The Month in Weird: November’s Best Avant-Garde Concerts

Child Abuse

Child Abuse.

November is a banner month for concerts across every DIY nook and cranny, church space, bar basement, tony East Village hotspot and metal club of this city and way too many to fit into this space. But Lord knows we tried, so we’ll give you some more to chew on.

Here goes. Must-see shows include: art-metal unit Wrekmeister Harmonies making a semi-rare appearance at Trans-Pecos on November 4 in support of Light Falls; also on November 4, Zs guitarist Patrick Higgins plays at Pioneer Works; avant-folk guitarist David Grubbs (Gastr del Sol, Squirrel Bait, Bastro) plays Trans-Pecos on November 9, hopefully playing tunes from his recent standout, Prismrose; no wave veteran Adele Bertei with Stranger Than Paradise actor and musician Eszter Balint at Le Poisson Rouge on November 13; and Philly psych-rock mainstays Bardo Pond hit Union Pool with weirdo noiseoid supergroup Galacto (Gary Panter + Byron Coley + Charles Burns + Thurston Moore) on November 18.

Whoa. And there’s more. Like and EX EYE (Colin Stetson, Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily and Toby Summerfield) playing at Saint Vitus on November 20. Now read on and get weird.

Talibam! with Tamio Shiraishi and David Watson at Park Church Co-op (129 Russel Street, Greenpoint) on Wednesday, November 2 / Abasement # 19 Talibam! with Daniel Carter at Max Fish (120 Orchard) on Monday, November 14 at 7 p.m.

Greenpoint’s Park Church Co-Op (just steps from McGolrick Park) has quickly cemented itself as a Brooklyn choice destination for a mélange of musics, from experimentalists like Observer faves Notekillers’ David First to rising indie stars Weyes Blood (a.k.a. Natalie Mering), who hits the majestic church spot on November 10 to celebrate the release of the much buzzed about Front Row Seat To Earth.

Tonight, Park Church Co-Op welcomes an NYC institution: avant-everything merry pranksters, producer team, “no-school” rap empire, techno beat-blasters and free-improv alien sound explorers, Talibam!

The ingeniously absurdist core duo of keytar-slinging vocalist Matt Mottel and ape-shit crazy drummer extraordinaire Kevin Shea—a percussionist who first honed his skills in ’90s-era math-rock bands like Storm & Stress (with Don Caballero/Battles heartthrob Ian Williams) and Coptic Light (with Bitch Magnet guitarist/Your Band Sucks scribe Jon Fine)—have been making mincemeat of genres over the course of dozens of records accompanied by cohorts including U.K. saxophonist Alan Wilkinson (who the trio just released a cassette with), trombonist Sam Kulik and reeds-smith Daniel Carter.

In anticipation of their 2017 reunion with the legendary free-jazz label ESP-Disk (2009’s Boogie in the Breeze Blocks is a touchstone in their canon) where Mottel and Shea will unleash two(!) albums, Talibam! is keeping a high profile around town with a spate of gigs. Tonight (and on December 4 at Fort Greene’s JACK), the duo expand into a quartet as they join forces with sax noisenik Tamio Shiraishi and guitarist David Watson and on December 14 they go trio style as they hit the L.E.S.’s Max Fish with Carter.

Some Serious Business Presents Lydia Lunch and Umar Bin Hassan | NO WAVE OUT with Don Babatunde, Tim Dahl, Shaun Kelly and Weasel Walter at Joe’s Pub on Wednesday, November 2 and Thursday November 3

Lydia Lunch, the chain-smoking, wine-swigging, jet-black-haired, black-dress-draped, red-lipstick-smeared undisputed priestess and pioneer of the No Wave movement, has been spreading her “big sexy noise” all over these parts, backed by her band of brutes in Retrovirus. Back in 2012, Lunch’s career underwent a resurrection of sorts when she joined forces with extreme-music iconoclast Weasel Walter to form Retrovirus, revisiting, reinterpreting and breathing new life into seminal cuts from her days in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, 8-Eyed Spy and her solo catalog.

That natural Lunch/Walter union has galvanized Lunch, manifested by her wildly popular monthly residency at The Roxy Hotel, which has found her spewing her poetic piss ‘n vinegar rants under the guise of “a series of sleazy salons” and “scandalous storytelling from NYC’s torrid underworld.”

With The Roxy Hotel salons now in her rear view mirror, Lunch has already gone on to her next quest of debauchery.

As is her M.O., she’s hooked up with yet another underground contrarian/brutarian: the legendary Umar Bin Hassan of proto-rap and hip-hop group Last Poets, a collective of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement.

