(IS Too Records)
time I get asked about the identities of some not-that-well-known people
who in my opinion are doing intelligent, quality work in the field of music
right now, well, I have a long list forming in my head. But if the question
concerns not-that-well-known people who are doing intelligent, quality
work that is also somewhat accessible, well, the list gets quite shorter
- and Herb Heinz's on it.
I first got to appreciate him in the context
of those (not-to-be-missed) CDs released by Amy X Neuburg & Men - Utechma
(1995) and Sports! Chips! Booty! (1999) - his personality definitely came
to the fore on his solo albums, Failure (1998) and Another (2004).
was about three years ago - Another having just been released - that I
got the opportunity to interview him for the first time. I was pleasantly
surprised to hear about a new project of his, which he proceeded to describe
to me thus:
"My newest band is called dud. It is a large
improvised music ensemble, somewhere between art music and jam-band, a little
like The Grateful Dead, but completely improvised, with vocals. We are starting
to play local shows." Of course, I was quite curious about the
way the final result would sound, but for a long time I heard nothing in
the way of a "product" that was commercially available.
eyes is a nice surprise. It's a DVD-V (about 1 hour long) which presents
excerpts from various live concerts (all being
multitrack audio and video recordings which are then skillfully
edited and visually enhanced in the studio) in very good sound quality
(video, too), recording locations being San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland,
really didn't know what to expect, my idea of "collective improvisation" being
something that's on the average a lot harder to appreciate than the definitely
more "user-friendly" live material created on eyes by an ensemble
comprised of musicians, dancers, and visual artists. Though this list is
not exhaustive, in the context of this review I'll mention (former member
of Men) Micah Ball on fretless guitar and bass; Mark Briggs (whose
name is already familiar to fans of Herb Heinz from their joint recorded
project, Hmmm...) on vocals, guitar, and flute; Doug Carroll on electric
cello and vocals; Heinz himself on guitar and keyboards; Melissa Rae on
vocals; Sam Sheats on bass; Richard Smith on electronic drums (they look
like a KAT controller to me); and Tim Thompson on visuals.
thing I noticed was the fact that most of them were wearing headphones.
Textures mostly verge on the "electronic" side of things, with
drums, keyboards, computer and an electric cello creating a mixture that's
pleasantly thick, but clear all the same. Most members sing, sometimes
it's easy to perceive a story - some verbal counterpoint - being created
on the spot. Of course, there are tons of "genres" that get referred
to here. I'll just mention the "new wave/Devo" climates of nothing;
a nod in the NY Frith/Massacre direction in soundwar; some "60s California
music", à la Jefferson Airplane, on koolaid; also, weird dance/space
rhythms abound. I noticed what a difference the two bass players made,
with Micah Ball steering things towards a more "layered" approach
vs. the more "funky"
and "grounded" approach suggested by Sam Sheats's bass grooves
(some parts of religion definitely reminding me of mid-70s-era Gong).
I mentioned, however, are to be understood as being just convenient points
of entry for the listener, this collective being by definition a mutable
beast whose identity at every concert will be a surprise. And it goes with
no saying that dud have a definite attitude when it comes to life and politics.
This, I think, comes to the fore quite clearly in the way they present
themselves here. And though I suspect this DVD-V to be a somewhat inadequate
substitute of seeing them live, I have to recommend eyes: it's definitely
© Beppe Colli 2007
CloudsandClocks.net | May 1, 2007