Review: John Collins McCormick plays World War I Fighter Jets in Action (Garbage Strike, May 4)

I first saw John Collins McCormick play in December of 2017, and his fiveish-minute “set” (as well as his recommendation that I check out Rie Nakajima) has lived on in my head and heart since. Part improvisation, part installation, most of the performance consisted of him placing objects on a speaker-agitated surface and adjusting the array of warm incandescent lights illuminating it. There was an ostensible “start” and “finish” to the main action, but it never really began or ended, at once blurring into the space/its occupants and taking place without much concern for it/them at all. World War I Fighter Jets in Action, a work from 2015 that comprises one of four recently released tapes of both old and new material (just $15 for all of them!), accepts the impermanence of performance in a similar way. The liner notes state that McCormick “performed this perfect recording of [Fighter Jets] many times, sometimes alone, sometimes for an audience who would walk out and [he] would be alone again”; together with the sound of the piece itself, how the swirl and pop of the turntable playback during silent sections feels almost as loud as the sweltering rattle of exhaust-choked engines that seem to nearly tear the speakers apart, how the planes zoom by and fade into distant, ghostly trajectories, it’s a lovely synthesis of concrete and abstract experience, a mashup of form and function. In a literal sense it scratches the same itch as other loose-slung documentations/reapplications like Drag Boats World ChampionshipsSlick Flicks Tricks and Licks, or Ace Combat. Excellent stuff.

I’m not yet sure if this is my favorite of the four tapes, it’s just the one I had the most to say about. All of them are worth your time. And everything else he’s put out too.