The Austin Chronicle


Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, March 10, 2000, Arts

Century Plant:

Trancer's Paradise + Metafiction = Bliss

Movements Gallery

through March 18

Running Time: 1 hr

I'm listening to a CD as I write these words. It's a CD of the music for Andrew Baron's Century Plant, and I got it at a performance of Century Plant, which was even performed by Andrew Baron in the second-floor, glorified hole-in-the-wall called Movements Gallery. Well, it was performed by Andrew Baron live, to be precise, and accompanied by a group of other, pre-recorded performers: the Austin Digital Philharmonic Orchestra.

If you could watch me as I write this, you'd see me shaking my head slowly, remembering the show, my lips slightly parted, smiling, rememberling the music even as it plays, now, on the stereo. And you'd think: This boy seems to be experiencing some sort of, um, what's the word? Bliss?

Oh yeah. The word is definitely bliss.

You like Donovan at all? At least the best of his tripped-out Hurdy-Gurdy stuff from the Sixties? Well, imagine Donovan using a few of the high-tech tools that Laurie Anderson controls to such fine effect -- not to create the sounds, that's still traditionally handled, but to reproduce and overdub them. Then imagine that the music's level of complexity is brought way beyond the horizon of pop repetition. Think trancer's paradise, and you're halfway there. But to better capture the actual performance of Century Plant, you have to mentally subtract all the hippie-dippy overtones from the altered Donovan model and replace them with ... charm. Pure charm.

I don't know this Baron guy at all, but if he's half as basically charming as he comes across in his introductory monologue and bits of interstitial banter onstage, then he could probably sell me hearing aids for ears I don't even have. What he has sold me is a CD -- audience members get one with each program -- and he's wrapped a clever, well-crafted, metafictive, thoroughly enjoyable show around that sale. And listen: You need to own this CD. It's as simple as that. To hell with a reviewer trying to describe music through pop-artist algebra. To hell with genre-based pigeonholes. Unless all the music you listen to needs to be able to chew through concrete at even half-volume; unless you'd rather break a clavicle than hear something that, say, Ravi Shankar might like grooving to; believe me: You need to own this CD.

And one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to get it at the show.

So climb up the flight of stairs to Movements Gallery on Sixth Street. Check out the tangential visual exhibit: It's good stuff by Michael G. Laster and Morgan Knicely, works worth a look-see regardless of your visit's context. Then move on toward the stage in the back, get a program at the cafe counter, and sit carefully in one of the creakity joined chairs that seem ripped from whatever former theatre they were bolted to. Andrew Baron's going to appear, soon, and place himself in front of the orchestra tuning up on the giant vidscreen; he's going to take up slightly less than an hour of your time by talking (charmingly), playing guitar (very well), singing (beautifully), and engaging in illusionary bits of business with a group of musicians who aren't even there, really, are they?

Bliss is just one of the words, actually. The other word is: Wow.

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