Kris Perry’s MACHINES
Friday, August 10, 2012
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – The sounds of machinery and industry returned to Basilica Hudson, on Friday night. But this time around, the sounds – part of the kickoff of the Basilica Music Festival, in conjuction with Hudson MusicFest — were organized – or disorganized, as the case may be – by an ensemble of musicians led by sculptor Kris Perry, who describes Machines as a “musical kinetic sculpture project.”
There’s nothing particularly new or original about making music out of the sounds of machinery – that goes back at least as far as the first time someone discovered that rapidy inhaling and exhaling through a harmonica could evoke a railroad train. Industrial music, which both evokes the sounds of factories and at times makes use of the tools and machines of mass
production, has in fact been its own genre since at least the 1970s. The repetitive sounds of machines that repeat the same action over and over again are often at the heart of contemporary minimalism, particularly in the work of Louis Andriessen (Workers Union, 1975), and they crossed over into the pop realm largely under the influence of Krautrock pioneers including Kraftwerk and Einstuerzende Neubauten (which pioneered the conversion of scrap metal and building tools into custom-built musical instruments), groups whose influences today can be detected in indie-bands including Radiohead and Wilco.
Still, Kris Perry – whose studio, Fantastic Fabrications, is located in a former 300,000-square-foot furniture factory in Hudson said to be the world’s second largest — and his ensemble offered an inventive, fully rounded and multi-dimensional program that gained import from the setting itself – this converted, 19th century factory which is now a multi-purpose creative arts and performance space, in this post-industrial riverside town that has almost entirely seen its functioning economy, such as it is, mutate from a production-based one to a so-called creative economy, sparked in large part by the sort of salvage operation Perry’s ensemble undertook (one that is better known outside the Basilica and on the city’s main drag as “the antiques industry”).
It’s hard not to see the very creation and process of Kris Perry’s MACHINES as a metaphor for Hudson itself, doubling back on itself again and again, as industry becomes entertainment about industry becoming entertainment….
Re-use, re-purpose, recycle are the buzzwords of the moment, and here the salvage operation literally buzzed when it wasn’t ringing, clanging, pounding, and whistling. Perry’s troupe found ways to make sounds out of reclaimed fans, gears, metal plates, barrels, pipes, tubes, solenoids — some of which were modified for pitch, some of which were struck with sticks or mallets, some of which were subject to electronic processing or amplification, and others of which were used merely in their native state, merely to resound.
Hollow or hollowed-out objects were used as resonators, sometimes as percussion instruments, other times, with the addition of taut strings, as crude guitar-type instruments. The whole thing was given the assistance of an electronic boost – there was some knob-twiddling going on, presumably unleashing samples, and the musicians, who mixed and matched and made a circuit of the various “instruments” at their disposal, occasionally found themselves playing that quintessential musical instrument of the early 21st century – an Apple MacBook.
The ensemble was outfitted in industrial-style jump suits; some of the musicians wore the mien of factory workers, while others – in particularly Tommy Stinson, formerly of the Replacements, the great American rock band that made a hell of a racket on its own using conventional rock ‘n’ roll instruments (and now a working member of the relatively old-school rock groups, Guns ‘n Roses and Soul Asylum) – took a more performative approach, even egging on the audience (which didn’t require much egging) to clap along to the hydraulic beat.
Among the musicians taking part in Friday night’s performance, besides Stinson, were Elvis Perkins, Brian Dewan, John Rosenthal, Chris Turco, Ben Fundis, and Gideon Crevoshay.