nobfest Rising!

Three days of music? Wasn’t that how Woodstock was billed originally? Well, this time around it’s not a bunch of hippies in the mud and Pete Townshend booting cameramen off the stage, this time it’s scores of St. Augustine and Jacksonville’s loudest gathered to celebrate and raise some funds for St. Augustine venue Nobby’s. The joint has already hosted Quintron AND Japanther this year, so surely it’s desevering of at least some of your beer money. Overachieving promotor Nick Commoditie gave Synconation the logistical lowdown and some tips for getting through what’s sure to be an intense weekend.

What are the When’s and the Where’s for Nobfest?

Nobby’s is located directly to the left after crossing the Lion’s Bridge onto Anastasia Island. Address is 10 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine 32080.

Friday: Doors 5PM /Show 8PM $6
Saturday: 2PM $10
Sunday: 2PM $10
Weekend Pass: $22

Nobby’s is located directly to the left after crossing the Lion’s Bridge onto Anastasia Island. Address is 10 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine 32080.

Would you preview the lineup for our readers? Who are some of the “can’t-miss” acts?

Five of us chose some of our favorite bands that have played at Nobby’s before or that we are friends with. Also, there are gobs of St. Augustine bands on the line-up. Genres covering anything and everything from A Capella to organ ballads to punk rock. I’m personally looking forward to seeing Golden Pelicans, Hungry Gaze, Hot Hands, and Pillowfight, all from Orlando. I hear Dark Rides are tight! There’s a Ramones tribute band playing too…

FRIDAY:
8:45 – Special opening speech by Dave Wernicke
9:00 – Thunderhoof
9:40 – 2416
10:20 – The Cougs
11:00 – The Resonants
11:40 – Alligator
12:40 – Teenage Lobotomy

SATURDAY:
12:00 – BBQ/Parking Lot Jamboree
2:00 – Andrew Virga
2:40 – My Bicycle Emergency
3:20 – Gnarly Whales
4:00 – Mystery Band!
4:40 – Slough Louris
5:30 – Good Nights
6:10 – Party Drag
6:50 – Wooly Bushman/Pillowfight
7:50 – Dune Panther
8:30 – Hungry Gaze
9:15 – Hot Hands
9:50 – Caffiends
10:40 – Golden Pelicans
11:20 – Teenage Softies
12:00 – Dark rides
1:00 – Tubers

SUNDAY:
Dunk Tank, Parking Lot Hot Dog Eating Contest!!
4:00 – Honeysweet
5:00 – Garrett Oliver
5:40 – Critter
6:30 – Xmas
7:10 – Stiff Bindles
7:50 – Thee Holy Ghosts
8:30 – AC Deathstrike
9:10 – Casanova Frankenstein
9:50 – Wet Nurse
1030 – Rivernecks
11:10 – Whiskey And Co
12:00 – Tower
1:00 – Wetlands

What kind of work goes into setting up something like this? This is a very ambitious undertaking, especially considering the ridiculously low prices you’re charging for three days There are also a number of bonuses, like the weekly loyalty bonus that are not available at most other online online casinos . worth of continuous loud music..

I’d say this is about as DIY as it gets. Dave Wernicke, the owner of Nobby’s, wanted to make this cheap as possible; it’s kind of a fundraiser for Nobby’s. They unfortunately closed less than three years ago and then reopened in the second half of 2011. We are hoping this event will keep Nobby’s kicking. It is, after all, the ONLY bar in Saint Augustine that has legit, local and national touring bands play regularly. Besides Nobfest, all door money goes to the touring bands and to keep shows happening: fixing the p.a., supplies, etc etc. Basically, Nobby’s is the shit.

What is the mission of Nobfest?

Drink some beers and whiskies, see some bands, party and have a good time…what else?

Do you have any survival tips for attendees?

Ya gotta be a trooper, it’s gonna be hot and heavy, wet and sweaty in there, haha… Take a nap and hydrate beforehand, then come to Nobby’s and rage! I don’t know, I was actually wondering if someone were to enter the hot dog eating contest, would it be better to not eat that morning, or to have a little something?

I can’t help but notice that Nobfest is coming right on the heels oF SXSW; do you picture this as an annual event also?