As a pair of living legend outsiders who made their indelible marks on two disparate yet brutal generations, Lunch and Hassan will convene for two landmark evenings of what they’ve dubbed NO WAVE OUT, an off-the-cuff wrestling match of spoken word and poetry backed by a band drawing on noise-terror assaults of funk, free-improv noodling, avant-garde noise and no wave skronk. Hassan’s Last Poets brothers Don Babatunde and Shaun Kelly and Lunch’s Retrovirus bandmates Tim Dahl and Weasel Walter round out the group. This one is not to be missed.

Stardust NYC Presents: Dysrhythmia’s The Veil Of Control record release party at Saint Vitus on Saturday, November 5 with Cleric and Multicult

All-instrumental tech-metal brainiacs Dysrythmia have helped lay the groundwork for the revitalization of Brooklyn’s heavy-music scene since its inception nearly two decades ago.

Featuring members who do double duty in Behold The Arctopus, Vaura, Sabbath Assembly, Krallice, Zevious and Gorguts, the trio of guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Colin Marston and drummer Jeff Eber have confounded its loyal fan base with its dizzying and cerebral proggy metal shapeshifting. On The Veil of Control, Dysrhythmia’s first new set since 2012’s Test of Submission, these scientists of riffage go deeper than ever into the sonically symphonic and methodically high-tech unknown with an epic six composition exercise in metal mathematics. Openers Cleric dabble in likeminded aesthetics.

Child Abuse at Saint Vitus on Sunday, November 6 with Microwaves, Couch Slut and Opening Bell

Brooklyn stalwart Tim Dahl is one busy bassist. The baseball-hat-wearing fret-hopper logs time in Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, local jazz/metal vomiters Pulverize The Sound, honky tonkin’ carnival act American Liberty League, Chris Pitsiokos’ CP Quartet and has spewed doom jazz in The Gate.

But it’s in Child Abuse—the long-running, unclassifiable trio he shares with keyboardist/vocalist Eric Lau and drummer/memoirist Oran Canfield—that remains Dahl’s main vehicle. On 2014’s breakneck masterpiece Trouble in Paradise, the trio tossed the gnarliest of metal-centric salads with grindcore, space-jazz and noise-rock splatter topped by Cookie Monster screamage that’s as groove-heavy as it is demonic.

Oh, and about that band name. Sure, it may be a tad offensive but don’t fret: they happened upon it after being told their music sounded as if it was created by actual children banging out a racket, plus—Lau and Canfield are proud parents.

James Chance & The Contortions The Flesh is Weak Album Release Show at The Bowery Electric on Thursday, November 10

From Glenn Branca to Lydia Lunch to Arto Lindsay, the survivors of the short-lived yet monumentally life-changing and influential No Wave scene—a movement spearheaded by outsider artists and musicians in the late-’70s decay of Soho and the East Village—continues to go against the grain four decades on.

Another lifer who emerged from the No Wave scene and improbably still trudging on decades later is James Chance & The Contortions. The skronking saxophone-wielding singer with the slick gyrations straight from the punk James Brown school of dance was, literally, one of the movers and shakers, blending danceable bass-driving funky-assed action, brutal skronk and rip-faced noise-jazz, thus influencing generations from the Brooklyn dance-punk of the late ’90s/early 2000s to the downtown noise-rock of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion over the course of its output, most famously their four songs found on the legendary No New York compilation.

Chance has been toiling about, playing shows in NYC over the years in various guises and iterations. But for the first time in decades, a new Contortions record is about to drop.

Called The Flesh Is Weak, it shows Chance still reigns supreme as electric frontman with the ass-shaking grooves and dash ‘n’ flash. First single “Melt Yourself Down” is a total groove-intensive burner designed for sweat-dripping DIY warehouse dance freakouts while “The Splurge” and “I Who Have Nothing” are sultry organ-streaked struts. Chance also has time for manic and groovy takes on Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and, fittingly, Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” Tonight, Chance and co. celebrate the release of The Flesh Is Weak.

Ad Hoc and Northern Spy Records presents Rhys Chatham & Oneida, Tredici Bacci and Amirtha Kidambi Elder Ones at The Park Church Co-op on Saturday, November 12

This mother of album release parties celebrates a gloriously eclectic trifecta arrives at rising venue The Park Church Co-op starring veteran experimentalists and new blood alike.

Naturally, the festivities are presented by Brooklyn’s avant/indie label powerhouse Northern Spy Records, which has served up some of 2016’s best records including, Interventions by Horse Lords, Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp’s Cactus and Rest In Fleas by Cloud Becomes Your Hand. N-Spy is now capping off 2016 with another flurry of the most forward-thinking of long players.

