Tom Carter, Dusk, Tanya Tagaq, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Ben Munson, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 19
Back in 2012, guitar experimentalist Tom Carter was hospitalized for over a month in a life-threatening battle with long-term pneumonia and was at one point put into an induced coma. We’re so relieved to be typing that Carter, known both for his minimal solo-guitar dirges, as well as his body of work with vocalist and ex-wife Christina Carter in psych-folk outfit Charalambidies, has not only regained his health, but also is currently touring behind this year’s double LP Long Time Underground, a collection of longform guitar pieces recorded throughout 2013. While the release boasts “no overdubs,” the presence of presumably live-looped and floating textures color in the backdrop as Carter’s felt, ominous, and momentous fretting wanders and contorts over the top. While Carter definitely stays in his chosen lane of stony and emotional guitar dirges, this album is probably best exemplified by album highlight “Prussian Book Of The Dead,” which crawls between 13-plus minutes of movement, warping from a drifting and spacious drone into a mysterious hydra of countermelodies. This show also features a collaborative set between two Madison-area experimental-music heavies, Patrick Best (Pelt, Spiral Joy Band) and Taralie Peterson (Spires That In The Sunset Rise, Tar Pet), and a performance from local synth-drone project Conjuror.
A film that makes the bizarro sexploitation sleaze of Andy Sidaris seem like high art, the 1986 Kenneth Hartford-directed sludge mountain known as Hell Squad follows a crew of Vegas showgirls (who also happen to be commandos) as they attempt to rescue the son of a diplomat who’s been seized by—you guessed it—terrorists. Painfully lazy, misogynistic, and racist dialogue clichés unfold as Hartford’s lens follows this group of women from a hotel whirlpool to crudely-produced combat scenes.
If the uninitiated know Glen Hansard’s name at all, it’s in connection to the flashpoint of exposure and recognition that popped up around Once, the equally brilliant and emotionally raw film and soundtrack he made with Swell Season partner Markéta Irglová. But jeez, you guys, he was also in The Commitments and he chipped in a song for the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone soundtrack. OK, so his movie career is justifiably centered on Once, but his output as a musician is varied, from his work with Irish rock band The Frames—which just resurfaced this year after 10 years with a new song and some re-recordings—to his aforementioned Swell Season work and his strong solo outings. His latest, 2015’s Didn’t He Ramble, features some nice looks for Hansard’s earth-moving pipes, like the stirring soul sendup “Her Mercy” and traditional ballad “McCormick’s Wall.” By some accounts, Hansard needed only an acoustic guitar and his heart on his sleeve to wipe the floor with Pearl Jam back when they toured together in 2011. For this tour, he’ll have a much larger band behind him so, if anything, that power should increase by order of magnitude.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 20
The Indigenous jazz series usually gives one local or regional artist per show a spotlight to play their original compositions. But the fall leg of the series will wrap up with something a bit different, tapping into the Madison area’s underappreciated variety of gifted pianists. Joan Wildman, Dave Stoler, Jim Erickson, and Jane Reynolds will each do some solo performances of their own compositions, then reconvene for a second set of duets and quartets. We don’t exactly know what to expect from this format, but that—combined the decades of experience and differing musical perspective each pianist brings to the show—is exactly what makes it compelling.
Say what you will about Joe Rogan (and you could really say… yeah, a thing or two), but you can’t say the guy’s had anything less than one weird-ass roller coaster of a career. From being the meat-head handyman on NewsRadio, to hosting the second coming of The Man Show, and then on to convincing people (with the help of cash-money) to consume and perform regrettable things on Fear Factor, and onward still to riding the crest of the first podcast wave into the position of MMA color commentator, all the while managing to get out on the road for standup comedy dates, he’s been nothing but all over the place. His standup also careens all over the place, especially in terms of quality, but there’s something fascinating about getting the undiluted straight dope from right off the dome of a guy who can recommend the best protein shake and a Netflix documentary about MDMA.
