February 2: The Return of Kenny Millions: Millions/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter Trio with The New York Review of Cocksucking and Zach Rowden/Leila Bordreuil Duo. Like Lydia Lunch, Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra, and Weasel Walter, saxophonist/clarinetist Kenny Millions (a/k/a Keshavan Maslak) is quintessentially brutarian. Tonight, noise-jazz mayhem will commence as the provocateur Millions—in a rare appearance in these parts—reignites a firestorm with his partner-in-crime Walter and double bassist extraordinaire Damon Smith in an extreme-music trio of ear-bleeding magnitude.
February 2: Nick Millevoi Desertion Trio with Special Guest Jamie Saft and Kid Millions / Sarah Bernstein Duo at Trans Pecos. Philadelphia guitarist Millevoi has performed mind-bending technical metal heroics for John Zorn, plays Klezmer with trombonist Dan Blacksberg, and went toe-to-toe with fellow six-stringer Chris Forsyth as a member of his Solar Motel Band. As leader of Desertion Trio on the brand new Midtown Tilt, Millevoi plays heir to Neil Young with a set of bluesy desert-rock instrumental boogie and chug that is Crazy Horse-meets-Nels Cline avant-country stoner arena-rock. Kid Millions of Oneida and violinist/vocalist Sarah Bernstein set the stage with cuts from their 2017 joint, Tense Life.
February 3: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Miller Theatre. Composer/bandleader Darcy James Argue and his innovative 18-piece big band Secret Society will perform rarities and unrecorded works as well as the piece Tensile Curves, which was written in honor of, and performed at, Newport's 60th anniversary in 2014. Argue describes the work as a 40-minute meditation on Duke Ellington's Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, which famously caused utter pandemonium at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.
February 3: Brandon Lopez: Fairer Than Tongue (For P. A. Campos) / Duo with Gerald Cleaver. Fearless composer and deep-plucking bassist Brandon Lopez has been a crucial part of Brooklyn’s improvisational underground for the last several years, performing alongside luminaries like Amirtha Kidambi, Nate Wooley, Weasel Walter, and Chris Corsano. The rising experimentalist opens his Artist-in-Residence at Issue Project Room with a three-movement solo improvisation work titled “Fairer Than Tongue” before joining forces with drummer Gerald Cleaver for a duo performance.
February 4: SUSS Ghost Party Record Release Party at The Secret Theater. Akin to Ancient Ocean and Chuck Johnson, NYC-based veteran quintet SUSS are craftsman of “ambient country” and on their just-released Ghost Box, its tranquil psychedelic Americana is sublimely awash in shoe-gazy pedal steel twang fit for beer-swilling, back porch chill-outs.
February 6th: Premature Burial, Eugene Chadbourne/Weasel Walter/Tim Dahl Trio, Jaimie Branch (solo) at Muchmore’s. Premature Burial is a supergroup of sorts featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Matt Nelson, and tubist Dan Peck. Tonight’s bill is rounded out by an iconoclastic trio for the ages (legendarily zany avant guitarist Chadbourne with Lydia Lunch Retrovirus members Walter and Dahl) and a solo turn by trumpeter Jaimie Branch, whose Fly or Die was on just about every best-of 2017 list.
February 8: Alexander Turnquist, Dave Harrington/J.R. Bohannon Duo, ZZZWalk at Trans-Pecos. Ace guitarists and dronesmiths Dave Harrington and J.R. Bohannon (a/k/a Ancient Ocean) each served up two of the best all-instrumental psych-ambient records of the last two years (Become Alive and Titan's Island, respectively). This evening, the two pair up for what’s dubbed a “world premiere.” Count on entrancing, twang-laden atmospherics and illuminating textures.
February 9: HR (of Bad Brains) & Human Rights, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus @El Cortez. The iconic Bad Brains frontman has battled illness in recent years but continues to fight the good fight, occasionally reuniting with his brothers-in-hardcore-arms. HR flies into the dub/reggae chill-out zone in his solo guise tonight while pulling select cuts from the Bad Brains oeuvre.
