|Pictured Above: Feel the Vibration. Feel it. Feel it.|
Visiting Nurse, Invisible Things, and Martin Bisi drew me to Dreamland Tuesday night even though I knew I wouldn’t get to so much as buy a beer at the show. (Important announcement: Dreamland announced Wednesday that it received its state liquor license. It will have select bourbon, wines, and beers available at Friday’s Tashi Dorji show.)
The attraction was strong because I knew that Visiting Nurse probably won’t have any shows for at least the rest of this year. Also, who wouldn’t want to see Martin Bisi (that question gets answered below)? The man recorded some of the bands that have been most influential in my life.
First up was Visiting Nurse, who had the most relaxed and enjoyable set of the evening. As far as I can tell, Visiting Nurse has abandoned concepts such as verse and chorus. They play music that moves in a direction. You might think of it as linear, but only in the sense that a roller coaster is linear. It always moves forwards, but you should expect some twists and turns.
You could accuse them of electronic jamming (not the worst accusation) if it weren’t for Jon Hill doing the 1-2-3-4 with his fingers before major shifts in the songs.
What’s the difference between a major shift and a new song? I have no idea. When Syd Bishop
said “This is our last song. We have nothing to sell,” I thought the band was going into a new song. Nope, they were wrapping up the last song (editor’s note: there were two songs, albeit in similar keys). They were done a couple minutes later.
Next was Invisible Things. Considering that this is the project of US Maple guitarist Mark Shippy, I expected something loud and odd. What the kids like to call “experimental.” I got the loud part. I also got chaotic, which was cool. Jim Sykes beats the shit out of a drum kit in the best way possible. Unfortunately, I also got so much distortion from the guitar that couldn’t really hear what Shippy was playing. Maybe that’s what he was going for.
It was a set worth watching, but not one that I’d care to hear, again. Actually, let’s rewrite that: It was a set worth watching, I just wish I’d had a chance to hear it.
That’s more accurate.
Now on to the big man, Martin Bisi. This is a man who has recorded some of the best records from some of my favorite New York-area bands. This is the man who recorded:
• Brian Eno’s Ambient 4: On Land (1982)
• John Zorn’s Locus Solus (1983)
• Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising in 1985, followed by EVOL and Ciccone Youth in 1986
• Swans’s The Burning World in 1989
Obviously Bisi is a legend.
The legend taught me that I might not have enjoyed New York in the ’80s as much as I once thought. I enjoy the misanthropic, tortured sound of Swans. Those early Sonic Youth records where they relied on volume to distort their guitars are some of the best records I’ve ever heard. After watching Bisi, I have to wonder whether I would have given a shit about those records had I seen live shows first.
Bisi never made that transformation. He’s still playing at piercing levels that empty small rooms. He sings/mumbles through a fog of reverb and delay during most songs. But then he slices through with an honest scream. I expected those screams. I didn’t expect them to physically hurt my ears so much.
Maybe I wouldn’t have fared so well in the New York No Wave scene. Maybe I’ve just outgrown the ability to feel musical pain as a pleasure.
Two things are certain: Bisi the Legend is alive and well, doing his thing as only he can do it. And I will probably won’t go see him again without noise-canceling headphones.