nytheatre.com review by Mitchell Conway
June 21, 2012
A jazz journey through an odd antic undersea of horny fish and tripped-out crustacean musicians created by the band Talibam! and Sam Kulik at Incubator Arts, Discover AtlantASS is probably best experienced under the influence of some mind-altering substance. This concept concert initially inspired by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill features some excellent musicianship in the group’s distinct jazz/noise-rock, some extended stuffed animal humping sequences, and a host of wacky characters. The show also exists as a CD and comic book.
Drummer Kevin Shea plays our protagonist Franklin (among other characters), a young man taken down into the depths of the sea while on a fishing trip with his father. His mission becomes to clog an oil well that is polluting Atlantass using his special pillow. A large stuffed animal fish is a slutty girl distracting him from this mission. Shea’s style of drumming is distinctive; he rarely merely maintains a rhythm, but always bursts into spurts and spasms, almost like he was creating the melody. This drumming really felt a central action of the performance moreso than the plot, since Shea is so physically engaged, and his style communicates such distress. Shea sang a couple songs through a mic that altered the pitch of his voice, making it much higher and distorted.
On a projection screen, through the whole show the group plays the entirety of a nature documentary entitled "The Deep," featuring fantastic imagery of strange marine life.
Sam Kulik plays the bass and trombone, and sings in a disturbing and enjoyable low monotone. I especially enjoyed the texture his trombone playing added to the group’s sound, it was featured in my favorite songs.
On the keyboard, Matt Mottel has a fascinating way of dancing in a time totally separate from the music. He also brings this personal rhythm into his characters, often bouncing and moving. Sometimes he made his keyboard sound like a highly distorted guitar, and there effectively took the lead in songs, while otherwise offered strong support.
Dialogue seemed to be created by the performers’ improvisation. It stayed in a constant patter-rhythm. The production might have had more focus with an outside director.
This show was about its musicians more than anything. Always hidden behind sunglasses and goofy characters, when they were playing music is where the energy on stage really blossomed.