After a year of absence, the Columbia Experimental Music Festival returns to temporarily satisfy curious listeners, then arouse even more curiosity.
A project of the artistic collective Dismal Niche, the festival runs from November 4-7 and looks at everything from jazz to metal, neo-classical to ambient, and a fair amount of indie rock. The well-rounded lineup is national and local as well, with a number of more low-key Colombian artists surfacing to fascinate.
Every artist on this year’s list is more than interesting. Here is a rundown of just five that should make listeners guess in the best possible way.
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Patrick Shiroishi will be among the busiest people at this year’s festival, performing in three different settings: solo, in trio with drummer Thom Nguyen and Chaz Prymek from Lake Mary and as part of the Fuubutsushi collective – which also includes Prymek.
The Los Angeles-based saxophonist exerts himself creatively and emotionally in any setting, although he expects, “by default”, his solo set “to take the most of me.” These collaborative opportunities will generate new musical partnerships and refresh existing ones.
“I have never played with Chaz or Thom before, so it will be new and exciting, and I still have yet to meet the members of Fuubutsushi in person, which will have many layers of celebration,” Shiroishi said in an email interview. .
The pandemic has limited Shiroishi’s ability to join friends for close musical experiences. But the moment has also opened doors to revisit and release a remarkable amount of material, he said.
Its website lists four 2021 releases; the latest is “Hidemi”, on which he plays five different saxophones – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and C-melody – and contributes vocals.
“Even though it seems like there is a huge amount of music, I take the time to prioritize and pay attention to all of the projects as they are all extensions of myself,” Shiroishi said. .
“Hidemi” required creative forethought and emotional focus. Musically, he recognized and wrote “more or less what was the basis of each piece before… recording”.
“Ultimately, I would like to record a four-movement saxophone quartet composition, and that will certainly require a lot more planning and piece writing,” he added.
The album takes its name, as it does, from his grandfather, Hidemi Patrick; the songs absorb and reaffirm the resonance of the experiences of Japanese-Americans after the trauma and inhumanity of the concentration camps.
As Shiroishi’s expressive compositions ring in the air, he returns regularly to the story, writing and performing the sense of connection he feels with his elders.
“Looking back, I think the family and what they went through is really ingrained in my music for better or for worse,” he said, before directly invoking his grandfather.
“I don’t know if I felt a sense of connection, but I hope that even though we’ve never met, he’s proud of me.”
Where to hear Shiroishi: 7:30 p.m. Friday with Armand Hammer and DJ full clips emptied at Firestone Baars Chapel on the Stephens College campus. Shirioshi will also be broadcast live at 1pm Saturday from KOPN Studios with Nguyen and Prymek; and Fuubutsushi performs Saturday night at First Baptist Church.
With “The Experience of Repetition Like Death,” the Juilliard-trained cellist and songwriter landed on NPR’s list of the 50 Best Albums of 2020. An intimately regarded response to personal suffering, “this collection of requiems for a Dying Mother ranks among the great ambient albums of the 21st century, ”wrote NPR’s Otis Hart.
Jensen’s work is deep and extends widely – in various collaborations, film scores and more. Listening closely, one gets the impression that the composition and the performance have almost completely blurred; with sufficient ease to fully appreciate the range of the cello, its personality, Jensen coaxes and coaxes the instrument towards beautiful statements that border on sacred revelation.
Where to hear Jensen: 7:30 p.m. Saturday with Fuubutsushi at the First Baptist Church.
Bringing the underground above the ground, New York hip-hop veterans Billy Woods and Elucid have pooled their experience for nearly a decade under the name Armand Hammer. “The couple’s music takes patient ears to decipher,” NPR’s Marcus J. Moore wrote earlier this year.
“There’s a dexterity to it; the social commentary is swaddled in layers of thick poetry and equally dense production.”
The push-and-pull that Moore rightly identifies – between production and proclamation, and between musical partners – preserves a timeless sense of inspiration and influence, but never sacrifices a quality of the moment that brings to Armand Hammer a lyrical laser concentration.
Where to hear Armand Hammer: With Shirioshi and DJ full of empty clips on Friday night.
Few pull quotes sell an artist like this: Thom Nguyen can “make a drums sound like a complete percussion ensemble, stone crusher or swarm of bees”, Drum! AJ Donahue of the magazine wrote.
By order of his Bandcamp biography, the North Carolina-based musician is first an improviser and then a drummer, whose work spans a number of projects and genres. Nguyen’s emphasis on creating a complete musical experience is manifested in varied and tasteful playing. Sometimes it rhythmically hypnotizes the listener; at others, it looks at whatever the song does, becoming one of its moving parts.
Where to hear Nguyen: As part of Shiroishi, Prymek, Nguyen; and live at 7:30 p.m. with Yellow Eyes at Firestone Baars Chapel.
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One of the many Columbia artists to honor this year’s festival, Fitzgerald writes some remarkably moving songs; her lyrics deal with the raw substance of love and loss, while her music creates space for the emotions that flow from it to expand and contract.
Fitzgerald started his career in a more traditional singer-songwriter vein – though more skilled and subtly innovative than most. But she slowly, surely abstracted her work like a painter who gestures towards landscapes without specifically creating each stone or blade of grass. The result is a powerful and human experience through music.
Where to hear Fitzgerald: Sunday noon at Firestone Baars Chapel with Lake Mary.
Learn more about this year’s festival at https://cargocollective.com/dismalniche.
Aarik Danielsen is the News and Culture Editor for the Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 573-815-1731.