Friday, June 5, 2020
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Live Act(s): EK - Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez) (@)
Event Date: 16 December 2006
Type of Event: Small Club Concert
Venue: Tonic
Rated: *****
These two faces are very well known to NYC's downtown music scene, so I won't delve into their extended discographies. Although they are actually married to each other, it is however pretty rare to see them perform together, so I had to go check them out on this cold December night on the occasion of the release party for their new record "Dialects" (cmp review in the Music Reviews section).

The evening started (late, luckily, 'coz I was late too) with a projected home movie by the couple on their trip to Southeast Asia, in which you could see local festivities, chants, every day life as well as the making of the Kulintang, which is this instrument consisting of 8 tuned gongs suspended on a rack which was set up in the middle of the stage and played exclusively by Ibarra during the remainder of the night.

Once the concert began, the talented percussionist used her thick sticks to hit the head and the sides of these volcano-shaped gongs to create different sounds and melodies that would go with the music coming out of one of their two G4's, manned by Rodriguez. During the concert Susie eventually also played drums (often exchanging position with her companion), a bamboo-based percussion instrument (I guess the Southeast Asian version of a Marimba, or something like that), keyboards (whose glitches were worrying the two performers) and (to the surprise of everyone) she also sang a couple of tunes. Susie is extremely eclectic and talented and obviously can seamlessly move from one instrument to the next creating rhythmic patterns and tonal melodies, or, like in the case of the Kulintang, both at the same time.

Roberto, on the other hand, moved between the drums and the computer, and although he is Cuban, he certainly knows what he's doing when he's tapping the Peruvian cajon, on which he was sitting the whole time. Although he stares at the computer with the same intensity my old mother does, tilting his head up trying to read above his glasses (think Marc Ribot reading music sheets on stage), he also is at ease in different situations and gives you a little bit of the latino thing when he is a percussion player and a little of the american thing when he plays the drums. Personally, since Roberto is well known for being such a good bridge between the Latin and the Jewish worlds, I would have actually liked to get a little more of his Latin input in this wonderful electronic world music dynamic environment, but we all know how these things go and how women really wear the pants anyway. ;-) Jokes aside, Juan is such a great jazz drummer and that showed every time he sat behind the set. His drumming went from light and tasty to intense and almost psychedelic, when in the context of an up-tempo trancey song such as for example "Golden Dream". Everybody was hypnotized, including Susie who seemed to have forgotten how to stop the loop, or just chose to ignore hubby's requests to do so to see how long he could last.

Another highlight of the evening was the addition to the stage line up of guitarist Oz Noy, who took his telecaster to places where no or few other Teles have been before, thanks to the multitude of pedals that he so knowledgeably and skillfully utilized to create the most gorgeous sounds, only to add even more to the highly entrancing effect of the whole set. Very tasteful guitar player you should be on the look out for!

This was basically one of those nights to remember, where great live music was played and history was made... well maybe not history, but if you missed it, you'll never know how great it sounded and looked.

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