Here is a video from our Reconnaissance Fly show at the Starry Plough in Berkeley this past August. (It was the same show the generated this Weekend Cat Blogging post.) It features one of our more challenging but also fun pieces, the medley of “Electric Rock Like a Cat” and “sanse is crede nza”, with music by Polly Moller and Amar Chaudhary, respectively.
It was our best performance of this set to date, and a lot of energy from both the band and the audience. So much so that we nearly had a disaster on our hands when our drummer Larry-the-O knocked over his hi-hat dangerously close to bassist Tim Walters’ foot. Fortunately, no one was hurt and a good time was had by all.
Last month, the five members of Reconnaissance Fly took a break from the recording studio to bring their “charmingly incoherent art pop” to the Berkeley Arts Festival in a concert that also featured the band Vegan Butcher.
The evening began with the debut performance the Vegan Butcher, with John Shiurba on guitar, Wil Hendricks on bass, Suki O’Kane on drums, and Val Esway on “occasional voice.” The band played several compositions by John Shiurba, all of which were written in January and exclusively used the “nine-note January scale.” The pieces all had inventive titles like “These Ones Are All Stretched Out And Bifurcated”; and Shiurba stated that he wrote the lyrics before we was completely awake.
The first song started out with a soft repeating pattern with quiet drums and a gentle guitar motive. Just when one thought this might continue indefinitely, loud drum and guitar hits announced the arrival of full-on rock mode. There was guitar with distortion and minor harmonies over a slow driving rhythm, overlaid with oddly modal melodies. The overall effect was reminiscent of psychedelic rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s – indeed, I thought I heard a bit of Nico / Velvet Underground in Val Esway’s vocals. You can hear the band for yourself in the following video:
Then it was time for Reconnaissance Fly to take the stage. From the start, our energy and vibe was quite different from Vegan Butcher’s dreamy and otherworldly sounds. Our current set based on spoetry (spam poetry) jumps around from style to style quickly, and has an overall humorous character. We opened as we usually do with “Small Chinese Gong”, which set the tone. You can hear a brief excerpt in this video:
All the recent studio work has paid off for live performances. We were much tighter on the challenging medley “Electric Rock Like A Cat / sanse is crede nza” than in previous performances, including those tough unisons. “As Neat As Wax” always stands out in live performances, too. This was also first time in a while that we included “The Animal Trade in Canada” in our live set, with a much stronger interpretation than in the past.
Reconnaissance Fly features Chris Broderick on woodwinds (clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone), Amar Chaudhary on keyboards and electronics, Polly Moller and voice and flute, Larry the O on drums, and Tim Walters on bass and electronics.
Overall it was a great show for both bands. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to hear it live, we will be playing together again on August 24 at the Starry Plough (also in Berkeley), along with Jack O’ The Clock.
Tomorrow night, Reconnaissance Fly will take a break from the studio for a live performance in Berkeley. We will be sharing the bill with our friends Vegan Butcher.
The Berkeley Arts Festival Wednesday/Sunday night series continues with the charmingly incoherent art-pop of Reconnaissance Fly and the gritty psychedelic honey-drips of Vegan Butcher.
The Berkeley Arts Festival space is located at 2133 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA USA.
Reconnaissance Fly is a band of composers who have reclaimed the best spam poetry (“spoetry”) for humanity, deploying jazz, progressive rock, funk, samba, free improvisation, a small Chinese gong, and an arsenal of wind instruments against the dastardly internet robots.
The five members of Reconnaissance Fly are Chris Broderick playing clarinet, bass clarinet and C-melody saxophone; Amar Chaudhary with keyboard and electronics, Polly Moller with flute, bass flute and voice; Larry the O on the drums, and Tim Walters on bass guitar and electronics. When not playing live around the Bay Area they are recording their debut album Flower Futures, awakening their inner Peter Frampton, and denouncing pineapple pizza.
