Downtown Music Gallery Offers Offbeat Discs

The musical road less traveled leads to places like New York's Downtown Music Gallery. If your taste in music lies somewhere outside the marketing-demographic bell curve, DTMG has tunes for you: live tunes, recorded tunes, strange tunes, bargain tunes. There's something for almost everyone at recently launched Classical to Klezmer to Progressive Jazz to World Music to Absolutely Uncategorizable.

Besides announcements of DTMG-sponsored live performances by an eclectic assortment of musicians, the site lists the catalogs of the Avant, Tzadik, DIW, Canterbury, and Prog labels, with informative capsule reviews of each available disc. Reading through them is a musical education in itself---for example, some of Laurie Anderson's supposedly radically innovative techniques have been standard stuff for a long time in the self-referential Downtown NYC music scene.

The Gallery is the place for the odd, the experimental, and the esoteric. Here's a description of Annie Gosfield's Burnt Ivory and Loose Wires: " . . . a new view of microtonal music. The sounds of a percussion factory, a destroyed piano, and an abandoned guitar are twisted into sophisticated compositions incorporating tuned and detuned instruments, traditional and non-traditional techniques, composition and improvisation." What is the sound of "an abandoned guitar?" This stuff is obviously not for the syntactically correct or the musically timid.

If you're looking for the works of Elliot Sharp, John Zorn, pianist Marie McAuliffe, or simply for Frank Zappa rarities, this is also the place. There's plenty of rare vinyl to be had, from Art of Noise and James Brown to Pere Ubu to Throbbing Gristle. And the Gallery's $10 CD sale catalog has many tempting tidbits, from great classics like the Butterfield Blues Band's first album to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Then there's Sonia Diabate's "happening afropop" Girls of Guinea, and art for art's sake in the form of A Certain Level of Denial, by performance artist Karen Finley. A "thick booklet," presumably castigating the National Endowment for the Arts, accompanies this sonic treasure.

In a mellower groove are the tragic Tim Buckley's Goodbye and Hello and Happy Sad from the late 1960s. More to my liking is the willowy chanteuse anglaise Julie Driscoll, whose early-'70s effort 1969, with Keith Tippett, Elton Dean, and Chris Spedding, won a "Superb!" rating from DTMG's in-house reviewer. At ten bucks a pop, you can't go wrong. Buy three and they pay the freight. It's worth a look around.