We’re going on a picnic, yay! Do we have everything? Walkman? Check. Amplifiers? Check. Microphone? Check. Circuit board? Check. Turntable? Check. Wires? Check. Okay, looks like we’re set! *walking, walking, walking* Hey Francine, this looks like a great spot! *unpacking* Click, click, hum, hum, buzz, buzz. I’m hungry! Ruthie, did you bring sandwiches? “…” Uh oh. Lisa? A water bottle? Anything? “…”
The women of Nomadic Female DJ Troupe risked everything to bring us creative music: starvation, dehydration, public fine. To the regular visitors of the park, they are strange women making strange music. This is not Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” or The Doobie Brothers’ “Another Park, Another Sunday”. There is singing, albeit warped, mangled and distorted. Although Lisa loves karaoke, few would recognize this as song. Tapes are rewound and abused. The needle drops and is snatched away. What in the world is going on?
Separately, the music of these women makes sense, whether they are performing solo, as La Leif, or as half of Sleeps in Oysters. Together, the scrambled sound takes a bit longer to coalesce as their various influences collide. Francine is into live electronics and improvisation. Ruthie prefers malfunctioning tapes. Lisa likes antiquated formats and sounds of long duration. Now put them all under a tree and let them take out their toys. This is what grown-up Show and Tell sounds like. Whether defiant or disinterested in ordinary rules, the trio presents a patina of patterns that take time to emerge. As random as these pieces may seem, they do follow certain new rules:
- Create sounds that are true to yourself.
- Never step on the sound of another sister.
- If possible, enhance your sisters’ sounds with sounds of your own.
One can hear these new rules being followed throughout the set. Most of the pieces begin tentatively, with bursts of white noise, tape playback or electronics. But then the sounds begin to build on each other as one or more members of the trio discover something interesting to work with in the sounds of another: not harmony, but concurrency. And every artist gets her space. This allows beats to emerge in tracks that few would ever dance to in their current form ~ but one can imagine segments excised and remixed to form the basis of club tracks. These in turn are swallowed up in volcanos of noise, as occurs midway through the second piece, as if someone has a point to make AND NO ONE ELSE CAN SPEAK! We’re going to guess Ruthie on this one.
Perhaps the most telling quote is that Lisa likes to operate “on the fringes of song.” That’s exactly what’s going on here. There’s noise, and there’s song, and there’s a vast space in between where these women like to play. When pop songs appear, loop and disappear in the third track, one gets the sense that the trio is flirting, then withdrawing the flirtation by establishing who has the power. It’s not the men, and it’s not the pop. If anything, the pop is stepped on, rubbed into the gravel, then wiped off the boot. The next track goes further by mangling already mangled music: the hard core of hardcore. The seventh comes across like an AM nightmare. But when the entire project ends in a fractured pop song, one reassesses the initial judgment. Perhaps this is pop, or at the very least, popped pop: a kernel exploded into something more tasty. At least it would give the trio something to eat. (Richard Allen)