Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Konk Pack

Brady Sharp made a return to organizing improvised music shows, maybe on a “just this time only” basis, with a show by Konk Pack at Twist Gallery. Konk Pack is like a free improv supergroup, a trio of percussionist Roger Turner, Tim Hodgkinson who mostly does things with a table top slide guitar, and Thomas Lehn on synthesizer.

A few thoughts. First, it’s good to hear a group like this a second time, and I’d guess at least half the people there saw the group on their last trip to Nashville. It was a few years ago, can’t remember exactly when.

Tonight, it really seemed to me that this group is rhythm-centered. The trio makes lots of tones, as you would expect with the synthesizer playing a big role, the table-top techniques Hodgkinson has at his disposal, and the bag of tricks you see with a drummer like Turner. But it’s so apparent that rhythm holds this together, and that they were relating most frequently on the basis of rhythm. For large parts you probably could have defined a consistent bpm, largely kept by Turner, but everyone was contributing to it. And the bpm was fast, maybe Jungle speed. Really abstract IDM.

Keeping with the focus on rhythm, this time around I found myself concentrating on Roger Turner’s playing. Some of it was because I was sitting close to him. He is such an expressive player, getting an incredible variety and subtlety of sound out of everything he handles and hits. To look at one aspect alone, for a lot of passages he used two thin metal rods as his sticks. He used them to drive the sound to its most intense phases, lots of noise through relentless cymbal strikes, but then he’d turn around and coax several distinct sounds out of just rubbing the two metal rods against each other, or striking them against the edge of a piece of plastic material. You wouldn’t think those metal rods could yield so much subtlety. Some of the things he does require incredible control, like that bit about striking the edge of this piece of plastic. He has to hit it hard enough to get some sound, and give it a little edge so it will project, but if he hits it too hard he'll just knock it around.

At times I was aware of Tim Hodgkinson’s roots in rock music. He used enough alternate techniques to deflect any strong sense of melodic riffs, which I think would have turned trite. However, there was a structure to his rhythmic formations that felt pretty rock-like, and combined with the rhythmic focus of the entire group gave the trio’s material a directness that I think could make their music more immediately successful that something more pointillist, minimalist, or textural. Hell, at one point Turner was doing this pronounced back beat and Hodgkinson was pushing on his guitar in a pattern that sounded like the underlying beats of a honky-tonk country song.

Finally, Beth Gilmore made a great observation about the music: “it seemed like the sounds the art work in the gallery would make if it could make noise.”

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