February 10: Olivia Block / Drew McDowall / Lea Bertucci Metal Aether record release at ISSUE Project Room. Alto saxophonist Lea Bertucci celebrates the release of her solo maelstrom Metal Aether, a hypnotically glorious bottomless pit of droney pulsations, stuttering and looping sonics and spastic patterns and textures that envelope and enthrall sense and mind.
February 11: Wharton Tiers Ensemble, Antietam and Escape By Ostrich at El Cortez. Along with its peers in Yo La Tengo and The Feelies, long-running indie rock outfit Antietam are a NYC/NJ treasure whose combo of earwormy melody, guitar hero solos and noisy spurts has been stuff of underground legend for over three decades. Guitar godhead Tara Key, bassist Tim Harris and drummer Josh Madell will jangle and shred through cuts off of last year’s excellent Intimations of Immortality. No wave vet, drummer and superproducer Wharton Tiers headlines with his Ensemble.
February 14: Cup (Yuka C. Honda & Nels Cline) with Theo Bleckmann at National Sawdust. NYC experimental power couple Yuka C. Honda (ex-Cibo Matto) and Nels Cline (of Wilco fame) have been fixtures in the avant-garde underground, free-improvving their way in collaborative settings across the city. Honda has set up shop at National Sawdust as Artist in Residence and Cup, her duo project with Cline, delves into electronics and guitar-based, song-oriented explorations which finds Cline also trying his hand at singing.
February 15: Syncretics Series: Craig Taborn & Kris Davis at Issue Project Room. The transcendent nature of which both Craig Taborn and Kris Davis have deconstructed the jazz avant-garde via their ballooning output—either as leader and sidepeople—have cemented them as visionaries of their instrument. On Davis’ 2016 duo fest Duopoly, the two formed an improbable piano tandem. That coupling continues on the dizzying, twin-keys duel, Octopus. At times sinuous, other times serene, this labyrinthine set—captured live over three concerts—of originals plus covers of Sun Ra and Carla Bley is revelatory, complex clinic given by two piano vanguards.
February 16: Wye Oak, Metropolis Ensemble, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus premiere William Brittelle's Spiritual America at Symphony Space. For the last decade, Baltimore duo Wye Oak have made dreamy synth-pop, fusing the sensibilities of melodic indie rock peppered with roiling electronics. For this evening’s performance, Wye Oak team with chamber collective Metropolis Ensemble and composer William Brittelle for new arrangements of songs culled from 2015’s Shriek. Brittelle will also be premiering a new piece titled Spiritual America.
February 17: Bardo Pond, Major Stars, Honey Radar and Henry Owings at Union Pool. A pair of longtime underground godfathers—Philadelphia’s stoner-sludge crew Bardo Pond and Massachusetts psych-rock institution Major Stars—converge for a one-two shred punch. Both veteran groups have trudged on mightily as ever, evidenced by Bardo Pond’s Under The Pines (from 2017) and the razor sharp, anthemic beast that was Major Stars’ Motion Set (’16). Chunklet Enterprises mastermind Henry Owings opens with his wacky brand of stand-up comedy.
February 17: Child Abuse, USA Nails, Prayer Group. Dead Tenants and The Cradle at The Glove. Stalwarts of the Brooklyn underground for well over a decade, Child Abuse are a bruising, classification-defying trio whose aggro assault whets the appetites of listeners of grind-metal, punk-jazz, industrial and electronic music. It’s been a long minute since 2014’s incredible synth-splattered feast Trouble in Paradise so here’s hoping CA is previewing fresh tunes from a new record tonight.
February 19-21: Interference AV featuring The Sun Ra Arkestra/YATTA, Lightning Bolt/Irreversible Entanglements & Jlin/Sadaf at Empire 25 AMC presented by Clocktower and Times Square Arts.
