True to the season, growth continues in Langan Park. We’re not talking about just foliage here – and certainly not Canada geese – but rather the Mobile Museum of Art (MMofA) which is offering something for the ears in addition to the eyes in midsummer.
It’s the initial installment in MMofA’s Muse Music series, a celebration of “home-grown talent featuring local emerging and established performers, unplugged,” according to a press release from MMofA. Held in the Larkins Auditorium, the series is for those intent on “a deeper mode of listening” in “an alternative to venues which focus more on food or social atmosphere.”
They’re kicking off July 17, at 7 p.m. with an established presence in the Mobile Bay area, one of whom loomed large at MMofA for years. The duo Amphibian Lark is Simeon Coxe and Lydia Winn LeVert, a pair of multidisciplinary artists whose efforts are most familiar to those who frequented the now-defunct GULF Art Space in Fairhope during the last decade.
Coxe, in particular, was known as a chief force behind the contemporary Eastern Shore art house before leaving that helm in 2009 to pursue other projects including some heady company at performances around the world. Beyond Mobile, he’s far better known.
“Well, Simeon’s career is really amazing and admirable. He has a place in history,” LeVert said. She has a gift for understatement.
A Tennessee native who grew up in New Orleans, Coxe stretched his creativity into both visual and musical realms. He eventually set out for New York City where despite success in visual arts with exhibitions in places as exalted as the Museum of Modern Art, he struggled financially.
By 1967, Coxe found himself fronting an act that was the house band at Greenwich Village’s notorious Café Wha?, a locus for emerging artists. It was during this time he began tinkering with oscillators and eventually arrived at an early version of the synthesizer he dubbed “the Simeon.” Eventually, his experimentations with the new electronic forms resulted in a combo comprised of drummer Danny Taylor and himself. Named Silver Apples, they took over the Café Wha? gig and stepped into musical history as forerunners of electronica, krautrock, underground dance and indie rock.
How seminal was Coxe’s presence in the Big Apple’s avant-garde scene? In addition to his gigantic bicycle painting that hung in the MMofA atrium for a decade, the museum also has in its collection a portrait of Coxe by Andy Warhol.
Fast forward a few decades and we have Coxe settling into Baldwin County following a horrific auto accident in 1998. That’s where he crossed paths with LeVert.
“We met through GULF Art Space and work there but I was doing video art mostly then and we didn’t really start to work on music until mid-2010,” LeVert said. “Songwriting began for me then and I started to learn bass guitar.”
“Winn is really the instigator and creative force behind Amphibian Lark,” Coxe said. “She writes the material and lays down basic tracks, bass, keyboards, vocals – then I come in.”
“He creates all drum/rhythm tracks and the electronic magic,” LeVert added. “We collaborate equally on the arranging and mixing of the songs.”
Silver Apples has re-emerged as a musical force in the last 20 years, playing events around the globe including the illustrious All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals on three different continents. The new attention has opened doors for Amphibian Lark.
“We’ve played as an opening act for Silver Apples in New Orleans, Brooklyn, Athens, Austin and are slowly looking to tour as a solo act or open for other bands,” LeVert said. “We just played a radio station and record store in Chicago.”
If fans are looking for a recreation of his earlier sounds from Coxe, they won’t find it. This is decidedly less kinetic than his juggling the 86 keys and nine oscillators of “the Simeon.”
“Unlike Silver Apples, which is very much a ‘hands-on’ effort, my stuff with Amphibian Lark is very computer driven – a totally different sound and approach,” Coxe said.
Described as “electro-cabaret with an edge,” critics have called their 2013 initial album “ethereal” with “experimental soundscapes.” The descriptions please them.
“I’ve been interested in ‘nontraditional’ forms of songwriting and evoking a particular mood,” LeVert said. “But our sound is very accessible and I guess really, another sort of fusion genre.”
As for their visual artistic pursuits, they’ve taken a back seat for the moment. LeVert admits not making anything in that area “for the past couple years.”
“A particular sound or rhythm can trigger a visual image that helps direct the composition too,” she admitted. “My structural process does bear similarities to my experimental filmmaking.”
“I try to get visual things happening in between Silver Apples events,” Coxe said. “I am working on some pieces, now that I am back from Art Basel in Hong Kong and don’t have anything booked until a European tour in the fall. Then I have to drop what I’m doing again. It’s fun actually. I like feeling rushed and with deadlines.”
Entrance to the July 17 event carries a $10 suggested donation at the door. Beer and wine will be available by donation.