It’s been a hot minute since someone made a really great junkie movie. The Basketball Diaries, Trainspotting, Requiem For A Dream... Feels like we’ve been due for a really stylish “cautionary tale” flick about heroin for a little while now, and 2014’s Heaven Knows What definitely looks like it has the potential to end up in that echelon of classic drug-cinema. Directed by indie up-and-comers Ben and Joshua Safdie, Heaven Knows What casts Arielle Holmes as... Arielle Holmes, in a movie based on the memoirs of... Arielle Holmes. It’s a gambit that pays off, and seems to have kick started a career in acting for her. The film, beautifully shot in 16mm by Sean Price Williams (who also lensed Young Bodies Heal Quickly which screened at the 2015 Wisconsin Film Festival), manages to the same frenetic bleakness romanticized by folks who pine for the grimier pre-Giuliani New York City, so be sure to bring along the person in your life who thinks the more than metaphorical paving over of the old Times Square was a sacrilegious act.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 21
Oh, to see the looks on people’s faces when they come expecting a mannered, magisterial night of throat singing and instead get themselves keelhauled through Tanya Tagaq’s visceral, electronics-aided deconstruction of Canadian inuit music. Tagaq learned throat singing growing up in Nunavut, Canada and is a legit practitioner of such techniques as singing multiple notes at once and building rhythms around a complex array of sounds that range from breathy to guttural, but she honors those traditions with an unmistakably confrontational edge and sometimes uses her music to defiantly express her politics (anti-fracking, pro-seal hunting, etc.). Her 2014 album Animism uses densely arranged layers of her vocal techniques, shuddering strings and fritzy electronics to unsettling effect. At this show, Tagaq’s set will accompany a screening of the 1922 silent film Nanook Of The North, a documentary about Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic and helped to lay the groundwork for contemporary documentary films.
Chicago band Haymarket Riot has explored much of the rhythmically gnarled, alternately melodic and harsh territory shorthanded under “post-punk” since forming in 1999. But the band’s most recent release, 2014’s Recognize And Recall EP, is brutally focused, each of its six tracks dense and cutting. There’s still a lot of variety in the songwriting—from the guttural outpouring of “Binary Reticulation” to the slyly tuneful chorus of “Plans”—but it’s all executed with an unsentimental efficiency that makes the nuances that much more powerful. They’ll play here with the superlative and ever-mutating Madison trio Control, and desolate Madison post-rock band Tyranny Is Tyranny.
Over the last few years Madison-based sax and flute improviser Hanah Jon Taylor has been playing hometown shows a bit more frequently than usual, and in varying duo and trio formats—sometimes with pianist Dave Stoler, sometimes with a trio including a bass player who sometimes switches over to oud. He’s also been working for a while on an ambitious new piece called “Real/Surreal.” This fall he’s also made some space outside of his busy collaborations for a series of three solo shows, which wraps up here. Taylor’s performances have a powerful range both sonically and emotionally, from fluid melody to stentorian outbursts, so it’s more than worth watching him explore the solo space with saxes, flute, and possibly wind synthesizer.
The UW Cinematheque gives us one more Friday double-feature of recently restored, lesser known works from French director Agnes Varda. While last week’s two-fer was very much a French affair, Mur Murs and Documenteur bring Varda’s non/fictional approach to narratives stateside, specifically to Los Angeles circa 1980. Mur Murs, the first of the two 1981-released films, documents the colorful murals that can be found around the city, using them as a jumping-off point to dig deeper into late-’70s / early-’80s West Coast culture, while Documenteur, filmed alongside Mur Murs and incorporating some of the same murals, tells the tale of a woman (Sabine Mamou, who was the real-life editor of both of the films screening tonight) making a home for herself and her son in LA, experiencing all the dull-bladed existential bothers that go along with that. In a line that wasn’t actually a knock on Documenteur, a 1981 New York Times review remarked that it features a “flashback scenes of lovemaking so dispassionate it prompted audible yawns at a press screening”, so... be on the lookout for that, we guess.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 22
It might sound like hyperbole, but it really is difficult to underestimate the effect that Jean-Luc Godard and the French “New Wave” movement he helped found has had on the history of cinema and honestly the language of film in general. The guy’s 84 and still managing to reshape the genre with his 2014 experiment in 3D, Goodbye To Language. Just about everyone who’s ever so much as even thought about taking a film class has seen 1960’s Breathless, which marked the beginning of Godard’s seven-year, 15-feature-film(!), run of masterpieces which is bookended by 1967’s arguably lesser-known Weekend. Screening here in 35mm, Weekend tells the tale of a bourgeois couple (Mireille Darc & Jean Yanne) on a weekend road trip that immediately descends into one surreally chaotic moment after another.
Part of the deal of going out to see edgy indie movies is that sometimes you end up getting stuck sitting through something that is almost literally daring you to stand up and leave the theater. It’s as if the director’s whole reason for making the film in the first place was to play one long game of chicken with the audience who all volunteered to see if anything actually happens by the time the credits roll. Will Chicago-based filmmaker Cameron Worden’s first feature, the semi-plotless mixed-media (shot in Super 8, VHS, 16mm, and HD) experimental The Idiot Faces Tomorrow, and its two-and-a-half hour runtime full of pointedly repetitious scenes that purposefully (sadistically?) drag on past any reasonable length find anyone still in the theater by the end? We’d like to think that everyone who makes it to the end should embrace the bond they all share and collectively go out for a beer or ice cream or something. It really doesn’t get any more “Micro-Wave” than this, the penultimate entry in the Micro-Wave Cinema’s program for this season.
