Diane Cluck and Ken Garson bring new sounds to town

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It’s always exciting to see some fresh new faces in the local music scene, so we’d like to give a warm Feedback welcome to Diane Cluck and Ken Garson. Recently arriving in town from Brooklyn (where yours truly, a Feedback veteran, currently resides), these two bring musical talents that’ll satisfy fans of both folk and experimental sounds. Cluck’s unique strain of folk resists categorization, with her guitar, voice and songwriting all leading you down unexpected paths. Garson’s work is just as hard to pin down. For the past 17 years he’s been creating improvised, experimental sound collages both on-stage and on-air under the name “Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza.”

Catch Diane Cluck Saturday, January 21 at the Tea Bazaar, where she’ll team up with Philadelphia songwriter Elliott Harvey of a Stick and a Stone. (Photo courtesy Ken Garson)

Since 2000, Cluck has made six of her own albums and contributed to many other releases, including the popular Devendra Banhart-curated compilation The Golden Apples of the Sun, CocoRosie’s Noah’s Ark and the soundtrack from Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding. One of her first collaborators was New York songwriter and comic book artist Jeffrey Lewis. “It was easy with him because it was like a game or treasure hunt,” she said. “It was fun.” More recently she’s been performing with drummer Anders Griffen. “He’s an expressive drummer with a beautiful, textural style—a gifted accompanist,” she said.

Cluck’s latest endeavor is her Song-of-the-Week project, in which she’ll write, record and present subscribers with a new song each week for six months. Using a Kickstarter-like fundraising approach, the project offers fans a range of perks depending on the amount that they pledge, from a basic digital subscription to an intimate home concert by Cluck. The idea for the project came to her one night while she was packing for Charlottesville. “I experienced a pang of fear around leaving my steady day job,” she said. “I literally sat down on a rolled-up rug and began thinking out ideas for Song-of-the-Week.”

In addition to being a creative alternative to a day job, the Song-of-the-Week project will give Cluck a chance to focus on her music and let her inspiration flow. “The circumstance of starting over in a new place has brought out a lot of creativity in me,” she said. She also hopes to collaborate with some new musicians. “I’m very active as a songwriter and always on the lookout for instrumentalists with an interesting touch or tone,” she said. “Harmonica usually makes me cringe, but I love that player who sits out on the Downtown Mall!”

Speaking of collaboration, Cluck will team up with Philadelphia songwriter Elliott Harvey for a show at the Tea Bazaar this Saturday, January 21. “Elliott contacted me several months ago, asking if I’d be interested in working with him on his cross-nation musical collaborations tour,” she explains. “He’ll arrive here three days before our show. We’ll spend that time getting to know each other’s songs, perhaps adding instrumentation or vocal parts.”

For Garson, the roots of “Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza” can be traced back to both his childhood fascination with sound and his early experiences as a radio DJ. Getting bored with just hitting play on a new song every few minutes, he started hitting it more often. “In a sense, my show is now entirely song changes and transitions,” he said. “And it’s a response to a lifetime of having been fed popular music. I can sample, re-contextualize and transform those sounds I grew up with, changing my relationship with that music into a two-way conversation.”

Garson has more than 400 shows under his belt, including many broadcasted by famed New Jersey freeform station WFMU, but he tells us that each one is a completely new experience. “It still seems to come out of what feels like total randomness, and yet it’s like some kind of message and form channel through me and out the speakers,” he explained. “It’s a surprise every time.” His most memorable moments range from dangling microphones out of the radio station window to performing in a tree house while the sun set over a lush Manhattan garden. Though Garson doesn’t have any shows scheduled at the moment, his website boasts a massive audio archive of his past performances.

Garson and Cluck have been enjoying Charlottesville so far. “I’m glad to be settling here,” Cluck told us. “It’s a very healthy change of pace for me.” She’s also happy that some things are the same, like being able to get around on her bike. Garson does miss his old neighborhood’s member-run food co-op, though. “Our prices are so much lower that I still shop there every month and save enough money to pay for my train ticket,” he told us. He also acknowledges that he and Cluck seem to be bucking a trend. “I keep meeting people here on their way to Brooklyn,” he said.

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