Friday, October 22, 2010

Show review: Benoît Pioulard, Mark Sultan at the Empty Bottle, 10/21

Posted by Andrew

Mark Sultan
The Empty Bottle hosted quite an interesting pair of shows Thursday. What the night began with certainly wasn’t the shape of things to come by its end. Chicago duo Battleship opened with droning pieces akin to LaMonte Young and Double Leopards. Semblances of rhythm were occasionally audible before entropy would take over and erupt into cacophony. A projection of repeated and filtered video behind the band enhanced the trancelike qualities of the music. Their connection with the early show headliner Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) was apparent in that both artists create soundscapes more appropriate to film rather than solely music in itself. What I had noticed most about Pioulard’s set was what was not there. There was no backing band. There was no break in between songs, which in turn allowed no acknowledgement between audience and performer. The music itself alternated between a stripped down rural aesthetic and the conceptual and looping characteristics of William Basinski. As Pioulard is quite the proponent of incorporating found sound in his music, I had to think for a moment if the cell phone beeps emitted through the speaker were purposeful or possibly a serendipitous comment on the performance. No matter how isolating and bucolic the music feels, the threat of social connectivity is always imminent. The haunting tone of Pioulard didn’t quite transcend to the live performance, but new album Lasted (out now on Kranky Records) makes a great soundtrack for the autumn.

So after the more experimental and avant-garde artistry of the early show, the punks started to fill up the venue for the late one. When Chicago’s Mickey took the stage, an immediate restoration of energy was felt. Frontman Mac Blackout’s numerous journeys into the crowd ignited everyone around. The backing music sounded as if the New York Dolls kicked their own asses: it was glam without being posh, with nods to both T.Rex and '50s rockabilly. Keep an eye out for their debut LP out on Hozac Records.

The band were a perfect opener for Mark Sultan, aka the latter half of King Khan & BBQ Show. Performing solo with a bass drum and snare at his feet - not to mention some very powerful pipes - Sultan managed to eliminate the blundering one-man band stereotype. I couldn’t help but imagine Ted Leo on the Mississippi Delta. The soul and remorse of blues combined with the emergency of punk created both a playful and emotional atmosphere. A swaggering tune of heartbreak could easily transition into a searing blast-beat accompanied by ear-piercing screams. Since Sultan controlled the drums, tempo changes sucker-punched throughout the whole night; it's the next day and I still can’t find that missing tooth.

Sultan's live show is certainly not one to be missed. Luckily, he’s coming back in a week. Catch him with Deer Tick at the Bottom Lounge on Saturday, October 30th. In the meantime, pick up $ (also streaming on his website), out now on Last Gang Records.

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