Balmorhea, Brokeback, Jon Mueller Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Thu., Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m. 2011

Over the past 15 years or so Brokeback has been a solo project for bassist Douglas McCombs (Eleventh Dream Day, Tortoise), a duo with McCombs and fellow bassist Noel Kupersmith, and a trio of McCombs, Kupersmith, and drummer Tim Mulvenna. No matter the lineup, though, Brokeback's instrumental music has been subdued and cinematic, sometimes reflecting McCombs's interest in the spaghetti-­western scores of Ennio Morricone and always prioritizing a sense of place and mood over adherence to traditional pop forms. The group has been silent for three years, but lately McCombs has been writing new material and woodshedding with an entirely new lineup—a quartet with Jim Elkington (Horse's Ha) on drums, Pete Croke (Reds and Blue) on bass, and Chris Hansen (Pinebender) on guitar. For the time being McCombs is playing electric guitar as well, not his six-string bass, and he says that compared to earlier versions of Brokeback the new group makes more use of conventional verse/chorus/bridge structures and covers a wider dynamic range—in other words, it gets pretty loud.

Last October Milwaukee percussionist Jon Mueller performed a version of "I Almost Expect to Be Remembered as a Chair," a solo piece for snare drum that fills the first side of his recent album Alphabet of Movements (Type), at Saki Records. For almost 20 minutes he played an airtight press roll on a snare, subtly rising and falling in intensity, and his drumming was gradually and deliberately saturated with an unidentifiable swarm of sounds—a high-volume recording of droning gongs, played through two small amps, each of with another snare mounted on it. The two buzzing drums were in turn covered with China cymbals, and as Mueller puts it, "This immense and dense sound is released through the small hole on each cymbal, so the sound wave is physically changed via this 'funnel.'" When it collided with the blanketing noise of Mueller's roll, it created a huge, detailed throb that filled the space with an overwhelming physicality—it felt almost violent despite how slowly and steadily it moved. On side two of the album Mueller presents a different version of the piece for small beaten gongs, with the same setup of prerecorded material, snare drums, and cymbals; it starts out meditative and calm, but soon approaches the intensity of the snare version, with a richer spectrum of tones. He'll play the gongs version tonight. —Peter Margasak Balmorhea headlines; Brokeback and Mueller open.

Price: $10, $8 in advance

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