On a quiet Thursday night last week in an industrial section of south Brooklyn, it sounded like 1979 inside the Issue Project Room. Neg-Fi’s out-of-tune dual guitars clashed through two-minute experiments with distortion. Paranoid Critical Revolution, a pair of ladies playing drums and guitar, played thrashing experimental guitar progressions at ear-throbbing volume. Both acts wouldn’t have been out of place in a downtown loft party 30 years ago.
The occasion for the performances was a Glenn Branca-inspired night at the non-profit space in Gowanus. The 60-year-old Branca is no longer whipping his body about his guitar (as he was in the 1970s), but he shows few signs he’s turning the volume down. The post-minimalist—who borrowed from punk its destructive tendencies and from Phillip Glass an attention to tonal minutiae—is as fiery as ever. He began the evening by thanking his friends and telling anyone from the Village Voice they could “go fuck themselves.”
Then he turned to conduct an orchestra of four loud, distorted guitars through the rhythm and tone shifting of “Lesson No. 3 (A tribute to Steve Reich).” What began as a barrage of formless noise slowly melted into a minimalistic drone. The piece was originally commissioned by the Barbican Center London in 2006 for Steve Reich’s 70th birthday celebration. As Mr. Branca said about the song, it’s “as close as I will ever get to a classic ’70s Reichian minimalism.” Given that most of the audience was less than half Branca’s age, the same could be said for many in the crowd that night.