Tastes Worth Acquiring

by Josef Woodard

GIVING AN “A” TO Z: In the Z zone of the new
and experimental music cosmos, the big name may still be
Zappa, Frank, but Z, Pamela is
steadily gaining attention — and love. Since the ’80s, Z has been
honing and inventing her artistic voice (voice, in literal
and lateral ways). Her aesthetic involves electronics, spoken and
sung word, an amazing self-reliance — thanks to such technology as
the body-triggering “BodySynth” — and a hip accessibility,
implicitly posing the question: “Who’s afraid of contemporary

That question descends on Center Stage Theater when Z makes her
long-awaited Santa Barbara appearance, Friday and Saturday, June 2
and 3. She played Ventura years ago, in the Ventura Chamber Music
Festival, but finally hits our town, courtesy of the Iridian Arts
series put on by Robin Cox. His own ensemble will
also collaborate with Z, when not going it alone, as she does

Comparisons to Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk have long
hovered over Z’s work, but she’s really embraced her own artistic
entity. While her discography is mighty lean, you can get a taste
from the recent compilation, A Delay Is Better (take the
title as you will — she was first lured into electronics by the
digital delay, this album is a delayed release, etc.). Suffice to
say, Z’s Center Stage show is a hot ticket for anyone curious about
the music/ideas of the moment.

making their way each May to the festival FIMAV (International
Festival Musique Actuelle Victoriaville) in Victoriaville, Quebec,
is definitely an acquired taste. Noise gambits, free improvisation,
art rock, post-free jazz, and new laptop marauders are among the
fare, in one of the continent’s most distinctive and important
avant-garde fests. But if and when you acquire the taste — as with
sex or WiFi — life without it would seem empty.

The 23rd annual FIMAV gushed forth recently — 24 concerts in
five days. Some of the old guard seemed perturbed by the lack of
old-school jazzers. Last year, Anthony Braxton was
the special guest, in three settings (all now available via the
in-house Victo label). This year, the three-concert honor went to
wild-man vocalist Mike Patton, whose projects have
included Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, and countless other
odd side trips. Here, Patton brandished his versatility, in duets
with soundscaper Christian Fennesz and
then-rapper/beatbox king Rahzel on closing night.
Patton also wailed excellently with the Italian art rock outfit

, who went through local schools and has become the
finest Santa Barbara-grown jazz drummer, hasn’t lived here for
decades. But fans hereabouts can track a brilliant,
semi-underground career, with Tim Berne and other offbeat
N.Y.C.-based projects. Rainey was a surprise hero of this year’s
FIMAV, a critical one-third of an improvisational encounter with
guitarist Nels Cline (longtime L.A. “out cat”
getting wider play through his gig with Wilco) and Andrea
, accordionist/pianist with a textural flair.
Somehow, Rainey was the primary source of musical mojo, whether
venturing abstractly or setting up inventive, fragmentary bursts of
groove and rhythmic force. A musician trapped in a drummer’s body
(to quote his own joking appraisal), Rainey needs to make a solo

Speaking of notable trios, another festival star was the
progressive and young N.Y.C.-based
Fieldwork — pianist Vijay Iyer,
drummer Tyshawn Sorey, and alto saxist
Steve Lehman — who was recently making waves and
soaking up kudos. Hearing the trio live, you hear what the
excitement is about: intricate and hyper-empathetic, and arty while
visceral, they thrill in a new way.

For this columnist’s money, the real sensation was the
super-dynamic Norwegian duo known as Fe-mail,
being Maja Ratkje (voice and poetically
manipulated electronics and gadgetry, heard in L.A.’s REDCAT
earlier this year) and Hild Sofie Tafjord (French
horn and electronix). These women give new energy, vision, and
nuance to live electronics — artistic, non-groove division.
Remember those names. The future is still bright in the avant-garde
netherworld. (Got e? Email fringebeat@aol.com.)


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