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This Little Underground: Noise experimentalists Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt collide



For TLU, 2016 immediately starts off on a new but solemn foot. This issue is Ashley Belanger's last as my editor. No other has done as much to make the words in this column as robustly reinforced visually as her. For that, she gets a hand on the heart from me.

But it's bigger than that. Covering Orlando's music scene is a mission I take pretty seriously, so never would I call someone a major champion of it lightly. More than just an editor to me, she's been a great writing partner. And in collaborating with her on big, multi-faceted local stories, I can attest firsthand that she is one of the most invested and tireless advocates of our scene I've ever met.

Ashley's a true believer. The art is the sun of any music scene, but it's only sustained when there are enough people like her. To both the paper and the scene at large, she's been a gale of fresh air, and her footprint is deep. She's earned a big salute from us all, but none deeper than mine. Thank you, Ashley. The next whiskey's on me.

The Beat

The recent Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt performance (Dec. 28, Gallery at Avalon Island) was a lucky convergence of many forces: music, minds, holiday schedules. And even though it was sort of an unexpected show even for its chief presenters, the Civic Minded 5, they just couldn't sleep on fate. Luckily, nor could the full house in attendance.

Individually, the duo packs heavy experimental credentials, with guitarist Orcutt a principal in Miami noise-rock icons Harry Pussy and drummer Corsano a collaborator to a dizzying list of titans like Björk, Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke. And their gestalt was a transmission from the edge.

Instead of the usual gallery floor that's used for the In-Between Series, this show was placed in the upstairs room that used to be DMAC. Invoking noise, jazz and improvisation, Corsano opened with an individual display of experimental sound ingenuity. Involving a full drum set alongside a whole bag of other items – metal, cup, string, bow, horn, plank – the result was an entire world of sound beyond conventional percussion.

With that setup, I probably cleaved readers here right in two: the intrigued and the dismissive. To the latter, I get it, and I sympathize. But be clear, Corsano's playing is a thing of highly structured movement and skill despite its improvisational mind. This is not some conceptual but undisciplined art vomit.

His rhythmic command is certainly exceptional. What puts him on another stratum, however, is his expressional breadth. I like drums a lot, and it doesn't take more than good beat architecture to do it for me. But while most drummers focus on structural exercises in their solos, his performance – all uninterrupted 20 minutes of it – was a complete sonic piece unto itself, with not just bones but body, head, voice and soul. And it was a revelation.

After a brief intermission, the two assembled – no, collided – for the ensemble set. Before even a note of it was struck, however, there was the harbinger of Orcutt's amp, which was covered in soundproofing acoustic foam, turned to face the wall and still came with a public warning of its force from the man himself.

Once he laid in, it was loud as advertised. More than the volume, though, Orcutt's extremity really comes from his attack and intent. Like a noise cowboy, his avant-garde sound invokes punk, blues and folk in rare and outside ways. The onslaught is immediate and undeniable. But even while his fingers freak it out and rev the nerves, there's a surrounding atmosphere and tone to his playing. Sometimes it's drone, sometimes it's twang, but it's all evocative of a habitable space beyond just pure technique. It's also consuming. Although not on mic, Orcutt would often become so poured into what he was doing that he would verbally wail along to his guitar playing. And with its surgical creativity and fury, Corsano's drumming was both the sturdy framework that anchored everything and an equal detonating force.

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