Vegan Butcher plays music of John Shiurba. Only music written in January is allowed. The nine note January scale is used exclusively. The lyrics were written accidentally before John was completely awake. In addition to John on guitar, Suki O’Kane plays drums, Wil Hendricks plays bass, and Val Esway occasionally sings.
Suggested ticket donation is $10 at the door.
I have to admit, I like our music being described as “charmingly incoherent art-pop.” I hope we continue to use that.
Today we look back at ReCardiacs Fly’s show at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco last month. It was a great show of music in prog and post-punk styles together with experimental/avant-rock groups PG13 and Surplus 1980.
The evening opened with PG13, the “power trio” of Phillip Greenlief (saxophone), John Shiurba (guitar), and Thomas Scandura (drums). I had originally heard them a few years back at the Skronkathon. They did have the loud-rock-trio thing down at the time, but in the intervening time they have become more finessed and detailed without losing that original intensity.
They opened with driving syncopated rhythm and power chords. The rhythmic textures brought all three instruments (saxophone, guitar and drums) together. This was undeniably rock – held together by Scandura’s drums – but later sections did have a more jazz-like quality, which I thought worked when done with sudden changes in volume and texture. I of course did like that one of their songs (composed by Greenlief) was The Totally Unbelieable but Absolutely True Adventures of George Cleaver the Cat. Loud music with complex rhythms about cats works for me any day.
After PG13, it was time for us to take the stage. For those who have not read the previous ReCardiacs Fly articles, we are (possibly the only) tribute group for the UK avant-prog band Cardiacs. We model our line-up after the original band, and don suits and creepy theatrical makeup reminiscent of their appearance in the 1980s. This music is complex and intense, and challenging to play, but a lot of fun for us and for the audience when we pull it off. A few songs came out quite well at the Hemlock, in particular “Burn Your House Brown”, which you can see in this video:
“In a City Lining” also came out quite well. On a technical level, the sound was the best we have had for any ReCardiacs Fly show, with the mix between the amps, speakers and acoustic space balanced so that we could hear everyone even in the loud parts. And we were quite loud, appropriately so.
As always, the performance was full of energy, and we got a great response from the modestly sized but enthusiastic audience. The full lineup of the band features Polly Moller on lead vocals, Masc Laspina on guitar, Chris Broderick on saxophone, Tim Walters on bass, Amar Chaudhary on keyboard, Moe! Staiano on drums, and Suki O’kane on percussion.
The final set features Surplus 1980, a post-punk project led by Moe! Staiano with a rotating cast of band members. This evening features Moe! together with Bill Wolter and Melne Murphy on guitars, with Thomas Scandura returning on drums and Jason Hoopes on bass.
The band was incredibly tight rhythmically and harmonically, as if they had been playing these songs together for years. In particular, there is the challenge of getting all three guitars to be in sync, which they were able to do, will Bill Wolter front and center. And the group’s lyrics were often quite funny (this in the context of our just completed Cardiacs’ set). It’s difficult to recall any particular line at this point, but they definitely worked at the time. Most of the musical techniques were standard but with complex rhythms and phrases, but Wolter did have quite an array of effects pedals, and during one of the final songs Moe! pulled out a vinyl record which he proceeded to use on his guitar like a pick and destroyed in the process (the record, not the guitar).
Overall, it was fun night of loud rock music from friends and colleagues whom I usually here in more overtly experimental contexts. I hope our bands will get a chance to play together again sometime.
We have been hard at work on our first Reconnaissance Fly album Flower Futures this year. And things are coming together. We have put together this set of demo tracks Flower Futures Futures available as a free download. Enjoy!
