The sound is as flowing and wide-open as the tail of a comet, whooshing through a pastiche of found sounds and percussion--some electronic, some organic--sounding for all the world like elevator music from a lift somewhere past Pluto.
It's hard to tell who's making the music on the darkened stage, there amid the instruments, percussion, and stacks of black boxes.
All that can be seen of one artist is a tent of long gray hair hanging over a keyboard; another is a shaggy shadow, beard and hair, apparently wearing some sort of robe, possibly even a dress.
They don't hold much attention, though: The audience, seated cafe-style and sipping beer or wine in the central area of the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, is surrounded by walls on which all sorts of visual distractions are projected, each changing at a different rate: A hand-rendered cartoon mural slowly crawls across a back wall while an unchangingly dead fish looms behind the wall behind the band.
On a screen to the right of the crowd of approximately 60, moving pictures silently run: first the Little Rascals, then Clint Eastwood; later, the sepia images of Sergei Eisenstein's classic Battleship Potemkin flicker past. On another screen across the stage, images have been so distorted or de-focused that they rush past as abstract patterns.
A white-clad woman in a black costume mask dances at stage center, coming out of the gloom only to sneak around the periphery of the crowd, almost unnoticed except when she introduces herself over the shoulder of a startled guest or offers a flower to a tableful of patrons.
The groove warps subtly as players change instruments; a tinny muted trumpet stabs through the current of sound as the screens jump from the archival to the abstract. Bandmembers wander around and through the audience; the dancer now sings as images of eyeballs, B-17s, and African dictators parade against the retinas of the audience members.
What the hell? Comatheatre, baby, a "performance art collective" dedicated to breaking down barriers, in this case through its Entermind series at the MAC, 3130 McKinney, from 10 p.m. to midnight every Saturday until August 10. Entermind seeks to lure the listener into a subconscious dream state, free of artificial distinctions.
It's definitely not your father's Oldsmobile. Consisting of musicians Kim Corbet, Chad Evans, and Bruce Richardson along with dancer/vocalist Amy Seltzer, the band is seriously cross-trained: Evans is a graphic artist and painter, while Richardson designs theater sound systems; Seltzer works with video.
"We're a multimedia interdisciplinary ensemble," Corbet explains, quickly using up his compounds. "We want to bring the arts together as much as possible...I've been an improviser a long time, and I'm fascinated by unconscious decisions."
"We want to get off the stage and into the whole room," Seltzer says, explaining her free-range role. "The dancing is just a point beyond what you'd normally see on stage; it makes things a little bigger than life, a little exaggerated, a bit dreamlike."
That sense of dream-time is vital to the group; in fact, its name stems from a waking oblivion all-too familiar to most of us. "I was traveling down 75," Corbet recalls, "and this guy just like--zoom--cuts right in front of me, and it was like, 'Hey man, whatsa matter, you in a coma?' Chad and I started to jam on it--something might be a total coma, or coma deluxe."
The definition of coma has since expanded: "We're talking philosophically here, but 'coma' (is) a theme park," Corbet says. "People think that when you're in a coma, you don't do anything, but it's actually a place where everything happens--you just don't recall it. All this different stuff could be juxtaposed in there...We try to present something like those juxtapositions."
"We're visiting a dream state or another world," Seltzer offers. When she dances, she's "trying to make the experience 3-D, like I'm experiencing a coma of my own and I'm trying to figure out what it is." She also sings, and while she shows up with lyrics and themes in mind--which she shares with the band in advance--she never thinks about melody, vamping instead with whatever the band is unspooling.
To make its sound(s), Comatheatre uses "anything and everything," according to Corbet. "Lots of electronics--they do so much for the space they take up--mixed with enough (traditional) instruments to give (us) validity." Corbet and company are particularly fond of looping devices. "Loopers allow individual roles to be larger, "says Corbet. "You can play duos and trios with yourself, be your own groove machine."
Loops are particularly appropriate for Comatheatre's recombinant cultural mission. "Their repetitive nature (references) Eastern chants, but combined with Western minimalism," Corbet explains. "We want to bring together things that have never been brought together before."
"What we've been trying to do," MAC co-owner Claude Albritton says after the show, "is establish ourselves not just as a museum or gallery, but also as a place where people could come hang out, like for a Saturday night, have a few drinks and hear some interesting music. We'd like for people to think of us and say, 'Why don't we just stop by?'"
