Yr. Weekend, Pt. 3: Chris Becker/Rachel Cohen + Circuit Bending + Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + More

Okay, so now it’s Sunday, September 19th, the last day of the weekend, and although I’m still trying to recover from last night’s late, late, late Bright Men of Learning gig (it’s been a long time since I was at a bar ’til closing time, believe it or not), I wanted to give a quick glance at what’s going on tonight. There’s not quite as much going on as the past few days, but there’s still good stuff to check out:

Sun., September 19 – Binarium Sound Series, featuring Chris Becker & Rachel Cohen & Johnny Five is Still Alive! Short Circuiting: a Bending Extravaganza @ The Mekong Underground (2808 Milam; 8-10PM)
This latest installment of the {Binarium Sound Series} is tonight, and it’s sounding pretty damn cool… I’m not real familiar with the work of composer Chris Becker or his dancer/artist cohort Rachel Cohen, but I do know a bit about Joseph Cornell, who’s apparently the subject of the duo’s most recent piece, “Cornell Box” — the intricate, rough-yet-beautiful boxes Cornell built during his career are pretty amazing. My wife’s responsible for introducing me to his work, and it really is some of the most unique, odd (but still accessible) art I’ve encountered.

Not sure exactly what’ll happen during this particular performance, but here’re the notes from Becker’s blog:

As if by magic, the small sized dimensions of Cornell’s boxes offer the viewer a portal to the entirety of an infinite universe. This theatrical and alchemical manipulation of space and time is a point of inspiration for the box constructions, movement, and music for Cornell Box. The sound score — cued and manipulated in real time with a laptop computer in combination with a MIDI controller — is sent through four speakers placed to “box” in the listening audience. The order of sound events begins with an introduction of expansive “outdoor” sounds of New York’s urban landscape including subway trains, city traffic, and the crowded lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After this introduction, the aural environment is transformed by the appearance of several samples of piano performance by New York pianist Daniel Kelly improvising in an ersatz “Impressionist” style the results processed to sound like scratched and dusty 78 rpm records. Joining this collage of seemingly “found” objects are excerpts of some of actress Lauren Bacall’s most iconic scripted lines from Howard Hawks’ 1944 film To Have And To Have Not. Cornell created the stunning box Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) after seeing Hawks’ film several times watching Bacall closely and noting in his diary what he described as the “interesting Javanese modeling” of her face. With the exception of a couple of lines from her co-star Humphrey Bogart, I have only sampled Bacall’s voice from the film.

The physical movement in Cornell Box is contained within the dimensions of three box constructions built specifically for this performance. Rachel’s hands as well as the hands of Houston musician/composers Alexandra Marchulewicz Adshead and Michelle Yom appear in the boxes manipulating objects we’ve collected and arranged in homage to Cornell’s interior world as well as Houston’s unique cultural landscape.

I hope that for the duration of the performance, the combination of sound, sculpture, and movement in Cornell Box keeps what the audience is hearing, seeing, and remembering in a constant state of flux.

Beyond that, the other part of tonight’s Binarium, entitled “Johnny Five is Still Alive! Short Circuiting: a Bending Extravaganza”, sounds pretty damn cool. Again, not sure what’s actually planned, but I’m seriously intrigued by the whole circuit bending thing; I have to admire musicians who craft their own customized “instruments” from existing electronic devices, including kids’ toys…

Stone Temple Pilots/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Now, about this one, I’ve got a flat-out statement to make: I can’t fucking stand Stone Temple Pilots. Honest, they’ve annoyed me since 1992’s Core, and while I haven’t heard every album, so far I’ve heard nothing that’s changed my mind; right from the start, they felt to me like also-rans who aped whatever then-popular musical style they thought they could pull off. And frontman Scott Weiland‘s public dramatics over the years haven’t made anything better. So I could give a shit about them playing tonight.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, on the other hand, is a totally different story. I dig their overfuzzed, hazy-but-heavy psych-rock quite a bit, although I have yet to hear the new one, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo“Six Barrel Shotgun” & “Ain’t No Easy Way” are worth the price of admission all by themselves. But hey, odds are that if you’re going to this, well, you already know it. Right?

Runners-Up:
The Foreign Exchange/Sy Smith/Darien Brockington/Zo! @ Numbers
P.L.F./Phobia/Wormrot/Nibiru/VBT/My Fist Your Face @ The Vanguard
The Texas Buzz, featuring Floorbound, Deep Ella, & Potbelly @ The Scout Bar (Clear Lake)


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