heavy friction

the friction brothers: fred lonberg-holm, michael zerang and michael colligan.

friction brothers fred lonberg-holm, michael zerang, michael colligan.

Webster’s Dictionary contains multiple definitions for the word “friction.” Two, in particular, relate to the reactionary improvisational music of the group known as The Friction Brothers

The first: “The rubbing of one body against another.”

The second: “The clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views.”

One suggests harmony, the other represents conflict. That’s as good of a place as any to begin with the music of this unique Chicago trio. While “harmony” and “opposed views” don’t play into their music is any obvious manner, they certainly seem to feed the mind set the group adopts during a performance.

On its self-titled debut recording made up of three improvisations recorded during a 2006 concert at Elastic in Chicago (a second release is due this summer), the music works off of strings, metal and manipulation. The expected music from cello, piano and drums never arrives, however. Instead we hear sounds that scrap, crash, whirr, whine and, well, sort of sizzle in a very literal way.

The personnel of The Friction Brothers, which perform Tuesday at Gumbo Ya-Ya as part of the Outside the Spotlight Series, brings two familiar champions of the Chicago improvised music scene back to Lexington, along with one very distinctive newcomer.

First up in the lineup is Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, who will be making his third local outing is just over six months. He having played here last December with Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens and in February as part of a duo with German free jazz patriarch Peter Brotzmann.

Next we have drummer Michael Zerang, who has performed twice in Lexington with Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet (which also includes Lonberg-Holm). His instrumental credits with The Friction Brothers are listed simply as percussion and “piano insides.”

Finally, we have Michael Colligan. He is credited as playing dry ice. That translates into heating metal objects, then quick-chilling them on a block of dry ice so that that the utensils audibly vibrate.

Combine that with Lonberg-Holm’s self-described “anti-cello” outbursts and Zerang’s percussive anarchy and you have music created from the rubbing of combined objects and the unexpected clashes that often result.

The Friction Brothers perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Gumbo Ya Ya in the Bar Lexington complex, 367 East Main, as part of the Outside the Spotlight Series. Admission is $5.

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