For the last several years, composer, vocalist and harmonium player Amirtha Kidambi has been a force in Brooklyn’s experimental music lexicon, a staple at hubs like Downtown Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room and Silent Barn while counting valuable alliances with the likes of Charlie Looker in medieval folk-metal outfit Seaven Teares (whose 2013 effort Power Ballads remains an overlooked gem) and The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, saxophonist colossus Darius Jones’ a cappella group.

Kidambi is now leading her own supergroup of sorts she calls Elder Ones. Joined by Brooklyn avant-jazz stalwarts, saxist Matt Nelson (of Battle Trance), improvising bassist-about-town Brandon Lopez and JOBS drummer Max Jaffe, Kidambi’s Holy Science defies classification as its harmonium-driven sonic drone-scapes, jazz-centric grooves and alien, yet sublime vocal improvisations invoke the spiritual voyages of her beloved Alice and John Coltrane and Sun Ra. Like Battle Trance’s Blade of Love, Holy Science is both a cathartic and unsettling listen that ventures into the sonic unknown.

At the other end of the spectrum is Tredici Bacci, a 14-piece orchestra led by Simon Hanes, formerly of disco-noise punks Guerilla Toss and currently of psychedelic popheads Cloud Becomes Your Hand. Toting a healthy obsession for Spaghetti Western histrionics, lounge act jazz kitsch and the cinematic sprawl of Ennio Morricone-esque soundscapes, Amore Per Tutti (Love For Everybody) manifests Hanes as a composer of great pliability.

With vocals courtesy of Charlie Looker (Psalm Zero, JG Thirlwell (Foetus), Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields) and a host of other guest star turns, Tredici Bacci offer up an adventurous and impassioned take on the beloved ’60s and ’70s-styled soundtrack work that Hanes holds near and dear to his heart.

The stellar evening concludes with a perfect union of the old and new guard of NYC experimental rock: Rhys Chatham and Oneida ringing in the release of collaborative LP, What’s Your Sign? Chatham will also be appearing at Issue Project Room on November 3 playing the complete version of this year’s Pythagorean Dream plus a new piece called “Kiezsalon Solo.”

N-Spy is also presenting a residency they call “The Spy Who Loved Mondays,” movies with a live music score every Monday in November at Threes Brewing. Click here for the calendar. It’s a doozy.

AdHoc Presents: Body/Head (Kim Gordon & Bill Nace) at National Sawdust on Saturday, November 12

While the masses are still bemoaning the breakup of Sonic Youth five-odd years after the NYC art rockers’ final show, the subsequent period has produced a treasure trove of music and books from its members. From Thurston Moore’s Chelsea Light Moving and The Best Day and lyrics and poems tome Stereo Sanctity to Lee Ranaldo’s solo LP’s Between the Times & the Tides and Last Night On Earth, the creative spurt, albeit from a splintered SY camp, never ceases to amaze.

Kim Gordon has certainly been no slouch either, arguably outshining her former bandmates. The singer/guitarist, visual artist, experimental music icon and fashionista has, over the last half-decade, penned her memoir Girl In A Band, formed improv-noise duo Body/Head with guitarist Bill Nace and just released “Murdered Out,” the first track under her own name, and a contender for one of 2016’s best songs.

If that’s not enough, Matador Records just announced the follow-up to Coming Apart, Body/Head’s excellent 2013 debut. Titled No Waves and due on November 11, the set documents the hypnotic and cinematic collage of the Gordon/Nace live experience, as the set was captured in 2014 at Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. Fittingly, Body/Head celebrate the release of No Waves at Williamsburg’s new-music performance venue, National Sawdust.

Xylouris White at National Sawdust with Marisa Anderson on Friday, November 18

Xylouris White—the brainchild of Cretan lute player and singer George Xylouris and Brooklyn-via-Australia drummer Jim White of The Dirty Three—are virtuosic tunesmiths, maestros of their singular old world music vision where ethnic flavors from all the corners of the globe are represented.

On their just-released second record Black Peak (produced by Guy Picciotto of Fugazi), Xylouris and White perform fret-picking, strumming and percussive gymnastics, hopping from African, Eastern, Greek, Indian and Middle Eastern twang and loose-limbed rhythms that, as PJ Harvey has attested to their music, is akin to dancing. And the British songstress is dead-on. The music of Xylouris White—both 2014’s Goats, the new Black Peak and in the live setting—is an adrenaline-charged adventure complete with the free-improv jazz and punk spirit: a freethinking ancient fire music.

