Northern Spy Records has been called an "ascendant New York Label" by the Village Voice, and it's not hard to see why.
Tom Abbs and Adam Downey have formed a resolutely independent, driven label with an eye towards avant-garde jazz and experimental rock. They've done it by hewing to an egalitarian roster: what Abbs calls "...this balancing act... a 50/50 plan -- which is 50 percent indie bands, stuff with lyrics, stuff accessible for radio play, and then 50 percent totally out and experimental
That balancing act will be on full display during Spy Music Festival, which starts Friday and runs through July 15, taking over some of Brooklyn's most beloved venues for evenings of out-there experimental rock and avant-garde jazz.
This monumental lineup of un-pop music kicks off Thursday night at Union Pool in Brooklyn.
Peter Stampfel, of folk-poppers Holy Modal Rounders opens the evening with his whimsical, banjo-anchored folk. Stampfel has quite the pedigree, having played in the Fugs and performed with legendary NYC guitar stalwart and Jeff Buckley collaborator Gary Lucas (as the Du-Tels).
Then, the Gunn-Truscinski Duo takes the floor. Building largely on the droney, trancey stylings of Eastern music, the pair sets themselves apart from the hordes of Fahey-worshipping fingerpickers with their exquisite command of push-and-pull ryhthms. Truscinski, in particular, always seems closer to Elvin Jones than Zakir Hussain -- the way he infuses the group's raga-like improvisations with jazz-inflected drumming is quite a thing.
Legendary experimental composer Rhys Chatham's brass duo with drummer Ryan Sawyer hit afterwards. Chatham is best known for his large-scale compositions featuring hundreds of electric guitars, but this setting finds him playing trumpet, conjuring long, swaying tones over Ryan Sawyer's busy, free-jazz influenced drums. Sawyer's a perennial fixture on the experimental music scene, having performed with Thurston Moore, The Boredoms, and Jandek.
The evening closes with Skeletons, who, in various configurations, have been peddling their brand of intricate, rhythmic indie-rock since 2005. The band makes its home in Queens-based warehouse studio The Silent Barn, and this DIY approach carries over into their music -- Pitchfork called their 2007 release Lucas "an outsize global-a-go-go mélange of unceasing polyrhythms, Afrobeat guitars, free jazz, and Timbaland's approach to kitchen-sink percussion."
Doors are at 8 p.m., shows at 9, but we'd advise getting there early -- this one's almost certain to sell out, and at $12, it's quite the bargain.