Comatheatre has an open roster of guest members planned; each night will be different. "I guess it's that '60s idea that all things are part of one thing and vice versa," Corbet says, sounding almost reluctant, as if he can't decide whether or not saying that out loud embarrasses him. "There have just been so many instances of very strange things happening when we're up there, telepathic things: playing the same changes precisely at the same time, but with our backs to each other; the whole group shifting gears at once--stuff like that."
All-in-Oneness notwithstanding, Comatheatre is truly different and stimulating in the way that seeing the creative--rather than the recitative--process often is. It's weird, and you can drink beer during it. What more do you need, a label?
"Just think of it as fun from a parallel universe," Corbet advises.
The b-b-big time
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will be on KERA-TV Channel 13 Wednesday, July 3, at 8 p.m., bravely throwing itself between us and Yanni as it enjoys its first PBS special. The "three B" concert--Beethoven, Berber, and Bernstein--is a two-hour special filmed in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center that offers history, performance, and conductor Andrew Litton illuminating the works performed: Bernstein's Fancy Free Ballet, Barber's Violin Concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
The nationally broadcast special has some nice moments. Everyone has a favored group of musicians they enjoy watching during concerts, and there's an unmistakable frisson that comes from seeing a familiar face from a completely different angle, on big-time TV. The Meyerson looks great and the DSO acquits itself beautifully.
Poor David's Pub will host a benefit for the late Walter Hyatt June 27. Headlined by Steve Fromholz, who crossed paths with Hyatt's Uncle Walt's Band many times during Austin's cosmic-cowboy heyday, the roster also features Mark David Manders, Jerry Jackson--whose Killer Bees did a number of Hyatt covers--and relative newcomer, folkie Elizabeth Wills, among others. On June 29, another name is added to the growing list of artists who've recorded for David Card's Poor David Records: Austin's Headhunters. The "rockabluesy" band was so impressed with the vibe and quality of previous works by the likes of Rusty Wier and local Kottke-classicist Dave Somogyi that the group decided to cut its first album live with PDR and defer a studio-made effort. If you crave the kind of immortality that appearing in the background of a live album confers, get on down there...
Record-release party roundup: Direct Hit Records, the Metroplex's ma-and-pa DIY imprint, introduces two 7" records to the public: the lo-fi Mood Swings on one and Split Personalities, a platter with punksters The Mullens on one side and Mess on the other. The coming-out party will be June 29, 10ish, at the Orbit Room...
Doosu has finally nailed down the opening slot for Porno for Pyros at Deep Ellum Live June 27...
Mark Pollock is rejoining Cold Blue Steel as a "part-time permanent member," according to Steel co-founder James Buck. Pollock was forced out by that scourge of the '90s, carpal tunnel syndrome. "I had it in both hands, so I guess it was in stereo," Pollock jokes, "but I had it pretty bad. I'd be playing, and my brain would still be sending the right signals to my fingers, but all of a sudden I couldn't feel [my fingers]." The need to rest his wrists, coupled with the ever-increasing demands of his guitar store, forced Pollock to re-evaluate his role in the band. "I just didn't have the time anymore; I started my first band in 1963, so it was like, 'Been there, done that.'" Pollock will rejoin his mates in Fort Worth June 27, helping Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat open the free Fabulous Thunderbirds show in Sundance Square, also on June 27...
When the Observer's Robert Wilonsky ran a eulogy for Neal Caldwell's VVV Records a few weeks ago--yet another indie store done gone--many seemed to think Caldwell closed his eclectic store that very day. In fact, his more-than-accommodating landlord has allowed him to stay on for awhile, selling off as much stuff as he can. Unfortunately, no one's coming in to take advantage of Caldwell's going-out-of-business prices.
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"I've got bargains galore over here," Caldwell says. "Tons of vinyl, 45s, CDs, the works." The store, located at 3906 Cedar Springs, will probably be open for several more weeks.
Speaking of the Observer's erstwhile music editor, Robert Wilonsky has landed on his feet, catlike, in Los Angeles, where he will be the music editor for the L.A. View, a weekly paper recently purchased by New Times Inc., the Observer's parent company. A 10-year-old paper with a circulation of 75,000, the L.A. View primarily serves L.A.'s Westside neighborhood.
What were we thinking? Several issues ago "Street Beat" announced the return of the Lone Star Dead radio show and listed a broadcast on June 15--a Saturday, instead of a Friday, the actual day of the show's 8-10 p.m. time slot.
"Street Beat" welcomes comments, tips, complaints, and rants via email at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.