Boasting a trio of solo performances from artists on the Constellation Records roster, local event series Invocation took over the Art Moderne setting of Little Italy's Royal Cinema last night (May 18) for a label showcase and double launch show. With new records on hand from Jessica Moss (Silver Mt. Zion, Black Ox Orkestar) and Jean Cousin's newly titled Joni Void project, the night also brought out Jason Sharp, who just released his A Boat Upon Its Blood full-length this past September.
Strapping into a wearable multi-mic rig custom built to amplify his heart and breathing rhythms, Sharp opened the night by passing a vocal mic and his hands over his abdomen like a Theremin, while A Boat Upon Its Blood guest Joe Grass provided some glowing pedal steel swells. Soon, Sharp's steady heart palpitations entered the mix, creating a living, subtle pulse for these drones, and the pair progressed toward more obscure sonic territory.
Sharp grabbed his bass sax for a foggy drift into the unknown, building up a mounting heartbeat towards a steady, natural climax, then breaking the tension with a riveting frenzy of skronk and distortion.
Label veteran Jessica Moss used her time to perform her freshly released Pools of Light in its entirety. Although she's a prolific musician, the album marks her first as a solo performer, and it's a wide-eyed reflection on the world we live in. Consisting of two long-form pieces that span entire record sides, she gave a hair-raising solo performance of layered violin epic "Entire Populations" and then broke to bring sister Nadia Moss (keys) onstage to lend synth textures and vocals to "Glaciers" while crouching over an array of effects pedals and loopers wider than her arm span.
As a tolling note signalled the suite's second part, a split-screened video of clouded skies and lapping beach tides appeared on the screen that had descended above the stage — a visual that would fade into the symmetrically altered image of a tree thriving in a field cluttered with power lines, snowy mountaintops and overpassing chemtrails, and a cityscape overlapped by choppy seas. Together with the music of Moss's album, it all coalesced like a melting landscape shot through the cubist prism of a thawing iceberg: breathtakingly stunning and mournfully dramatic, hope shining through in powerful bursts of rainbows of light.
In the changeover following Jessica Moss, all the gear cluttering the stage had been pushed out of view, the Royal's screen rolled out to the floor. Although he's worked with instruments before, Jean Cousin doesn't play any on Selfless; his latest assembles tracks built on an avant-garde process of film editing and foley technique. So instead of a concert performance, this unfolded like a director's cut of Cousin's newly crystallized practice of cinematographic music — an extended, widescreen presentation of the kaleidoscopic multimedia guiding the project, experimental music videos unrolling in grainy, caffeinated collage like the flickering glimpses of anxious, interpersonal truth gathered on the record.
Album opener "Song Sienna" stitched together the social spectacle of movie-going, and "Doppler" measured the pulse of city life, sped up time-lapse photography of red and white lights zooming up and down city arteries like blood cells. "Cinema Without People" got an atmospheric treatment of quiet, still life snippets to complement its whirring, mechanical hypnosis, while "Erasure" and "Disassociation" lingered on images of surveillance culture, then FIN: credits roll, thanks for coming, go home and think.
A uniquely curated night that was so much more than a concert in a cinema, this was a rare, uncompromising display of present-tuned creativity, and yet another potent reminder of the kind of label Constellation is: Unpredictable and reliably excellent, worthy of our full, unwavering attention.