Achim Kaufmann/Jeff Younger/Dylan Van Der Schyff March 31 at Merge
Pianist Achim Kaufmann came to town for two sets of stormy improv at Merge. The music roiled and boiled as the trio pushed towards the limits of what was playable on their instruments. Younger grappled with his guitar and blew into its pickups. Kaufmann scraped cups and glasses along the piano's surface and crouched down to prod at the instrument's interior. Van Der Schyff used mallets, brushes and sticks to play the kit—I mean, literally the kit—the shells, the rims, even the threads on the lug nuts. He's a master, and was often the primary shaper of each piece as it unfurled. The direction and development of the improvisations was some of the best I'd heard in this particular genre/field/scene.
The Unsupervised, April 1 at The Emerald
The Emerald, tucked away on Gore Avenue in Chinatown, is a comfortable room with a decent beer selection. The Unsupervised are an excellent band whom I hadn't seen in quite a while. They look to be ramping up activity again with new material from bandleader Jeff Younger (him again) and a new bassist, James Meger. They got right up to speed with older numbers like "Inches" and "Strands" (from Elevator) leading into the new songs that they plan to record and release in 2016. The only bummer was the volume from the punk show going on next door, which was bleeding into the Emerald. While I enjoy "TV Party" as much as the next guy, it didn't mix well with the gig I was trying to listen to.
Magma, April 2 at The Venue
Jesus wept. This little band called Magma came to town. If you didn't see the show, I can't help you much. It was a normal gig in that I experienced (a) the ritual humiliation of trying and failing to get a t-shirt and (b) buying an overpriced can of good old Pilsner. Aside from all that, it was more like going to church than a rock show: a new kind of church where solemn, centuries-old European liturgical tradition crosses streams with the funkiest, most-inbred, taking-up-serpents, maniacal Christ-as-conjurer Deep-South God botherers. And then aliens arrive and tractor-beam the whole works into the mothership for some mind-melding and deep probing. It was kind of like that, but way better. It was rhythm, madness, skill, confusion, awe, joy, and just...holy shit.