Judging by this two-night stand, Lou Reed still has something to say in the language of noise.
When Lou Reed released “Metal Machine Music” more than three decades ago, he was working without a template — at least in the rock lexicon. Free from song structure, conventional instrumentation and emotional penetrability, the work struck some as pure genius, others as pure, unlistenable noise.
The latter element has become a well-established part of avant-garde rock in the intervening years, so for Reed to revisit the territory at this juncture with a newly-formed ensemble is something of a surprise. But judging by this two-night stand, the group’s stateside unveiling, Reed still has something to say in the language of noise — something more than a mere exorcism of the ghosts of a past confrontation.
For the bulk of the perf, Reed remained tethered to an unwieldy device called a Continuum Fingerboard, which spat out processed sounds on command, sort of like a stygian version of a theremin. It would be too warm and fuzzy to suggest that he engaged bandmate Sarth Calhoun — who did much of his work on a laptop — in any sort of interplay, but the two did combine to create a formidable wall of sound, over which saxophonist Ulrich Krieger thundered, a la the late improviser Peter Brotzmann.
Things didn’t get much more approachable when Reed switched to guitar, an instrument he’s left to others through much of his recent career. Here, he used the six-string much like a marrow fork, digging into the very skeletal system of the sonic creature he’d been building in a primal, yet precise fashion.
Kindred spirit John Zorn joined the trio for a spell, adding to the sonic pressure, but seemingly holding back a bit in deference to Reed’s clearly delineated vision. Put into action, that vision didn’t offer quite the shock to the system that Reed might have liked, but it did provide enough of a jolt to get the synapses firing in ways one seldom finds at a rock show.