Times Square’s Empire AMC multiplex plays host to a free(!) three-night live music/multimedia spectacular where free jazz, noise-rock, electronic dance music and more will fill midtown. From Jlin’s polyrhythmic beats-heavy rhythmic throb, the pedal-stomping bass/drums insanity of Lightning Bolt, the big-band cosmic jazz party thrown by the Marshall Allen-led Sun Ra to the neo-political spoken word-cum-free jazz fire-breathing of Irreversible Entanglements (with Camae Ayewa a/k/a Moor Mother), this festival is well worth the trek to the strip mall, tourist trap known as Times Square. Do yourself a favor and pick up Irreversible Entanglements’ scorching debut, too.
February 20-21: Joe Diebes + BOTCH Ensemble: oyster. From the freethinking mind of composer/performance and visual artist Joe Diebes comes oyster, an ambitious experimental opera that attempts to decode the big data puzzle put forth by legendary archivist Alan Lomax’s song analysis system, Cantometrics.
February 22: The Jewish Museum and Bang on a Can present Iva Bittová. Czech-born violinist and singer Iva Bittová is a dynamic genre-hopping musician with a penchant for incorporating myriad world music flavors and unconventional vocals into her forward-thinking aesthetic. Here, Bittová rings in The Jewish Museum and Bang on Can’s new season where they present innovative female musicians from across the spectrum.
February 22: Ekmeles: Microtonal Premieres at The Crypt of the Church of the Intercession. As a vital force in New York’s new-music scene, vocal ensemble Ekmeles have been stretching the boundaries of human voice performance. For tonight’s microtonal premieres (by composers Marc Sabat, Rebecca Saunders. Erin Gee and Cat Lamb), Ekmeles find themselves in the perfect acoustic confines for their cathartic and haunting voice explorations: a crypt.
February 23: Renata Zeiguer Old Ghost record release, Kalbells, Michael Rocketship, DJ Surge Protector at Union Pool
The experimental-tinged art-pop stylings Brooklyn-based tunesmith Renata Zeiguer beautifully crafts on Old Ghost, her Northern Spy Records debut, will certainly earn her a spot on those obligatory “rising stars” lists. and deservedly so. The angelic-voiced Zeiguer’s sun-kissed songs (produced by her and Landlady’s Adam Schatz) are part breezy, part complex with an abundance of hooks that is feel good all over.
February 27: NYFOS: Protest. New York Festival of Song consistently steps out of the imposed restraints of the classical art song and concert hall experience to communicate with directness and immediacy. In this themed program, they take on the sign of the times with songs from Marc Blizstein to Randy Newman. For anyone who endured Marc Ribot’s execrable “Bella, ciao” at the Winter Jazzfest, go hear musicians who understand what the songs says and mean it when they sing it.
February 28: Bearthoven: New Works at Roulette. On 2017’s Trios, experimental piano/bass/percussion trio Bearthoven dazzled with a brain-twisting and abstract array of stroked and stabbed keys and waves of drone. For tonight’s program, Bearthoven premiere a collection of works by composers Kristina Wolfe, Adam Roberts, Shelley Washington, and Scott Wollschleger.
March 2: Carl Stone, Ned Rothenberg, Ami Yamasaki at ISSUE Project Room. ISSUE describes this as an “evening of overlapping improvisations,” but that can’t begin to describe what you might expect. Rothenberg is one of the finest improvisors around, and he’ll be bookended by two wildcards: vocalist and “cross-media artist” Yamasaki and computer musician Stone. However it sounds, this will be music that helps describe that nether place were improvisation, technology, and pop sensibilities are coming together to make something new.
Brad Cohan is a music journalist based in Brooklyn who has contributed to Bandcamp, The Village Voice, NY Observer, Time Out NY, VICE, Noisey, SPIN, CLRVYNT, Red Bull Music Academy, and other fine publications.