Art and noise

Local DIY venue, the 555 Gallery, recently moved from its old digs in Ypsilanti to a gritty old awning factory at Warren and Grand River avenues in Detroit. Open since October, the nonprofit collective offers a space for everything from after-school art programs and educational workshops to poetry readings and live performances. It has turned out to be a great respite for arty interlopers and a too-progressive-to-be-popular niche of musicians who, since the closing of the Detroit Art Space, find that they have no place to call home. It’s the perfect nightspot for minimalist DJ Dabrye to perform.

The Ann Arbor-based producer and Ghostly International denizen will bounce his pins-and-needles instrumental hip hop off the gallery walls March 21, alongside the Austrian post-tronic lab rats of Radian. Both artists make sounds perfectly suited to an environment where pristine plaster walls rise to rusty girders.

Dabrye’s beats are the sum of a thousand mouse clicks, his melodies assembled from sounds both found and manufactured. The resulting tracks are sleeker than newly cast steel, alloys of hip-hop rhythm, tiny-tech IDM and the subtlest sense of humor. For its part, Radian will filter available noise through laptops and instruments. Martin Brandlmayr, Stefan Németh and John Norman build foggy static grooves around traditional bass lines and a drum kit’s bump; Dabrye (aka Tadd Mullinix) makes OSHA-rated platforms for spectral MCs.

Art resonates through the community, whether it’s a silvery span from the mind of Frank Gehry or a two-way art party cooked up by a gallery in D.C. But what about giant beats resonating through chests? One of the greatest things about the work of both Dabrye and Radian is its refusal to be inaccessible. Outlands hip hop, cold gonzo techno, fractious IDM — these realms can get selfish, like they love the fringe too much.

Dabrye’s “Truffle No Shuffle” (off his 2001 Ghostly debut, One/Three) is meticulous and clean, with no stipple out of place. But its winking xylophone and whirring tones are almost whimsical — even its name is a Goonies reference, and really, what’s more accessible to the young hipster crowd than that? Radian’s 2004 effort Juxtaposition (Thrill Jockey) drops the occasional jumble of manipulated-noise creepy crawlies (the beginning of “Tester” will scratch your back). But for every experimental stretch there’s a load of consistent beat-making — “Rapid Eye Movement” builds to resemble a funky cop show theme song in the year 2525.

Music, art, community. Is 555 Gallery the new Detroit Art Space? Maybe. “The space itself is ever-changing and unique,” gallery public relations director Steven Samuels says. “We are not just another warehouse space, yet we don’t aspire to be a hoity-toity snobby gallery, either.” Whatever the future brings, live music existing alongside visual art always makes for a powerful room. Particularly when the music chops up the abstract and reassembles it as something that taps feet and rocks thoughts. Artwork should be everywhere — on the floor, under arms and in the dialogue between the people and beats reverberating through the factory.


March 21 at 555 Gallery (4884 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-894-4202).

Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]