Cleveland prodigal son, guitarist Mike Sopko, is undertaking a Midwest tour with one of his strongest collaborators, percussionist Hamir Atwal. This tour brings them to Columbus twice next week: in duo at North Campus diy venue House With No Name (186 E Hudson St) on November 4th, and with the addition of Chris Lopes on bass at Carabar on November 6th. Sopko recently returned to his home town after over a decade in the Bay Area’s rich improvisational and art-rock communities where he played with luminaries like Tyshawn Sorey and Mike Watt and recently recorded in trio with bassist and producing legend Bill Laswell and Mars Volta alum Thomas Pridgen. Atwal, who met and first collaborated with Sopko in SF, has worked with tUne-yArDs, clarinet virtuoso Ben Goldberg, and saxophone player Rent Romus. For more information about these artists, thoughts on recent records of theirs, and video, read on.
Sopko’s most recent record is the self-titled debut of his Sopko Laswell Pridgen trio and it’s one of the finest examples of take no prisoners art rock I’ve heard in recent memory. It fuses a Derek Bailey touch onto hard MC5 grooves on songs like “Detroit” and screaming, controlled acid rock with rubbery bass lines on top of staccato, jagged drums on tracks like “Buddy Rich.” The meshing of these three voices is heaven for anyone with a taste for grimy space rock.
The Sopko-Atwal duo released an eponymous album earlier this year and it sings with the kind of empathy you only get when players know one another this well. The subtle, stinging tones of Sopko’s guitar and Atwal’s cymbal work slip over and under and through one another on the opening track “Lateduster.” “Five” zooms out from a slow-build intimate miniature into a panoramic landscape, in two minutes it conjures a whole world. “Keep the Door Open” uses repetition and a piercing tone over simmering drums to create something catchy and surprising, body music that understands how far a body can go. Intriguing local trio DCKids – surf-garage with post-rock leanings – open their House With No Name show and from the recorded evidence I’ve heard, my recommendation is get there early and stay all night.
In contrast to those instrumental albums, 2014’s The Glimpse Trio is a collection of cracked pop songs shot through with left turns that never sacrifice their innate groove. It effectively deploys indie rock vocals on songs like the stomp “Holiday” and the lysergic country shuffles of “Far Away” and “Russian Racing.” Since investigating this album for the preview, several songs are already stuck in my head and show no signs of going anywhere. While both appearances will surely be inspiring, Friday’s show that finds JC favorites Knots and Athens rockers Weird Science opening the night seems like a sure thing even on a busy night in Columbus.