A taste of our spong cycle and album-in-progress, Flower Futures. We set the fine spoetry found in our inboxes to music, reclaiming a sliver of botspace for humanity.
released 29 March 2012
Chris Broderick: c-melody saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Amar Chaudhary: electric piano, piano, organ, electronics
Polly Moller: voice, flute
Larry The O: drums, percussion
Tim Walters: bass, electronics
The first performances of 2012 both feature Reconnaissance Fly with our new expanded lineup. Chris Broderick joins myself, Polly Moller, Tim Walters, and Larry The O. We will be back at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento on Monday and then at in Oakland on Wednesday. Details below:
Monday, January 9, 2012, 7:30PM
Luna’s Cafe, 1414 16th Street, Sacramento, CA
Reconnaissance Fly is back hoping to get stuck in the Luna’s Cafe guacamole once more. Phillip Greenlief & Jorrit Dykstra will play transcendent saxophones and Luke Westbrook will make guitar magic.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 9PM Light A Fire Returns! Luke Westbrook/Grex/Reconnaissance Fly Revolution Cafe,1610 7th St, Oakland, CA
The Light A Fire series returns! This will be the pilot show for a brand new curation–if we turn out, this series stands to provide a regular home for the local creative music scene. Come out and enjoy the weird and wonderful environs of Cafe Rev in Oakland (fully stocked with great food, coffee, a stage area, and copious seating…)
1. Luke Westbrook/Vijay Anderson Duo
Luke Westbrook (guitar), Vijay Anderson (drums) westbrookmusic.net
Karl Evangelista (guitar, vox, etc.), Rei Scampavia (keys, vox, etc.) www.grexsounds.com
After our first ReCardiacs Fly performance this past spring, we were hoping for an opportunity to perform again. That opportunity came (and went) at the beginning of December as part of an energetic night of music at the Starry Plough in Berkeley that also featured Wiener Kids and Dominique Leone.
ReCardiacs Fly is the coming together of several members of Reconnaissance Fly (Polly Moller, Amar Chaudhary, Tim Walters, Chris Broderick) with Moe! Staiano, Marc Laspina and Suki O’kane as a tribute to the UK band Cardiacs. We performed a full set of Cardiacs songs – the four from the previous show as well as several new ones – with as much authenticity and energy as we could. Much of the work in learning these songs involves mastering the complex meter and rhythm changes that can often be quite unpredictable, and we spent a lot of time practicing in preparation for the show. And the work paid off. I thought R.E.S. in particular came out well, but you can hear for yourself in this video:
[Videography by Marjorie Sturm.]
I am still not sure what R.E.S. stands for.
I also thought Wooden Fish on Wheels came out well – it’s not as hard musically as R.E.S. and some of the others, as it stays in a relatively steady 4/4 ska-like rhythm. I would like take another shot at getting Burn Your House Brown and In A City Lining (both of which I quite like) up to the same level. Overall, however, it was a great performance, and we had a very enthusiastic response from the large crowd at the Starry Plough.
[Photo by Tom Djll.]
As one can see from the above photo, Polly was definitely getting into the character of lead singer Tim Smith. Most of our digital cameras cannot keep up.
The evening opened with Wiener Kids (Jordan Glenn, Aram Shelton and Cory Wright). They are one of the more unusual trios, with Glenn on drums and Shelton and Wright on reeds. As a result, their music has a very sparse texture, which they use to great effect for complex rhythms and lines. I found myself caught up in the patterns with lots of syncopations and unisons and empty space. Every so often they would come together into one jazz-like idiom or another before spreading out again with their unique texture.
Wiener Kids were followed by Dominique Leone together with Ava Mendoza, Aaron Novik and Jordan Glenn pulling double-duty by appearing in two out of three bands. And they were quite a contrast, with thick textures and rich harmony and a more song-like quality, but equally tight in terms of rhythm and phrasing. I found myself particularly interested in Aaron Novik’s use of bass clarinet as the equivalent of a bass guitar, complete with electronic effects.
This won’t be the last ReCardiacs Fly show, as we already have one planned for March in San Francisco. But until then, it’s back to some of the other musical projects. We conclude with an image of some flowers that fulfilled their deranged-rock destiny that evening.
Today we look back at Reconnaissance Fly’s performance last week at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. We were the third act in a concert that also featured Equators and David Douglas.