Chris Pitsiokos Residency at The Stone from Tuesday, November 22 through Tuesday, November 27 (two sets per night, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m; $10 each set)

Here at the Observer, we haven’t been shy about singing the praises of young saxophonist firebrand, Chris Pitsiokos. Evidently, downtown avant-garde jazz renegade John Zorn has been taking tabs on the 25-year-old WKCR DJ, Muchmore’s gig booker and ubiquitous improviser/composer also because he tapped Pitsiokos as curator for a six, two-sets-a-night stint at his Avenue C artist-friendly performance space.

It’s no coincidence that ever since Weasel Walter—The Flying Luttenbachers’ “brutal prog” professor and Lydia Lunch Retrovirus and Cellular Chaos guitarist—crossed paths with Pitsiokos about five years ago, the firebreathing altoist’s visibility in Brooklyn’s DIY experimental and “out”-jazz spaces has become one where on any given night, he’s presenting one of his myriad projects.

Thankfully, Pitsiokos—a disciple carrying the torch of Zorn, Ornette and Walter with the nihilistic ethos of the no wave movement—can be caught in one place all week showcasing a bunch of his forward thinking projects.

Can’t-miss shows include his Quartet (with guitarist Andrew Smiley, bassist Henry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker) playing cuts from their debut One Eye with a Microscope Attached on Sunday, November 27 at 8 p.m. and a double bill of the highest order on Saturday, November 26 as starting at 8 p.m. featuring CP Unit (another quartet featuring the murderous rhythm section of Walter and Tim Dahl with guitarist Brandon Seabrook), whose Clean Feed Records debut is due later this year followed by a trio with guitarist colossus Joe Morris and drummer Tyshawn Sorey at 10 p.m. Click here for full calendar.

Also catch Pitsiokos solo at The Park Church Co-op along with trumpeter Nate Wooley and violist Jessica Pavone on November 29.

Honorable mentions: 

AdHoc Presents: Silver Apples at The Good Room with Forma and Bernardino Femminielli on Wednesday, November 2

Electro-psych godfathers Silver Apples first revolutionized synthesizer-based experimentalism in 1967 and tonight they celebrate the release of Clinging To A Dream, core member Simeon Oliver Coxe’s first set of new material since 1998.

Anna Webber’s Simple Trio album release show at Greenwich House Music School on Thursday, November 3

The Sound It Out series continues its solid program with Brooklyn reedist Anna Webber and her Simple Trio (pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer John Hollenbeck) playing tunes from the newly release Binary via clarinetist Chris Speed’s Skirl Records imprint.

Ryley Walker and Circuit des Yeux at Villain on Thursday, November 3

Twangy folker and American Primitive student Ryley Walker helps leads an ace class of cosmic Americana guitarists including Steve Gunn, Chris Forsyth, Daniel Bachman and anything on the VDSQ label in carrying the finger picking torch John Fahey pioneered. Chicago’s Ryley Walker is another of those strum and plucking rising stars. Here, Walker is touring behind Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, the follow up to 2015’s Primrose Green.

Axis: Sova at Elvis Guesthouse on Saturday, November 12 and Union Pool on Sunday, November 13 with The Hecks and PC Worship

One-man-psych-show Axis: Sova (a.k.a. Brett Sova) abide by the mantra of “low-brow, high-impact and one-note philosophy” and on trippy solo-spewing jams found on the new Motor Earth, they channel Funhouse-era Stooges blowouts.

Mick Barr and Judith Berkson at Roulette on Monday, November 14

Its Orthrelm/Ocrilim mastermind and Krallice guitarist Mick Barr unplugged as he premieres a 35-minute solo guitar (the symphonic klassikiller is promising no distortion) while fellow composer Judith Berkson interprets a piece written by Barr (Wethantheld) for voice and organ before premiering a new piece for piano and her 72-tone microtonal vocals.

Ron Stabinsky: Free For One Album Release Celebration and Tom Blancart Solo at Roulette on Tuesday, November 15

A newish addition to bassist Moppa Eilliot’s left-field avant-jazz band of misfits Mostly Other People Do The Killing, pianist Ron Stabinsky has gone the solo route on Free For One. Released by Elliott’s Hot Cup label, Stabinsky gives a free improv clinic on the black and whites, showcasing both the deep introspections, abstract phraseology and playfulness he brought to MOPDtK’s most recent rollicking set, Mauch Chunk. Bassist Tom Blancarte of Seabrook Power Plant opens with a solo set of his own.