Unjazz at Dead Herring, Williamsburg BK

Post Author: Nate Dorr

You may be sick of Baltimore (Why??), but do you know about the Red Room? Also, Talibam! return from Europe, Brooklyn sighs relief.

Had I not been assured otherwise later, I could not have been certain that Marc Miller does not have EBows concealed within his fingers. While bandmate Will Redman vaults around his drum set in twitchily controlled clicks and snaps, Miller, fingers just barely caressing the strings of his guitar, is easing out chiming chords that sound more like a creaking organ than any normal stringed instrument. Languid motions and twilight tones that seem to hum and glide throughout Dead Herring at the slightest touch. And then: a rapid shift to jaggedly tapped tones that ricochet in tandem with the increasingly frantic percussion. A couple blind curves later, the song breaks apart and is over. Another—equally strange, equally manic—begins before breaths can be caught.

Perhaps by now you’re sick of hearing about Baltimore. Perhaps you’ve had enough of the absurdist blacklight Bacchanalia, however much fun it might be, and whatever new form it might take. Chances are this isn’t actually the case, but even if it were, you wouldn’t be free yet: Charm City has a lesser known but also vibrant experimental and improv scene centered around the Red Room concert series, encompassing an almost entirely different collection of musicians and bands. It seems to be from this lesser known side of the city that we get the innovative instrumental proficiency of Microkingdom. Miller may be a member of classic Baltimore rock band the Oxes (reformed impressively at Whartscape earlier this year), but both he and Redman, as well sometime member John Dierker, all clearly have jazz in their backgrounds somewhere. It’s the only way to explain the loose finesse, the dissonant coordination they have on stage. Of course, their Myspace tagline is “no jazz” and it rings true: the sounds are too strange, the songs too rapid and focused and frequently tightly compositional (if chaotically composed) to evoke traditional jazz. In this way, they’re aligned with more outre NYC outfits like Little Women and Zs, projects where evidence of jazz training is turned to new and bracing ends.

Or perhaps they are aligned with Talibam!, their fitting bill-mates for the evening. Talibam! are certainly the noisier of the two, but as with Microkingdom, the noisiness they possess forgoes standard distortion or fuzz in favor of a harmonic noise of fast and dissonant notes piling up and cascading over oneanother. For this show, their first back in the states after a long stay in Europe, the core duo of Matt Mottel (fingers darting, as ever, over his synthesizer) and Kevin Shea (drum sticks spiraling, as ever, around and through his rhythms in percussive flurry) were joined by trombonist Sam Kulik, who lent a welcome support to melodic themes as well as contributing plenty of disorienting blurt and squelch to the more unhinged sections. Oh, and they’re all singing now, in a sort of shouted extension of the always surreal stage banter. Oh, and they did a cover medley involving Iron Man. Yep. In summary: Hey, Talibam!, it’s good to have you back in town.