We performed selections from our “spong cycle” Flower Futures, with each band member contributing pieces based on “spoetry”, or poetry from spam messages. The Luggage Store is quite acoustically active, which can make our highly-rhythmic and punctuated music challenging. But we did the best we can with the environment, and in fact a couple of our songs, the tango-like As Neat As Wax and funk-latin-combo sanse es crede nza, were the best we had played them to date. You can hear a recording of As Neat As Wax below:
Another challenge arose from the fact that I can had forgotten the small Chinese gong that is featured at the beginning of Small Chinese Gong. Fortunately, I was able to substitute a “small iPhone gong”, and the rest of the song unfolded smoothly after that somewhat amusing start.
Once again, we performed as a quartet, with myself on keyboard and electronics, Polly Moller on flute and vocals, Tim Walters on bass and electronics, and Larry the O on drums. When we next perform, we will be five – Chris Broderick will be joining us on saxophone and clarinets.
The show opened with a set by Equators, the experimental music project of Trevor Hacker, with Cody Hennesy. They performed with guitars and effects, and an instrument that resembled an “electric hurdy gurdy.” Things started off quietly enough, with ambient guitar chords centered around a suspended major harmony. After a short time there was a sudden switch to rather loud noisy material, and the remainder of the first piece moved back and forth between these ambient and noisy elements. One particular moment featured descending noise and a loud “analog burst” followed by a softer, pentatonic pattern. The next piece followed a similar pattern, starting with odd major-mode harmonies and eerie effects, with slide guitar and looping as the major elements – gradually, the sound moved towards more noise-based elements.
Equators was followed by David Douglas performing a solo set with drums and laptop-based processing using Max/MSP. He had a standard drum set as well as numerous additional percussion instruments and a small electronic drum pad. These were used as source material for a variety of signal and event processing elements on the laptop. There result was richly textured both rhythmically and timbrally. It started off with metallic sounds processed with stretching and harmonic effects, followed by drums with pitch and delay effects. A slow repeating rhythm emerged that served as the foundation for subsequent elements with bass drum, cymbals, and other percussion. I thought the effects Douglas chose with the bells were particularly effective. Some of the rhythms were more free form, which small runs and loud hits combining with delays to form fast rhythmic passages, and longer metric patterns were combined with delays and loops to form complex counterpoint rhythms. Throughout, Douglas demonstrated a strong skill in playing the acoustic and electronic elements off one another.
It was interesting to contrast our more idiomatic set with the two more “experimental” sets that preceded us, but I thought the overall program was effective. Experimental audiences shouldn’t be afraid of a tango or a funk rhythm after noise improvisation, and I like the energy and emotional balance as a listener. Overall, it was a good show, and look forward to our next outing.
Today we look back Reconnaissance Fly’s performance at the Nebraska Mondays series at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento. We had played this series last year as well and had a positive experience, and looked forward to performing again this past June. And of course, I cannot turn down an opportunity to play someplace called “Luna’s Cafe.”
It was a hot day in Sacramento. Though I have to admit, I was actually feeling relatively comfortable in the evening warmth, and took the opportunity to walk around, take photos and experience the atmosphere. Inside the cafe, things were once again a bit on the cozy side.
But we somehow managed to get a keyboard, drum set, bass and concert and bass flutes onto the stage along with the four humans that were supposed to play these instruments. Interestingly, in this photo it seems a lot more spacious than it actually was.
[Photo by George R. Thompson.]
It is always interesting to perform for a relatively intimate audience in a setting such as this, especially with a program as varied as our Flower Futures spong cycle. People seemed receptive to both the more purely experimental pieces and the more idiomatic jazz shuffles, sambas and rock ballads. It was also our first show featuring our drummer Larry The O – I thought he brought a new vitality to our most rhythmic pieces in particular, such as An Empty Rectangle and sense iz crede nza. In balance, it was a successful performance.
