Slick out that night

Wet again for once

Radu Malfatti, Erika Bell, Laura Steenberge, Ang Wilson

(Live at the Edgar Gallery November 30, 2019)

Large glass doors and fluorescent lights that hit the room sterile in the midst of the wholesale district. Distributed throughout the gallery were white folding chairs, stiff attendees, and tan canvases with textiles woven in by Myoung-Joo Lee. These fabrics, layered, formed patchwork still life representations of rocks, vessels, ants, plants, and books, domestic objects displaced sitting in the midst of nothing.

Ang Wilson began on modular synth shaping noise steady and alive, brushing its back, full of care, ready to challenge, a dry affront. Barely tonal and barely synthetic, the set was a tepid rush. Textures thin and brittle as sandpaper grain opening into soft tone and moving, waves never breaking.

Steenberge’s set immediately followed, highlighting the palette set by Wilson. Using a lightly amplified and equally archaic viola de gamba (the speakers for which, Steenberge told me, were placed directly under her, creating an upwards draft not unlike hot air from a grate), she enacted her own form of synthesis, steadily layering different instrumental sounds and voice, building them atop one another and stripping them away. Bow noise, string tone, and quiet hum coalesced additively, possible as layers and as a whole. The scrape of the bow inconsequential to the tone(s) produced from it. First it was separate, then together, then separate again.

Then a trio performance by Ang Wilson, Laura Steenberge, and Radu Malfatti. Wilson and Steenberge were billed to be “setting the tone.” If so, Malfatti’s contributions on bass harmonica, which entered early but proved sparse, fit effortlessly. Now we had a sonic analog to the patchwork on the walls: soft frisson, rubbing, patterns emerging in conversation, the arrival of a garden, variegated. There was motion throughout but not much, still barren, still mostly still.

Intermission until Bell, performed by Andrew Young and Jack Doutt. Twelve strings, guitar and doppelgänger, were distinctly tuned, complementary with rub. These automatons passed chords between each other. It was a clean break from that which preceded it. Compositional, full of decision, and decisions several times removed from the one making them. Set into motion. While I know Erika’s work well (I’ll be performing another piece of hers Thursday), there were new terrains and surprises: swells, tossing tones in a ping pong motion, a periodic return. Nothing static and nothing constant. A little more bare, it rocked and teetered, barreled along, light, blue.

Then, the lights, fluorescent and heavy. Rebecca can’t stand them. We left for Tony’s.