Monday, February 2, 2009
Christopher Riggs - Toba (Holy Cheever Church Records CS)
Ben Hall and Chris Riggs rolled through town last Thursday for a slaying set as Trauma. Actually, we were supposed to make it up to Albany the night before to play with them and Twilight of the Century too but no go due to snow. Bummer bro. Anyway, they played a real heavy jammer of a set that seemed to have most of the attendees scratching their head for a while seeing as it was post the sampler blitz of Dana and the weirdo rock antics of Bobo. They really lay down the law, and afterward they unloaded a bunch of stuff on me, much to my pleasure of course. When Chris came up with a stack of tapes I was totally psyched since I hadn't heard any of his stuff before the show and was totally blown away. Turns out he has a label and has been putting out wild stuff with a killer, Mexican folk aesthetic. Of course the sounds are anything but.
Toba is the only one of the tapes I got that features Riggs' homemade reeds, so I was of course right on top of that one. The thing is filled with these little miniatures of acoustic guitar malfunction and little cattail style reeds. More often than not his guitar sounds more like a washboard than anything Paco de Lucia would pick up as the strings are scraped apart by the fingernails. Chris just got out of the conservatory at Oberlin where he majored in classical guitar, so it was no surprise that his professors weren't too pleased with this aspect of his work. Just heavy duty noise realms that focus way more on pacing and movement than harmonic developments or, er, flourishes... of the traditional virtuosic variety of course.
Some of the stuff here consists of no more than Riggs slapping his hands against the body of the guitar or just bowing the shit out of these mangled strings while huffing a go on his reed instruments, which somehow manage to have full timbrel ranges all their own. Yet each of these little works is evocative and Riggs is clearly fully committed to his aesthetic as explores harsh, layered drones whose near ram-horn bellows are supported by meandering repetitions on the second side's (as far as I can tell) only track. There is a personal quality to these recordings that is genuinely experimental and explorative but completely unpretentious. Like Roland Kirk letting loose... REALLY letting loose... Tons more beautiful pieces too, and all super limited. Check out his label's blog for more info, though be warned that it's not fully up to date and there's some recent stuff on there (one with Ben and one with Mike Khoury and Matt Endahl) that are totally killer. More to come from this one for sure.