Named after the Essential Logic song, Music Is A Better Noise, a new exhibit currently on view at PS1 in Queens, “brings together musicians who make art and artists who make music.” The first section focuses on the fertile mid-1970s to early 1980s period (see also: NYU’s recent Downtown Show), and includes contributions from Barbara Ess, whose pinhole camera photographs have graced the cover ofBlind Spot and who has played in the Static, Y Pants, and Ultra Vulva, Alan Vega (Suicide) and legendarily eccentric hip-hop iconoclast Rammellzee. The second section rounds up drawings, installations, and video art from the current scene, including contributions from Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Rossum, Jutta Koether, Christian Marclay, Kim Gordon, Devendra Banhart, and Thurston Moore (among others). It’s on view until January 8, 2007.
Ess’ group Y Pants have been (relatively) unsung during the new wave of No Wave. The only No Wavers to dare incorporate ukelele and toy piano into their instrumental repetoire (talk about a unique take on the power trio), Ess, Gail Vachon and Virginia Persol created some of the most charming, shambolic, and slyly feminist songs of the era (think of them as New York’s answer to the Raincoats). Their cover of Lesley Gore’s’ “That’s the Way Boys Are” is a chilling, canny masterpiece in upending a song’s text and subtext (not to mention wryly subverting the usual rock clichés about puppydog love); “Favorite Sweater”, by contrast, is one of the few No Wave songs guaranteed to make you grin from ear to ear. Hopefully the Periodic Document reissue of the band’s complete discography is still readily available.
Rammellzee’s been busy in the years since he was featured in the groundbreaking hip-hop doc Style Wars. In addition to being an early originator of some serious wild style, he’s also an MC, painter, writer and all-around Renaissance man. “Beat Bop” is a strange and beautiful trip —social realism mixed with intense flights of fancy. Surreal, harrowing but ultimately uplifting. You can find it on theDowntown 81 soundtrack. You can also find his work on the Death Comet Crew reissue that came out last year. It’s well worth tracking down. [DCC was co-founded by Ike Yard’s Stuart Argabright, who also compiled the new volume of New York Noise.]
I’m off to NYC to see the Slits! Have a lovely weekend, everyone!
PHOTO CREDIT: “yes/no” BY BARBARA ESS