Boston experimentalist Vic Rawlings rolls into town tonight for low-profile performances at Myopic Books (7:15 PM) and later at Enemy . On the recordings he’s made, he’s often credited with playing cello, as well as things like “open circuits” and “surface electronics,” but no matter what the instrument the sounds are rarely familiar.
Rawlings is a member of a trio called Mawja with Lebanese cornetist Mazen Kerbaj and fellow Bostonian Michael Bullock (who plays bass in much the same way Rawlings plays cello), and on their album Live One (Chloë)–which includes one track recorded at WNUR in September 2007–the sonic abstraction arrives in naturalistic waves. Acoustic flutters and scrapes blend seamlessly with cracked electronic static and whirring feedback, forming a single unwieldy mass of noise that hugs the hurdles and obstacles of an imaginary topography as it moves along.
You can pick out Rawlings more easily (and thus get a better sense for what he does) on In Six Parts (Sedimental), an improvised performance with percussionist Tim Feeney that’s indexed into six sections. Lacerating sine waves yaw and moan among microscopic scrapes (from the cello?), ominous clangs, low-end groans, and lots more unidentifiable friction noises, all layered in a leisurely session of sound research. When Rawlings isn’t grinding, bowing, or otherwise squeezing unconventional sounds from the cello, he’s working over junk electronics–open circuit boards, speaker cones, et cetera–with a wonderfully tactile and quite literally hands-on approach.
In this video of a noisy performance with Chris Cooper from last week, Rawlings is the fellow seated at the table strewn with electronic gear, a jungle of woofers on the ground in front of him.
Charles “Baron” Mingus, West Coast 1945-49 (Uptown)
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 (Skaggs Family)
Uncle Funkenstein, Together Again (Jazzman)
Rob Mazurek Quintet, Sound Is (Delmark)
Various artists, Classic African American Gospel (Smithsonian Folkways)