Formed through UW-Madison’s graduate percussion, Madison ensemble Clocks In Motion approach contemporary classical music with an omnivorous ear and dizzyingly versatile instrumentation. (Want to compose for them? There’s a memo on their website about a few custom-built microtonal instruments you should get familiar with.) At this show, Clocks In Motion will premiere new pieces from two young composers: “Day” by Chicago’s Ben Davis and “Mechanical Ghosts” by Nebraskan Anthony Donofrio.
On this year’s The Direction Of Last Things, LA band Intronaut somehow continue to find ways to make their mind-bendingly technical prog-metal palatable for people who would rather catch scabies than sit through a Dream Theater record. Don’t get us wrong, this album is loaded with blurry, dissonant riffing, pummeling poly-rhythmic drumming with breakneck time changes, and massive growls (this band does, after all, feature ex-Exhumed drummer Danny Walker). However, it’s Intronaut’s dynamics and melodic sensibilities that tie everything together and tug the listener along on the battering journey. Just listen to the soaring vocal harmonies in “The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing,” which make the listener forget that the sonic tapestry below, while nailing a groove, is actually engaged in a meticulous math workout. Similarly, on “The Pleasant Surprise,” guitarist-vocalist Sacha Dunable’s wailing works almost as a hypnotic numbing agent over a series of densely constructed passages that do a similar job of making sure the listener is absorbing the bigger picture, rather than only dwelling on all of the batshit meter changes happening below.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 23
We never thought we’d see the words “Funky Mondays” popping up regularly on the Madison show calendar again after Clyde Stubblefield hung the weekly residency up in 2011 amid health concerns, but there you have it: the legendary drummer and his “all-star band” are reviving the tradition with a monthly show at the High Noon. Based on past Funky Mondays experience, expect a lot of fun R&B covers and a playful, dancing-heavily-encouraged atmosphere. Proceeds from the cover go to benefit a new music scholarship fund in Stubblefield’s name.
Dusk is a newer Wisconsin band that’s so far released a two-song single, “Do The Bored Recluse”/”Too Sweet.” While the band has mostly been noted as a side project of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch, from Appleton’s mighty Tenement, the finest moment in Dusk’s output so far comes when keyboardist/vocalist Julia Blair sings lead on “Too Sweet.” It’s a rugged but harmonically rich performance that gives a ton of heft to the band’s eerily charming, country-tinged R&B. Madison’s Tyler Ditter (formerly of Pioneer) shines on bass here, bringing a nice meaty center to the ramshackle boogie of “Do The Bored Recluse.”
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 24
We’ve been eagerly awaiting a recorded document from Eau Claire-based modular synthesist and extended technique explorer Andy Fitzpatrick (who also currently collaborates with Bon Iver and Volcano Choir) and leftfield jazz bassist and composer Rob Lundberg since we caught the duo opening up for improvisational jazz saxophonist, flautist, and overall tour de force Hanah Jon Taylor at Thorps for the Strollin’ Schenk’s Corners jazz crawl event. The collaboration found Fitzpatrick using a rack of synth modules to process a series of Lundberg-led bass movements in real-time, slathering the organic tones of his standup bass in a film of delay, modulated feedback, and warped atmosphere. Fitzpatrick and Lundberg’s vibe should be a solid match for Chicago-based, experimental jazz saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson, who will join them on the bill. Parzen-Johnson’s sets typically feature a home-built synthesizer pulsating repetitively below his droning and minimal sax lines, as he dynamically wavers between pleasingly smooth melodies and droning, brain-prodding overtones. Worldly, one-man pop explorer Luke Bassuener will kick things off with set under his Asumaya moniker.
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 25
There’s a lot of stuff about music in Madison that would be surprising to someone who hadn’t spent much time here—for instance, our city’s wealth of locally based bands specializing in Latin music. (One of which, Golpe Tierra, recently celebrated warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba by traveling the Madison’s sister city of Camaguey, Cuba to perform.) The annual Latin Music Fest gives you a bit of the variety: the salsa, cumbia, bachata, and merengue repertoire of Grupo Candela; percussionist Tony Castañeda’s Latin Jazz Band; the Orquesta Salsoul Del Mad; and DJ Rumba.