Nobfest is Dave Wernicke’s brain child… I do believe this will be an annual event!

Does maximum volume yield maximum results?

No, definitely not, but sometimes that’s all you got!

While I’ve got you on the line, what other of your events should we be keeping an eye out for?

Commoditiebooking has three great shows coming up in April. Natural Child are back at Nobby’s  April 15th. Night Beats from Seattle are playing at Nobby’s as well on April 18th. Psych-garage rock type stuff. The Mold from Jacksonville and Thee Holy Ghosts are opening that one. But I’m most excited for Mark Sultan at Cafe 11 on April 25th. He was the first show I wanted to book, and a year or so later, here he is. The whole line-up is killer. Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands from Gainesville (a married surf-garage-trash power duo) and Woolly Bushmen from Orlando open. DJ Lamar from Jacksonville will be spinning as well. Lot’s of good stuff coming up, come out and support these Rock N’ Roll shows! See ya there…

NOBFEST 2012 Info.

Originally published at Synconation.

Synconation – Willie Evans Jr. – “Nerd English”

The unitiated might recognize the name “Willie Evans Jr” from an all-too-breezy hip-hop issue of SPIN Magazine, where Evans was grouped in with a number of MCs who apparently still think it’s 1993. Two problems with that: (1) It’s untrue, and (2) even if it was, what of it? That was a year where the musical boundaries of hip-hop were being pushed relentlessly. Anyways, one of the standouts from Evans’ critically-feted album Introducin’ had to be “Nerd English,” a heartfelt paen to the pop culture influences that shaped him in his youth, including Robotech, X-Men: Interno, Big Trouble In Little China, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and You Can’t Do That On Television, along with a thorough smackdown of bogus thug culture in hip-hop.

Where else are you going to see Keith Marks playing a crackhead, Willie Evans rapping to a Wildcat figure, the inside of Jason Brown’s fabled toy/comic vault, or Rob Roy playing something that looks suspiciously like Magic: The Gathering? Nowhere, I tells ya! Nowhere.

Originally published on Synconation.

Synconation: Mass Appeal Madness – An Interview With NRIII

Black metal is an icy, atonal howl that eschews the brotherly moshpit tendencies of so much other heavy music, openly wallowing instead in depression, isolation, and outright nihilism. It is also the most interesting substrain of metal in that, for all the rigid aesthetic and sonic parameters of pioneers like Hellhammer and Immortal, it most easily melds with other seemingly disparate musical forms, producing some truly fascinating hybrids. Which is a fancy way of saying that it ain’t all corpse paint and church burning. Black metal has variously assimilated punk (Dodsferd), shoegazing (Xasthur), avant-garde classical (Gnaw Their Tongues), folk (Enslaved), hippie tropes (Wolves In The Throne Room), and even trip hop (Lurker of Chalice). One of the most interesting offshoots that I’ve encountered recently is local (!!!) act NRIII. NRIII (pronounced “NR3″) is a nasty mix of off-center power electronics (think Whitehouse, NON) and black metal’s damaged scream. Essentially the solo project of one Ryan Reno, with the assistance of Robert Pitts, NRII has a proper cd out now, Solus Patior, and demands your immediate attention.

Synco: How and when did NRIII get its start?

NRIII: NRIII was officially formed in the early spring of 2010. Robert Pitts, my guitarist, and I had come up with an idea to make a very snarky swipe at consumerism by creating a performance art band with a variety of elaborate ideas, such as charging a $100 cover at shows, and singing only about the importance of wealth over everything else. The original music we were making for the project was harsh power electronics, not dissimilar to Whitehouse.

The idea started to progress from there however, as we decided to turn the project into a functional band. We joined together with drummer Jason Irvin, who I have worked on and off again for a long time, and got to work writing our first batch of songs. The extreme capitalism idea maintained, but the music transformed into more of a blackened crust, high-end assault. Heavy drumming, distorted 2-chord tremolo, and sardonic rants screeched out in an homage to such vocalists as Doc Dart from the Crucifucks.

This was the live version of the band, and we played a variety of shows during the Summer, Fall, and Winter of 2010, which usually ended with us trashing the stage, equipment, mirrors, and just about anything else we could get our hands on.

