Matt Chamberlain Residency with David Torn
Better than…watching the Lakers lose.
Last night, before a moderate-sized crowd, drummer Matt Chamberlain resumed his month-long residency alongside guitar slinger David Torn. The two instrumentalists, armed with impeccable understanding and a relentless light show, put on a display of instrumental prowess rarely offered in Los Angeles.
Torn is renowned for his avant-garde leanings. His spidery licks have graced the work everyone from David Bowie and Don Cherry to John Legend and kd lang. Chamberlain, a San Pedro success story, is a jack of all trades. He has backed everyone from Fiona Apple to William Shatner.
The duo entered bathed in green light. They started with a slow, industrial echo attached to Torn's guitar while Chamberlain laid down an ambient pulse. For the entirety of the set, the band dealt in atmospheric ramblings and propulsive backbeats. Torn provided a strange series of disjunct guitar riffs in response to Chamberlain's driving drum beats. Torn's nimble fingers fluttered over his six strings as Chamberlain pulsed about both acoustically and electronically.
The set was a strange experience, with the house lights flipped to every switch and providing an utmost laser/planetarium setting. In between, billowing fog set out over the first few rows of the crowd. Admirably, the duo set out to match the stadium atmospherics on offer.
Chamberlain was in deep correspondence with Torn's far-reaching guitar sounds, providing synchronized beats to his pyschedlic freak-out. Pity the late-comer, for how many colors can a curtain turn? And how much eye-sight is one willing to sacrifice to a laser beam? But the band showed no sign of stopping during their brief set, pummeling a bell-like tone as Torn gave it his all.
The second and final tune of the show was set to an EKG dance beat that had Chamberlain pounding on a stick-driven drum machine. Torn let loose over the metronomic pulse as the laser beams continued to scatter across the crowd like a delirious sniper. His searing guitar sounds bellowed over Chamberlain's thundering drum samples. Torn dove into a world with as many knobs as strings, providing a scattering animal-like sound that would have raised Sir David Attenborough's interest. The squeaks and purrs of his pulsating device were only matched by Chamberlain, who contained a rhythmic potpourri in his oddly-shaped drum kit.
At one point Chamberlain asked the house to ease up on the kaleidoscopic offerings. “Do you mind keeping the strobes down?” he asked. “Maybe a little lighter on the smoke?” Too bad. The show was becoming a happening but Chamberlain wasn't really interested in pleasing the more far-out audience members.
Their first exploratory set allowed the audience access to Chamberlain's many sides while Torn dug deep into his trick-bag. Although it may have been the least commercially appealing of Chamberlain's residency, it was brimming with challenges for both the performers and the audience, and a feat certainly worthy of high praise.
Personal Bias: I've always had a soft spot for Fiona Apple's “Criminal.”
The Crowd: A lot of guitar nerds, a few drum nerds, and numerous confused dates.
Random Notebook Dump: The Mint was offering a month-long pass to Chamberlain's residency. That seems like a pretty clever way to fill a house.