In 1977, Television manager Terry Ork offered aspiring writer Arto Lindsay a gig the next week at now-legendary punk nightclub Max’s Kansas City. Lindsay suggested his apocryphal band play the following month instead and promptly recruited performance artist Rob Crutchfield and fellow non-musician Ikue Mori to form DNA. Lindsay bought his first guitar, Mori discovered she could make a 4/4 beat on a drum kit, and within a year the band’s spasmodic dissonance had been immortalized alongside Mars, Contortions, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks on Brian Eno’s No New York compilation of no wave pioneers, forever changing the face of rock music. To this day, the carnal economy of Mori’s pummeling drums wedded with Lindsay’s barbed-wire guitar and strangled, cerebral snarl remains an inspiration for musicians and artists working at the more alien limits of confrontational performance.
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Although she had never played drums prior to DNA, Tokyo transplant Ikue Mori continued to do so following the band’s 1982 dissolution, collaborating with a variety of women under the guises of Sunset Chorus, Jungle Geisha, Toh Bandjan, and Electric Fukuko before meeting John Zorn in the mid-1980s and falling in with his circle of improvisors and downtown musicians. In this most unlikely of contexts, Mori started performing exclusively with drum machines and effects, developing an inimitably frenetic vocabulary through which she sought to produce beats that would “sound broken,” improvising with the likes of Sonic Youth, Zeena Parkins, Jim O’Rourke, Christian Marclay, Evan Parker, Catherine Jauniaux, and Robert Quine. 1999’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon marked Mori’s first use of notation in group composition, and in 2000 she transferred her idiosyncratic drum machine working method to laptop electronics, with which she has performed since. The bulk of Mori’s recorded output is released by Zorn’s Tzadik label, for which she also does graphic design.
Born in Richmond but raised in Brazil by missionary parents, Arto Lindsay came of age during the Tropicália, a fertile 1960s Brazilian artistic movement that fused the popular with the avant-garde as well as traditional Brazilian culture with foreign influences, two impulses which would leave a lasting impression on the young artist. Deliberately avoiding the development of technical ability on his guitar, Lindsay’s noisy, atonal playing is highlighted best in juxtaposition with the comparatively straight jazz of The Lounge Lizards, a group he co-founded prior to a brief stint as a founding member of Anton Fier’s Golden Palominos in the early 1980s. Choosing to develop his singing rather than his guitar playing, and embracing his Brazilian roots, Lindsay subsequently delved deep into samba soul, first with Peter Scherer as Ambitious Lovers before his ongoing career as a solo artist. Continuing his wilful lack of instrumental capability, Lindsay’s gift for attracting collaborators—which have included Caetano Veloso, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Naná Vasconcelos—has yielded three decades of eclectic, sophisticated, and sultry music that infuses electronic and experimental music with the Brazilian tributaries of bossa nova and Tropicália.
Autodidacts both, Lindsay and Mori are emblematic of the creative potential that a lack of conventional instrumental technique can provide to inventive minds. They have both remained active improvisors on a grassroots level, perpetually injecting vital and daring energy into subsequent generations of experimental musicians. It is because of these major contributions to the city’s sonic landscape and beyond that we are thrilled to honor their legacy.
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