Photo by Jeremy Popelka.
TYLER DAMON (b. 1987, Cincinnati, OH USA) is a Chicago, Illinois based artist whose work aims to reveal obscured, mercurial narratives via drums/percussion & free improvisation.
In addition to solo work, Tyler is involved in extended duo exhibitions with guitarist Tashi Dorji, saxophonist Dave Rempis, & bassist Darin Gray (as Duo Oninbo). Building upon the foundation of the Dorji/Damon duo, the pair is frequently expanded into a range of trios featuring Rempis (as Kuzu), Mette Rasmussen, & Thom Nguyen (as Manas). Recent outfits also include a startling new trio with NYC improvisers Sam Weinberg and Henry Fraser and a working Chicago quartet featuring Gerrit Hatcher, Paul Giallorenzo and Andrew Scott Young, He is presently drumming with Circuit Des Yeux and is also regularly engaged with John Dawson as the shape-shifting outfit Thee Open Sex.
Tyler has toured extensively in North America, Europe, Vietnam, & Colombia and is also regularly engaged with other artists, musicians and heads of various sorts across the American Midwest. From home, he quietly operates his own label, Yoke, and previously hosted the long-running free-form/experimental radio program Melody Unasked For on Bloomington, IN community radio station WFHB. From 2010-2015, he was a principle curator of “out” music in the Bloomington area at several now-defunct DIY venues. Tyler’s recorded output has been offered by a myriad of labels including Family Vineyard, Magnetic South, Drag City, Auris Apothecary, Astral Spirits, Trost, Feeding Tube, Sophomore Lounge, Amalgam, Medium Sound, Long Gone Sound System, Let’s Pretend, Park 70 & Yoke.
“Damon draws so many sounds out of his kit so quickly and with such intention and imagination it’s hard to imagine it coming from one person.” – Isaac Olson, Dusted Magazine
“…his solo showcase […] shows that he can play dynamically, fading up from near nothingness to passages where his surging attack fills all available space like a deploying airbag.” – Bill Meyer, Wire Magazine #363
“…his blending of scrape disciplines, stream-of-conscious phrasings and subtle tribal rolls is beatifically disorienting and hypnotic and evocative of animal rutting and fighting and writhing…” – Jacob An Kittenplan, Cassette Gods
“[Tyler is] the up-and-coming young drummer in the Midwest and a voice that will be active for years to come.” – Darin Gray
Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon @ The Hideout, Chicago, IL, March 18th, 2018. Photo by Julia Dratel.
Tashi Dorji (electric guitar) & Tyler Damon (drums/percussion) reside in separate locales but have come together from a place of mutual admiration. The pair has scarcely spoken of intention regarding their music yet conjure a sound which suggests the familiar and the non-idiomatic at once. Flashes of ecstatic intensity, blurred timbral lines, fractal repetition, noir-ish, cinematic mystery and inclinations toward free play hint that the two are pleased to follow a winding path to destinations yet unknown.
“Dorji and Damon aren’t merely exchanging ideas; they seem to be trying to realize one sound, with what frequently feels like one mind. As such, while these performances are undoubtedly chaotic, they never feel purposeless (…) Words like telepathy and empathy are often used to describe group improvisation but those words, revealing a gap between players, feel inadequate for describing the singular, egoless, sonorous mass created here. Unlike a lot of live improvisation, this record documents self-negation, not self indulgence.” – Isaac Olson on Leave No Trace, Dusted Magazine
“Although the duo are playing in real time, they manage to embed action within action […] The music is a bit like a set of Russian nesting dolls that aspires to challenge succession rather than confirm it.” – Bill Meyer on Both Will Escape & Live At The Spot+1, Wire Magazine #393
“Together, the combination of Dorji’s high-end metallic power-tool skree and Damon’s manic-but-earthy hippie clomping are a perfect pairing. Each has a musical spoon in the other guy’s soup to begin with, resulting in a collaboration that seems almost brotherly. […] I’d say expect great things, but they’re already happening.” – Tom Burris on Both Will Escape, The Free Jazz Collective
Photo by Julia Dratel.
Kuzu is a hard-charging but patient trio that came together in the fall of 2017, after saxophonist Dave Rempis, a stalwart of the Chicago improvised music scene, worked with both Tashi Dorji (guitar) and Tyler Damon (drums) individually as part of a lengthy solo tour of the U.S. that he undertook in the spring of that year. Dorji and Damon’s work as a guitar/percussion duo has become well-known, a highly refined and specific language developed through relentless touring and recording over the last few years, with a sound that straddles improvised music, rock, and any number of as-yet-undefined territories. These two provide an incredibly fresh take on the possibilities inherent to spontaneous composition. Superimposing Rempis into this mix was a logical next step after the relationships they’d forged individually.
Musically, these three create a highly focused pallet of sounds. At times, spacious gestures carve up the canvas with the austerity of a calligrapher, while at others those sparse gestures build into an unstoppable tsunami of energy. Those waves are never impulsive or impetuous though, they ebb and flow logically and patiently out of simple and clearly defined sources. This trio pursues every gesture with tenacity, passing them back and forth until they’ve explored every facet of an idea.
Live at Popelka Trenchard Glass Gallery, Sturgeon Bay, WI, June 2019. Photo by Jeremy Popelka.
Tyler Damon / Darin Gray duo, live at the Kerr Foundation, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Mabel Suen.
Duo Oninbo (Tyler Damon & Darin Gray) had their first earthly encounter in early 2012 and patiently began to develop a rapport over several live dates in the American Midwest, eventually culminating in their first recording session in Darin’s hometown of Edwardsville, IL in the Autumn of 2014. The result was Oninbo, a recording that has, perhaps unintentionally, evoked an abstract narrative of the ‘Implacable Man’ trope, conjuring feelings of foreboding doom, exhausting, cathartic intensity and eerie calm via electro-acoustic free-improvisation and an aggregate of disparate personal influences. This drums/percussion and electric bass/percussion duo is the latest of several such collaborations for Darin, having performed for many years as On Fillmore (with Glenn Kotche) and Chikamorachi (with Chris Corsano); However, Damon and Gray confidently stand apart in the present with a nod toward the future. Their second release, “For Four,” premiered in mid-November, 2015.
Open Sex duo at Kafka, Hồ Chí Minh City, Việt Nam, January 4th, 2017. Photo by Nguyễn Minh Hoàng.
The apparent incongruities of the Open Sex controversy have been accounted for by a purely transcendental explanation. There is evidence that early writers were acquainted with such a supposition – which, however, was popularized and espoused by later adherents. This theory asserts that Open Sex actually possessed all the supernatural powers with which they were credited; that they were in reality citizens of two worlds: that, while they had physical bodies for expression on the material plane, they were capable, through the instructions they received through their union, of functioning in a mysterious ethereal body not subject to the limitations of time or distance.