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photos by Greg Cristman, words by Ian Chainey
"Regis = the one techno act that can get diehard Napalm Death fans dancing. Or at least nodding their heads agreeably." - Self Titled Mag
"Glenn Branca walking the floors of Hardcore Activity In Progress with a scowl and a plastic bag is the most perfect thing." - David Marek
"I'm right between Napalm Death and Gunplay performing at the same time at this @rbma Hardcore event at Knockdown. IT'S REAL WEIRD AND GREAT" - Laura Sterritt
Wolf Eyes / Gunplay / Tim Hecker @ Knockdown Center - 5/16/14
"Tomorrow i will see Gunplay and Napalm Death in the same show, i don't rly even know what that means," wrote one fan on Twitter. Somewhere, the shadowy curating hand at Red Bull Music Academy smiled. Mission accomplished.
Hardcore Activity in Progress was one of the latest monster showcases put on by RBMA, working under the record store geek conceit of musical extremes. Kicking off last Friday, May 16 at the Knockdown Center, the show playfully yo-yoed the crowds' expectations, covering more miles than the previous Drone Activity in Progress held last year. The fest swung from dynamic end points; quiet to loud, soothing to loud, measured to holy crap this is loud (they luckily were giving out earplugs that they warned everyone to wear). Sure, there were times when the twine was twisted: For one, OCD category adherents might've been flummoxed by the lack of objective hardcore on the bill, beyond the prior incarnation of Bastard Noise. ("This is our hardcore," said the website, using the same argumentative logic as, "Well, it's how I feel. . .") Then, the proximity of the stages created a timbre pile-up that would've excited the spirits of Luigi Russolo and John Cage, but seemed to irritate critics. The NY Times review reads:
the sound at the Knockdown Center was basically garbage: echoey, booming, diffuse, nonsensical. It also wasn't great at last year's Red Bull Music Academy event in the same space, "Drone Activity in Progress," but that concert had a few other things going for it -- the novelty of the just-opened space, and the music itself, drone and noise and power-electronics, either carefully conceived or more energetic. Anyway, on Friday, some good sets -- by the Thing and Ms. Lee, for instance -- were impeded by poor acoustics or competing rackets coming from nearby. And some bad sets were made worse.Add in the inclement weather and the venue's libation ban (the same venue as the recent M.I.A. & A$AP Ferg show), and one could see the bipolar goal as needlessly frustrating.
But, it's hard to damn ambition. The fact one could walk a few steps from the drone terror of the ex-Khanate pain-incarnate that's Gnaw to solo cellist deconstructionist Okkyung Lee was kind of neat in the same way an eclectic mixtape is neat. Granted, in the 21st century, with all of recorded history at our fingertips, the ping-pong effect is lessened due to everyone's general familiarity with other styles. The genre islands have been subsumed by the sea change. But, still, one appreciated the otherworldly jolt every so often: Hey, there's Lubomyr Melnyk wielding his complex continuous music theory on piano, creating a near-literal river of notes. And there's grindfathers Napalm Death destroying unprotected eardrums with unhinged aggression. In fact, the latter's classic "You Suffer" kind of summed it all up: You suffer/ But why? Those that took the show as some greater statement about contemporary art were missing the point. Modern classic and harsh noise rap! Drone and jazz! Gunplay and Tim Hecker! GUNPLAY AND TIM HECKER!
Those were the moments that made it worthwhile.
Pictures from the event (though unfortunately none of Regis or clipping. who we missed) are in this post and continue below...
Joe McPhee & Chris Corsano