Ben Neill and Friends at The Cooler
The glass walls subtly reflect the purple glow of police lights. Above,
rusty meathooks distinguish the perimeter of the space. The dark rooms
are packed with bodies -- who crouch, stand, or sit at small round
tables, and listen intently.
"What *is* this music?" someone asks, as the soundscape becomes even
more eerie and intense.
"I don't know, but when you hear the trumpet, you'll know it's Ben
Something incredible has been happening here, has been brewing for
months. The Cooler, a former meat-locker in Manhattan's lower West side,
has been hosting Monday night events which testify to a significant
moment in New York's electronic music history. This is no dance club.
It's no rave either. People are not here to dance, party, or take drugs.
They're here to *listen*. And among the computers, turntables, and wires
on stage, there are actually *musicians*.
The night opened with "The Bedouin"/Raz, a young man who transfixed the
audience with a single, miked hand drum. "You're unbelievable!" shouted
a young woman at the end of his set.
Then a DJ materialized on-stage, along with a guitarist and Ben Neill
with his "mutant trumpet" (three trumpets fused together which can also
trigger MIDI). The soundscape continued, full with the sound of water,
strings, lots of delay, and metalic accents. In the past, Ben Neill has
triggered complex drum'n'bass rhythms and electronic melodies from his
"Tryptical" album, but tonight the show has a more live, organic bent.
In many ways, tonight's show might not even really fit into the whole
"electronic music" category, because so much of it is live and acoustic.
One could argue that it is no more electronic than Jimi Hendrix or King
Tubby. Should this matter? Regardless, the quality of the sound as
well as the aesthetic is strongly in the tradition of
These events at The Cooler, along with -- of course -- the entire Sound
Lab oeuvre, seem to truly mark one of those "moments." The Jazz club is
being infused back into the dance club. After years of DJ worship and
dancing, the electronic-subculture seems finally ready to sit down,
listen, and even get up on stage.