Our live music columnist goes Dada over sound poet Jaap Blonk
This Little Underground
Published: October 16, 2013
The incomparable autumn concert harvest begins. Besides noting a special occasion to enjoy the one-of-a-kind Timucua White House venue, the Civic Minded 5 deserve continued credit for another original presentation (Oct. 6). For the quality and value (this show was free), I cannot overstate how much of a boon both this group and this venue are to Orlando’s worth as a cultural city.
Despite roots in the significant underground rock scenes of Chicago and North Carolina (with appearances on recordings by indie legends like Superchunk, Portastatic, Stereolab and Will Oldham), acclaimed trombonist Jeb Bishop is most famous for his free improvisation work. Like all in his genre, he exists beyond the confines of song, finding new and unorthodox techniques to completely re-contextualize music. But free jazz, for the most part, still eludes me. Call me a pop-music philistine if you want. Even though it’s laudably primal, free jazz is so philosophically loaded that it can feel like purely head music, offering little for the feet or soul. But, though it usually makes me want to go home and listen to bubblegum records just to get right again, I keep on trying.
Equally experimental but unconditional in appeal was headlining Dutch wonder Jaap Blonk, whose illustrious sound poetry career must surely have started when he learned to pronounce his own phonetically impactful name. To understand what his vocal music is exactly, you need to see it performed. But think about it this way: If beatboxing is rhythm, what Blonk does with his vocalizations is full sonic narrative with a scope wider than the average imagination. He plays and contorts his face – pulling and poking at his cheeks, nose and throat to coax sounds – like an instrument without limitation. He sports a sonic range that’s rivaled only by electronics.
It can sound a bit daft on paper, and maybe even upon the first few moments of walking into the room. But this isn’t just some Michael Winslow sound-effect orgy, it’s a one-man sonic odyssey. What Blonk does is more than pure physical and aural genius – it’s a revelation that expands the concept of vocal communication in a way I’ve never seen before and am unlikely ever to see again.
Although existing squarely in my personal sweet spot, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Oct. 9, the Beacham) has always been a little canny and slavish, often lacking the sheer thrill or originality of their idols. But, like the American son of the Mary Chain and Kasabian, they’re shrewd understudies with good taste. And they deserve the status they’ve worked to achieve.
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