The Long Island City fine art scene is about to get a dose of DIY cred with Holding Space, a new three-part music series curated by Sam Hillmer (aka Diamond Terrifier) launching tomorrow at SculptureCenter. As the guy behind the scenes at Trans-Pecos (and co-founder along with Todd P), Hillmer will present his usual fare– a motley brew of various sounds stemming from eclectic tastes and experimental practices.
In this case, he’ll be blending established artists with super talented up-and-comers, and casting musical styles beside one another that you’d never, ever expect to hear in the same room, save for what spews out when there’s a glitch on Spotify (i.e. someone cool overhears your “alone time” playlist). But Hillmer has the unique ability to slant things that we’d assume would clash in ways that actually stick. Every Saturday this month– that’s June 11, 18, and 25 ($10 admission for each show)– Hillmer’s handpicked lineup will perform an early-evening outdoor concert at the non-profit art space, leaving you with plenty of time to skedaddle from the courtyard through the white-walled gallery space and out of respectable territory before the stroke of midnight.
As we’ve seen with Practice, Hillmer’s totally free experimental show held every Monday night at Trans-Pecos, he’s particularly adept at crafting alluring musical potpourri, drawing unexpected explorations out of tried-and-true performers but also managing to forge fruitful collaborations. “I have musicians performing in the series who are rooted in a classical practice or rooted in some sort of folk practice, or more traditional avant-garde,” Hillmer explained. “But I also have people on every bill with some connection to sound-system culture. For example Goodroid, B2b, and Quest?onmarc are connected to the vogue and ballroom scene, so that’s a social space that varies quite a bit from that of the concert hall, [where you’d find] Daisy Press, who’s a classical vocalist.”
But like any curator who gives a hoot about his audience, Hillmer will bring flavors and influences together in ways that complement, elevate, and reinvigorate each moving part at Holding Space– that’s because he doesn’t just tie off a bag of arbitrarily plucked ingredients and call it ravioli. “Musical artifacts are always connected to some community of musical practice and, as a curator, I think about those social spaces and setting them against one another,” he said.
Hillmer thought that taking SculptureCenter up on the opportunity to put on a music series was a grand idea in part because he picked up on a certain “resonance” between his usual curatorial outlook and a space that’s entirely devoted to sculpture. “I try to make these juxtapositions and the quality of social spaces being set against one another particularly jagged,” he explained. “It kind of throws each one into relief– to use a sculptural term.”
The first show of the series is going down this weekend, and we’ll hear from a slew of musical acts, including a duo called 75 Dollar Bill, that’s as psychedelic as they are Southern voodoo magic lit by sunlight and cheap whiskey. Which is not to say these kids don’t have emotional range– while their 2015 LP Wooden Bag could easily back the bottle-rocket lighting ceremony at a couch burning party, a pair of recently released tracks (“Southeaster” and “Like Like Laundry”) have acquired a bit more darkness. It seems like 75 Dollar Bill are now crossing over into something more like Appalachian neo-noir territory, and we certainly can’t say no to that.
Somehow this spookiness makes it all the more hilarious when the band does their worst to sound as plain as possible in their bio: “Rick Brown was born in San Francisco, CA and is a clerical worker at a law school in NYC. Che Chen was born in New Haven, CT and works for a cancer diagnostics company in Stonybrook, NY.”
As Hillmer mentioned, Daisy Press is a classically-attuned vocalist who’s been acclaimed for her performances of pieces by Schoenberg among others, but the singer’s collaborative efforts have brought her to more experimental places too. There’s no doubt she’ll be an interesting live presence– Press writes on her website that lately she’s been “singing the music of Hildegard von Bingen with a shruti box and crystal bowls” in the subway.
Producer Dutch E Germ (aka Timothy DeWit) is opening the show with his particular taste for ethereal fantasy and dorkfest dribbles cut with a razor blade by ratchet, deepest-darkest techno. DeWit also happens to have a rather colorful history– he was once the drummer for a DC hardcore band and founding member of super-weirdo psych outfit Gang Gang Dance that was happening in the early aughts. Once he took a mid-career break from music, DeWit was shot in the chest for unrelated reasons. It’s a crazy story you should definitely read about here.
Diamond Terrifier, Hillmer’s own project, will be performing too, with help from a familiar crew including M. Beharie (aka Michael Beharie) a producer who taps influences from all over the world, incorporating everything from pan-flute/MIDI meditations to New-Age/nature sound techno-scapes into his eclectic aura. VHVL, an artist whose work blurs the line between fluttery, soothing ambient and sun-bleached revelry, will also be joining. And just to shake things up a bit, Don Devore will be on hand too. As a guy whose name is synonymous with, well, a lot of stuff, Devore will probably have a great deal to offer from his musical conquests that are about as disparate as they come (see: his hardcore band Sick Feeling as well as Collapsing Scenery, a grindy electronic outfit with heavy undertones of decadence and necromancy).
Stay tuned for more shows like (and very much unlike) this one at SculptureCenter for the rest of June. And might as well keep an eye on the place from here on out– Hillmer hinted that his band Zs might once again be teaming up with artist Tauba Auerbach, who recently created 3D printed sculptures for the band’s new album Xe, for a happening of sorts at the art space.