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Concert Wed Jun 05 2013

The musician as escape artist - Jason Lescalleet at U of C (Lampo)

This Saturday, Lampo presents its final show of the Winter/Spring season, this time taking place at the University of Chicago's Bond Chapel (1050 E. 59th St.). The show is free, no RSVP required, and it starts an hour later than usual, 9 p.m.

First, a note about the Bond Chapel. Damion Romero played here last year, and with speakers blazing, he managed to atomize us and reduce us to our respective quarks and subatomic particles with his massive, vibratory bass attack. As Mark Solotroff noted, "I think my head is supposed to have a suspension system to prevents this from happening, but my EYES were vibrating during that set." It's a gorgeous, resonant space that can pay off big for performers willing to fill it.

On that note, Mr. Lescalleet isn't loathe to lay back quietly if necessary, but he's at his best when he's pushing himself and his massive, overheating reel-to-reel tape decks to exhaustion. I asked him what he had on tap for Saturday's show, and he said he'd be "utilizing the room's resonance in a manner similar to Lucier's I am Sitting in a Room." If you don't know that piece, it's 43 minutes long, and consists of one short spoken text -- explaining the process -- which is then played into a room, recorded, then played back into the room, recorded, etc., accumulating not tape hiss, but the natural resonances of the room, which feather and warp the original text beyond recognition, treating the otherwise static room tone like a body of water that is rippled by the disruptions of the speech. It's a masterwork of acoustic, almost scientific investigation fashioned into otherworldly music.

Mr. Lescalleet's no stranger to Chicago. My first article for Gapers Block -- way back in 2007 -- was writing about another Lampo concert, a set of solos and collaborations between Lescalleet and Joe Colley. Since then, he's also played solo and alongside nmperign (still one of the five best live performances I've seen) at the Neon Marshmallow Festival, and solo again last year at the Burlington. He recently released his defining musical statement, a 2CD set titled Songs About Nothing (Erstwhile), and continues to tour regularly.

One of the most interesting things about Lescalleet's setup is its spontaneity. Although no one ways is used every time, I've noticed that a fair number of his performances start before they're ready, so to speak. He starts a slowed-down bit of music -- a popular song that people will recognize -- and uses the time while it's playing to assemble his rig, frantically unrolling cables, threading tape onto reels, and placing microphones at strategic locations. The effect is a graphic example of Ray Bradbury's quote about starting a project before you're comfortable: "you've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." During his Burlington set, Lescalleet used the recent death of the Beastie Boys' MCA as a touchstone, playing a slowed-down "So Watcha Want" for the delighted crowd, racing around to get his complex rig going before the second refrain.

I asked Lescalleet if this was a conscious strategy, and he said it often was: "I felt like Houdini in a water chamber that night [at the Burlington]. I had to completely set up from scratch while that track played. I had a finite amount of time to find my hidden key and unlock the handcuffs before I ran out of air - and all in front of a live audience."

And here's Lucier's composition, which might be a touchstone for what to expect on Saturday.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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