Unexpected: Love that minimalism!

Published April 7, 2005 in issue 0414 of the Hook

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
Friday, April 1


Like a radio station run by schizophrenics, with set lists ranging from Handel to AC/DC to Coltrane, Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar's frequent musical offerings are situated somewhere between unpredictable and utterly random.

Though the promo touted a double dose of folk/rock, the three gentlemen seated before me on stage last Friday night– accessorized with clarinet, accordion, and drum-set– suggested this eclecticism would be running rampant. On this point, I was not mistaken in the slightest.

Flutter's first number began in a fit of Michael Thomas Jackson's clarinet yelps and descending lines, with Matt Wyatt's disassociated drumming compounding, rather than leading, the mélange of sound. But definitely the most fascinating performer to watch was accordionist Bob Holub.

Playing his instrument with a ferocity almost Hendrixian in emotion, Holub yanked and stroked the squeezebox with equal purpose, producing sounds that I might venture to guess existed in the universe only during the group's performance and might never be created again for all eternity. The instrument was, as far as I could tell, electric, or at least internally mic'd, providing the performer with an assorted array of potential effects.

A reputable source close to the group described their sound as free-improv jazz, though my friend suggested Lamonte Young and Terry Riley of the minimalist jazz movement as touchstones. I was enormously enthralled by the strange sound-scapes emitted from the stage, no matter the correct classification.

Their second number was a cacophony of drummed woodblocks, clarinet squeals, and occasional yelps, with a small chain dragged across the accordion to produce a shimmery effect as Holub moved his foot switch in and out to change the sound of the instrument.

Flutter's third number was the most "song"-oriented of the group's first set; led by the drummer's breakbeats, it maintained a consistent groove. What seemed to be a bird whistle emanating from the drummer's mouth inserted little descending squeals at opportune moments, as the clarinetist took his mouth away from the instrument, and his fingers were seized by a Parkinson's-like twitch. The only sound emanating from the instrument came from the quick movements of those fluttering digits.

An Altoids box on the upper part of the accordion produced tones ranging from metallic to feedback squeals, and soon enough the clarinetist was back on his reed, making guttural sounds with the instrument.

Sometimes verging into music that seemed appropriate for the days of silent thrillers before plunging the groove they had made into the sea of noise, Flutter held my attention long after the reviewing had finished– a feat seldom repeated but always greatly appreciated.