We shared the bill with the FPR Trio, consisting of Phillip Greenlief, Frank Gratkowski, and Jon Raskin on saxophones, and after a hasty teardown of our equipment we settled by the bar for refreshing beverages, tasty snacks and the opportunity to hear this accomplished ensemble. They performed several pieces based on graphical scores (which I got to take a look at after the performance). The first pieces featured complex polyrhythms with occasional bursts, blurts and squeaks. Every so often as things built up, they would resolve softly, either to an anxious harmony or even to something tonal. There were moments of very defined counterpoint embellished with virtuosic flourishes.
However, the most impressive and memorable part of the set was when all three saxophones came together in a trio of multiphonics. It is a tribute to their skills that they were able to produce complex harmonic series, periods of unison, and intricate beating effects. The timbres moved in and out of stability, and at times seemed like the metallic resonance of a digital subtractive synthesizer. They went on for quite a while in this way, and I and many of the other members of the audience remained captivated throughout.
Thanks to Ross Hammond for continuing to support us through this series, and to Art Luna for hosting us at the cafe.
In this video, you can see Polly channeling Tim Smith, along with Chris Broderick and Marc Laspina getting into their respective rolls:
[Videography by Josh Wolfer.]
The keyboard and marimba parts didn’t come out so strongly in the videos, but you can hear a bit of my attempt to get the original sounds in “Hello Mister Sparrow.”:
[Videography by Josh Wolfer.]
We did receive a great audience reception, undoubtedly some from Cardiacs fans who were familiar with the songs and performance style but perhaps from people hearing for the first time as well and taken in by the intensity of the performance.
We did get a little worried early in the evening as attendance was sparse. But by the time we got on stage and looked out, there was a full and enthusiastic house – when you see and feel something like that, it always makes it easier to get through a set, even something as complex and intense as Cardiacs covers.
Over all, it was a great experience, and we hope to perform again sometime soon!
ReCardiacsFly consisted of members of Rennaissance Fly (myself, Polly Moller, and Tim Walters) together with Moe! Staiano, Chris Broderick, Marc Laspina and Suki O’Kane. Although we were the unofficially dubbed “tribute band” for the evening for our accurate musical renditions and costumes and makeup, all the bands performed Cardiacs covers, each in their own way.
Amy X Neuburg opened the evening with arrangements infused with her trademark “avant cabaret” style. In a humorous gesture, she invited the audience to “sing along” to Tim Smith’s often difficult-to-follow lyrics.
Before Weiner Kids came on stage, there was an arrangement that I described on twitter as a “cool riff with four on the floor bass drum and household metal items. Very danceable by #Cardiacs standards.” Even in the midst of a prog-and-punk-rock night, I am still drawn to my particular musical roots.
Weiner Kids (with Jordan Glenn, Cory Wright, Aram Shelton) performed an arrangement for percussion and saxophones that made the often odd rhythms and meters of Cardiacs music very transparent. This is both the fun part and the biggest challenge of playing this music.
Grex, a duo of Karl Evangelista on guitar and Rei Scampavia on keyboard, performed purely instrumental arrangements. The interpretations were much freer, and in particular gave Karl the opportunity to apply his virtuosic guitar style to the music.
Inner Ear Brigade (featuring frequent collaborator Bill Wolter with Chris Lauf, Stevo Wright, Ivor Holloway, Melody Ferris, and David Shaff) also performed their own meticulous arrangements with their own personal stamp – their music tends is often itself an intense and energetic blend of jazz, experimental and art-rock influences. It was sometimes hard to tell where the Cardiacs’ influence ended and Inner Ear Brigade’s own style began, which I think made this performance all the more successful.
[Inner Ear Brigade.]
The concert concluded with Dominque Leone and his ensemble for the evening performing an “epic” arrangement of a Cardiacs song, building up towards a final climax that seemed almost religious in nature, with a full chorus of voices and loud frenetic keyboard and guitar (from Leone and Ava Mendoza) – this is one song that you can tell is the final song of the evening even before it ends!
So what is next? We are certainly hoping to do more performances as ReCardiacsFly, and welcome suggestions for Bay Area venues and programs that would be appropriate. And we would like to send “Healing wishes from everyone to Tim Smith and love and respect to all past, present, and future members and fans of Cardiacs.”