With my yoga mat bag slung over my shoulder, I probably earned a few sneers on Broadway last night. What is Capitol Hill coming to now that people are going to a yoga class at 10 o’clock instead of grabbing a drink at Linda’s?! Rest assured, as I ducked into Q Nightclub, I was keeping it weird up on the Hill.
Tuesday is the deadest night of the week in clubland, which has led the fine folks at the normally bro-and-bottle-service-soaked weekend destination to turn on our city’s finest sound system for the soothing sounds of Rare Air, an occasional series of ambient music nights hosted by local vinyl guru DJ Explorateur. In lieu of a sticky dancefloor covered in spilled beer, patrons spread out mats, blankets, and pillows to bask in dreamy sonic landscapes and feast their eyes on lush visual displays. You might call it sound bathing, an indoor counterpart to forest bathing.
Last night’s treat was Aki Tsuyuko, an accomplished Japanese minimalist composer on her first solo U.S. tour. In lieu of a perch behind the commanding DJ booth, Tsuyuko gave Q a Benaroya Hall sort of vibe: She sat comfortably at the edge of the dancefloor with a trio of keyboards, a microphone, and a stand with sheet music. If you were lying on the floor like I was, you couldn’t even see her behind the stand and may have wondered if the music was just being piped in from somewhere.
With a discography stretching back to 1988 and touring credits with the likes of Tortoise, Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke, and Yo La Tengo, Tsuyuko is a seasoned performer. With poise, she carefully played a slow, sparse composition of mostly high-pitched keyboard notes. It was light and airy, a fitting accompaniment to painter Ippei Matsui’s live drawing.
With a camera stationed above his drawing board, Matsui sat quietly in the back of the room sketching away with chalk pastels, the results then projected on the massive wall that frames Q’s dancefloor. In a few minutes, he sketched out an abstract landscape, then gently tore off the page and started anew, creating a gentle live animation effect. It was like the Japanese version of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, but with a better soundtrack.
Around me, a couple canoodled under a star-and-moon print throw. A bearded guy dozed or meditated contentedly on a plush pillow. I snuggled with my sweetheart under a fleece blanket. In a city with a decreasing supply of actual living rooms, the incongruous choice of Q offered a delightfully cozy space. Dare I say, it was downright hygge.
Before the Japanese duo, versatile local musician Raj treated the audience to a series of electro-acoustic compositions drawn from recent field recordings in Tokyo and Berlin. For those more accustomed to seeing him crank through a blistering techno set at Kremwerk, it was a surprising change-up and precisely the kind of experimental space Rare Air hopes to cultivate.
I left around midnight unsure if I had fallen asleep or just entered some kind of lucid dreaming state à la Waking Life.
The air in there was rarified indeed.