Schedule conflicts kept us from working on new material, however, which led to the band breaking apart. That is when the current version of NRIII truly began. I write and record most songs myself with Robert adding parts here and there when available.

Synco: What are some of the other projects that you’ve been involved in? You’ve been making music for a long time now….

NRIII: I started my first band in the late ‘90s. It was just another shitty, snotty high school punk band. In 1998, however, I began a project that lasted the better part of the next decade named Whimsical Fetus. The original band consisted of nine members that functioned like a collective. We worked in different combinations to chase any musical muse that fluttered by. The band continued to gain and lose members over the first few years until it finally settled with the core of myself, Jason Irvin, and JaMile Jackson.

The three of us tried to turn every performance into something otherworldly and primitive. An exorcism of the aggravations and urges of both the band and the audience. Genesis P-Orridge has likened Throbbing Gristle performances to a religious experience and that is what we were truly trying to evoke when we played.

The amount of shows we played over the years was relatively limited, mostly due to our personal rule of never playing a show unless someone else invited us. Additionally, at the beginning of the last decade, noise/avant/experimental music wasn’t nearly as acceptable as it has become over the last few years, which meant that we didn’t make friends with clubs (especially sound engineers.)

As Whimsical Fetus wound down, I began performing under a variety of different aliases as well as a number of projects with Robert Pitts, usually working the in realm of electronic music.

Synco: People might not be aware of this, but Jacksonville has a fairly dedicated experimental, improvisational music community…

NRIII: Over the last few years, the Jacksonville experimental scene has become much more vocal and organized. A lot of it has to do with the International Noise Conference held every year down in Miami. That festival has helped infuse a number of scenes throughout Florida, including St. Pete., Orlando, Gainesville, Tallahassee, and even Jacksonville. While our city has always had a huge group of free thinkers, experimenters, and performance artists, we’ve had a problem of solidifying and working together. This has made us a later bloomer in creating our scene, compared to some of the other cities, but it has also made our scene one of the most diverse and welcoming.

I did my part in helping spur the scene by putting on weekly shows in Five Points under the Jacksonville Art & Noise Society (J.A.N.S.) banner, which was an organization I had tried to put together a number of times since 2001-2002. I feel it helped, as well as shows that were held down in Saint Augustine curated by Travis Johnson– the man behind the Ilse Music label– which put a lot of people in the same room together. These shows were presented more like a community get-together and left most pretensions at the door. J.A.N.S. eventually came to a conclusion, but a number of other local experimental musicians have come together to put on great shows on a regular basis, including Keaton Orsborn, who hosted shows at nullspace, and the guys at Invermere House in Orange Park.

Synco: Tell me about the new NRIII CD you’ve released. It’s your project’s first foray into compact disc?

NRIII: The new NRIII album is Solus Patior, which is Latin for “I Suffer Alone.” It is our first full-length, and compact disc. Our first two albums released were cassette demos on Primal Vomit Records, which features a variety of great local black metal acts, such as IVES and Vomikaust as well as crossover acts like Talk Sick Earth and Ill-Tolerance.

In noise music and, to a certain extent black metal, there is an attitude against compact discs that I never fully understood myself. I imagine it has to do with the ease of availability, which ruins the elitism that a huge section of these musicians built their entire image upon. But I’ve always felt that if you have a message to get out to the world, you should never limit yourself. In this case, compact disc allowed me the best opportunity to reach the largest audience possible.

Synco: Is there a black metal influence running through NRIII’s music? The songs also seem somewhat more structured (and don’t take that as a slur) than some of your other musical endeavors.

NRIII: I 100% classify NRIII as a black metal band with noise influences, more than the other way around. I think there are a lot of bands that have helped increase the vocabulary of black metal to expand it much beyond the Darkthrone/Bathory/Mayhem blueprint. From as early as ABRUPTUM in the early ‘90s to more current acts– like Gnaw Their Tongues, Wold, Dead Reptile Shrine, or Black Vomit– the mysticism of black metal has broken free of almost any chains that the idea of genre has shackled to it.

As far as the structured writing for NRIII. After it became a solo project, and especially for the new album, I approached it with the same mentality that Scott Walker did when he worked on his album The Drift. While recording his album, Scott mentioned that he didn’t feel he was writing songs, as much as creating blocks of sounds. And then he would move and adjust these blocks of sound to create an atmosphere that brought you directly into his world. When listening to that album, and hopefully when listening to Solus Patior, the recording engulfs you in its darkness and doesn’t let go until the very end.

