Loop 2.4.3 and Clogs share not only group member Thomas Kozumplik, they also share impressive command of their instruments along with provocative and often rapturous original composition. Both groups came together at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn July 16, 2012 to celebrate Loop 2.4.3’s new album American Dreamland as well as Clogs co-founder Padma Newsome’s new composition Shady Gully, with an additional preview of his upcoming opera 2 Moon Smile.
The setting was unparalleled. Galapagos Art Space is a cultural arts center, about to be a certified LEED green building, whose mission includes shifting civic policy and building new business models for the arts. It’s unique not only in its approach and politics, but the fact that the performance hall includes a 1,600 sq ft lake. Seated in plush red booths within the lake, with red candlelight flickering on the tables and reflecting off the water, there is a hint of the sublime before even a note is played.
Curtains opened for Loop 2.4.3 and everything started with a bang, drums, more drums, a slide of a painting of a neon orange motorcycle, and a riot of instruments on stage. Loop 2.4.3 is a project of Clogs co-founder Kozumplik and multi-instrumentalist Lorne Watson. Both virtuoso percussionists, Kozumplik and Watson perform as the New York Percussion Duo (NYPD) and founded Loop 2.4.3 to include strings, electronics and voice. Their performance, including a wide range of instruments looped to great effect and often times aided by members of Clogs as well as other musicians, ranged widely stylistically from bombastic and startling to subtle and lithe.
The American Dreamland made manifest was one of desolation and ruin, fitting with Kozumplik’s introduction to one song as “a journey through warped minds.” This was complemented by artist Jon Waldo’s slides of neon motorcycles, airplanes careening toward the land, and vacant post-industrial landscapes. Even the song So Strong, the piece I found to be the most out of place and uncomely in the set, with its disquieting mix of lyrical sincerity, musical bravado and ultimate mediocrity, felt quintessentially American. Coupled with this were moments of almost ethereal beauty, highlighting the marimba, Native American flute or steel drum, where the America evidenced was one of serenity and tenderness, still ripe for dreams.
Clogs, who played for the second half of the evening, presented a lyrical counterpoint to Loop 2.4.3. Clogs, a chamber ensemble made up of Kozumplik on percussion, Newsome on viola, violin, piano, ukulele and more, Bryce Dessner on guitar, and Rachael Elliott on bassoon, have previously been referred to as the “godfather of indieclassical music.” That evening Dessner (also of the band The National) was replaced by guitarist Ben Thorne. The ensemble’s work as composers, curators and musicians has served to connect disparate audiences and expand the purview of genre specific subsets within and beyond the rock, indie, folk, and classical spheres. The liminal space they occupy with hints of music from all corners of the world, paired with their—at times sparse and at other times profoundly lush—melodic phrasing beautifully sets alight a global citizens complicated longing for home.
Shady Gully, Newsome’s new collection of works, serves as an homage to his homeland in Mallacoota, Australia, now in a preservation struggle. These works, along with two songs inspired by the illness of two of Newsome’s friends, presented an especially introspective, folk oriented and melancholic air to the evening. Hobson’s Choice, a lyrical ballad describing one man’s lack of choice in his relationship to illness, was followed by a piece where the audience was invited to sing along with the following refrain: “The sun comes up and the sun comes down, The hands of the clock keep going round and round.”
There is something magical about classically trained musicians who play in alternative venues and bars, trade a wide array of instruments with ease, and give top billing to instruments like the steel drum, marimba and bassoon. Moreover both Loop 2.4.3 and Clogs work to challenge and soothe their audience with panache and haunting beauty.
Adrianne Koteen is a New York City based artist and educator. Follow her on twitter@akoteen.