Feb 282010

Trance Substantiation, Ara, and Tiger Hatchery

By Matt Minter

Another freezing-ass Friday night at Al’s Bar. Two Lexington heavies, Trance Substantiation and Ara, were opening for the Chicago-based super jazz trio Tiger Hatchery. I rolled in around 9:30, and with not a lot of people out, it was looking like it might be a pretty subdued evening.

This turned out to be a false prediction: the faithful crew eventually rolled in, sure to make it yet another weird time in Lexington. Trance Substantiation got the night started.

Trance Substantiation is actually John Reaves, pal of the Lexington/Louisville groove-stars Tiny Fights, and one really intense dude. You could call what he does experimental music—noise music if you really have to say it—but there’s better ways to describe it. What Trance Substantiation makes is uneasy-listening, channeling sounds from the bottom of a barf bucket—like the radiation that’s slowly giving you cancer, or the sound of somebody getting stabbed in slow-motion. Reaves should have been scoring slasher films back in the 80s for sure.

As the set went on, things just kept getting slower and more miserable. It felt like something really fucked-up was going to happen. Then it was over. The man shrugged his shoulders and sipped his drink. Ara was up next.

Ara is Sara O’Keefe and Trevor Tremaine, a great married couple and great musicians. Both have contributed to a number of hot bands throughout the years, Hair Police and Eyes and Arms of Smoke in particular. Ara might become my favorite project from these two. They take an extremely loose, yet wholly confident approach to making music, bending genres like it’s not a big deal. On this night, the two showed themselves off as a real couple of horn blowers, Sara on sax and Trevor on trumpet.

From the get-go, Ara made things real smooth and way heavy. Trevor moved over to his drum kit, and the two ripped out what sounded like an alternate soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s “Lucifer Rising,” a film shot in Egypt. It definitely made me want to go someplace where it’s HOT. And I’m not talking about arid heat. I’m talking about emotional heat. Sara let out her insane siren wail while Trevor continued jamming his percussion. The vocals soon went to LSD Land and Trevor threw in some mumbo-jumbo to drive the point home.

This was New Age music taken to the new age of music. Dead Can Dance can go home and die already. This is the really heavy shit. Before their final jam, Trevor dedicated their set to “everybody.” Sara picked up her clarinet and Trevor drug a stick across his cymbal. Their closer would be belly-dancing music with zero belly dancers present. A quiet riot broke out at the very last second before the two called it a night.

Tiger Hatchery was the final band. Comprised of Mike Forbes on sax, Andrew Scott Young on bass, and Ben Billington on drums, the three reside in a warehouse in Chicago called the Mopery, where they live in tents. Harsh lives bring harsh sounds, and these guys looked like they had what it takes to make some angry man’s music. As Ben laid all his stuff on the floor, I looked at the t-shirt he was wearing. It was a picture of Bluto wearing a pink shirt and gesturing his fist at no one, a telegraph of the raw power that was about to come our way.

Mike and Ben started out the set with a major duet. Mike is a heavy breather. As loud as his saxophone got, I could still hear his excruciating exhales from the other end. Ben played with all his equipment on the floor and kept the buildup nice and steady. Finally, Andrew picked up his ugly man’s bass, and the three hefty boys squeezed out a brutal load of jazz. This was a sound that I could seriously get behind. It was the sound of beating someone up that truly deserves it. The dudes finished on an abrupt note, but overall delivered a tight set that only some asshole would complain about.

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