I spent the better part of a decade playing improvised music and while I do love it, you get to the point where it is time to grow as an artist. I’d hate to think that I am making the same type of music using the same instruments and the same mentality for 10, 20, 30 years straight. You have to challenge yourself to move past what you are comfortable with. To accept every failure and grow. I think that is the true difference between a musician and an artist. A musician might find that one style or instrument that they excel at and work with it until the end times. An artist is never content and is always welcoming and demanding change.

Synco: How did you go about the writing and recording of the album. What sorts of equipment did you use?

NRIII: The germ of the idea that became Solus Patior isn’t very interesting, actually. After recording $, which was the first album I made after the band-version of NRIII broke up, I realized that I wasn’t going to ever be able to play any of those songs live by myself. The songs have so many thick layers of guitars on them that they would only loose their power in a live setting.

With the new album, I wanted to make something that I might actually be able to play live; even if it was just me performing it. The first thing I did when approaching the songs was to strip away the guitars and work solely with electronic equipment. There is a lot of broken electronics, drum machines, synths, keyboards, and processed sounds that make the album. If I could make a sound with something, I grabbed it and tried to see if it would fit the particular song I was working on. There are sounds on that album that include the rains from the hurricane that came our way last summer as well as a metal fan. I wanted to set a mood and make an atmosphere that is unlike anything else. Where you aren’t sure where the sounds and noises are coming from and everything sounds alien.

Synco: NRIII seems a more personal project. What are you trying to communicate through this set of songs?

NRIII: Lyrically and musically, I feel that this is the first album to truly realize my goal for NRIII. It is looking at the depression, anger, and evil that is inherent in our communities, in our shackled capitalistic lives. I feel that modern life is a very soulless and mechanical existence. We are slaves to jobs, advertisers, televisions, men, women, governments, communities, and scenes. And there isn’t a way to solve any of it. Taking a stand against our current oppressors is futile, because we’d gladly replace them the second we had the chance. People are selfish, cold, and horribly predictable. You can find the same behind-the-scenes mechanics working in almost any group of people. This record was made to be claustrophobic. To represent the panic, depression, fear, and pain that we all carry inside ourselves and attempt to hide, bury, or in some cases, revel and celebrate.

When we played live shows, I would usually alter lyrics and begin ranting at the audience with whatever was on my mind. At the time it was to be antagonistic. We were welcoming confrontation. What I realized while looking out at the audience was that they were paralyzed. Maybe because they agreed with me. Maybe because they happily accepted their place. They were an audience. They watched the rock-n-roll show. They clapped during the breaks in songs. They waited for the band they came to see. They went home. It doesn’t matter if someone cut them down; because he had a microphone, it was part of the show.

These interactions really brought home a lot of ideas that had been running through my head for most of my adult life. I was always waiting for that moment when everyone became lucid. When people started to see just how simple life really is, but how difficult we’ve made it in the name of progress. The world isn’t a cold and cruel place; the world is a simple blank canvas that runs on some of the most rudimentary set of rules that even amoebas are capable of maneuvering their way through it. Humans are cold and cruel, if for no other reason because of our urge to conform, follow rules, and be accepted at any cost. The group might be different, it might be concertgoers at a local metal show, it might be in an executive board meeting, but the thought processes are the same. But people don’t wake up to this fact. And even if they are conscious of it, they conform to it all the same.

With this album I tried to make music and lyrics that expressed the sadness and confusion inside of all of us. We are letting other people feed off of us and take our humanity. Maybe by enclosing people in the sounds of their anguish they will wake up and start the long process of freeing themselves.

Synco: Where can we get your music? Physical (yay!) and virtual (boo!)….

NRIII: The first two tapes were limited pressed, which has made them hard to find. Ebay usually has copies of “$” cropping up here and there and if you search you might find a distro with the self-titled release. The PVR demos were reissued last year as a Professional CD-R and is available, along with Solus Patior by visiting www​.neondoom​.com/​n​r​iii You can also purchase either of the CD releases as digital downloads from Amazon​.com.