On Sunday April 9, Le Poisson Rouge was host to an intriguing performance from the Charlemagne Palestine & Rhys Chatham Duo. Palestine is one of the more unique and colorful characters associated with the minimalist movement -- a category which he doesn’t care for and instead prefers “resonant music."  Over the years, he has worked with vocalist Pandit Pran Nath, musicians Tony Conrad, Morton Subotnick, Z’ev and Pan Sonic, and invented his own alternative synthesizer and lighting device, The Spectral Continuum Drone Machine. He’s made numerous records, videos and sculptures and performs regularly with his collection of stuffed animals which he refers to as “animal divinities”.

At LPR, Palestine came out dressed like the Hamburglar on acid, wearing bright, bold patterns, multiple scarves and three hats, two baseball style and both topped with a fedora.  His piano and the stage were festively decorated with large swaths of colorful strips of fabric, skull patterned tablecloths and, of course, his stuffed animals who sat in a small suitcase at the foot of the piano with their own light shining on them.

Known for drinking cognac during his performance, this show started off no different.  Palestine immediately sat at a table holding two glasses and the first several minutes seemed to concentrate on how much he could swallow, and the clinking glasses with their swirled contents were held under a microphone.  Meanwhile, looking in stark contrast in a very straight looking black suit and fedora was the inimitable Rhys Chatham who has an equally impressive background.

Chatham plays guitar, flute and trumpet and has worked with avant-garde pioneer and minimalist icon La Monte Young, and like Palestine he’s also worked electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick and Tony Conrad in an early version of Conrad's highly influential group, The Dream Syndicate. He also performed with Glenn Branca and was a huge influence on the NYC No Wave scene in the late 70’s.

As Palestine’s rapid and copious cognac consumption continued, he started to sing in his haunting, ethereal voice while Chatham provided a base of subtle electronics and you got the feeling that you were part of a crazy ritual from outer space.  The two worked intuitively together and the performance saw the pair incorporating laptops, electronics, piano, flute, trumpet and guitar into their set of very transportive “resonant music.”

There were moments of intense seriousness but also some of hilarity.  Near the end of the set Palestine called out “Rhys!” and when Chatham looked over Palestine hit his laptop for a brief power electronics squall that was completely out of character from the rest of the set when he did it again the audience burst into laughter. The set became more haunting and somber at the end when both Palestine and Chatham started calling out “Toooonnnnnyyyy” in long sustained voices which were surely trying to summon the spirit of the late Tony Conrad who died one year ago to the day (!) in 2016.  While Tony didn’t appear, his presence and influence was surely felt throughout the entire evening.

Opening the evening was HEVM a trio consisting of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix on guitar and electronics, Eve Essen on sax, flute and slide whistle and MV Carbon on electronics, percussion and vocals.  They were followed by the solo violin explorations of C. Spencer Yeh.  Both groups performed captivating, improvised sets and Yeh got an enormous response from the audience.

photos and review by Greg Cristman

More From Brooklyn Vegan