Sunday, September 25

ErstQuake 2 Day III

Greg Kelley/David Daniell/Sean Meehan

The three musicians form a row in front of the audience, with Daniell
on the left with his laptop, Kelley in the middle with his trumpet and
Meehan on the right with his snare and cymbals. The lights drop and out
of a brief silence come a digital whir from Daniell, which is similar
in sound to his work on Sem. Kelley quickly begins to add quiet
guttural sounds from the trumpet played with the mouthpiece removed as
Meehan layers in his dowel on the cymbal tones. Daniell brings up the
volume and Kelley responds by adding the mute to his trumpet and
playing though that. Then he picks up a small piece of sheet metal and
begins to scrape the edge of his trumpet with it, generating a metallic
rustling sound. Meehan, carefully with great deliberation removes his
large cymbal from the snare and places a slightly smaller on the
surface. After some adjustment of the tension he begins to dowel it
again with a slight difference in tone. Daniell has dropped his more
Sem-esque static and moved on to more sine wave like sounds while
Kelley has now placed the sheet metal over the bell of the trumpet and
is blowing through that. Things increase in intensity with Kelley now
playing through the mute, which falls out at this point clattering on
the floor. He continues to play and there are actual trumpet sounding
tones and notes for a few seconds before he replaces it. The volume
drops and Meehan switches to a very small cymbal. He never plays it
though and the set concludes.

This set was very beautiful, with an excellent mix of sounds
between the laptop, trumpet and percussion. Very deliberate, careful
with clear listening and layering of sounds between the musicians.
Tones were prolonged and allowed to develop and naturally decay. The
sound field was filled, but never trampled upon with the sounds seeming
to hang in the air. One of my very favorite sets from the festival.

Keith Rowe/Mark Wastell

For this set Wastell is playing “amplified textures” which seems to
consist of contact mics, mixer and various objects and effects. Rowe
has his typical setup, with his PowerBook as well. The set opens with
some crackly buzzing, most likely from Wastell. Rowe’s drone soon mixes
in adding a layer of density as the volume rises somewhat. The volume
would increase slowly over the course of the set, dropping only at the
end. Never overly loud, or lacking in subtlety but with a clear
increase in intensity over the course of the set. Rowe added in both
fans, and the Bluetooth interference from his mouse as things got
louder. Wastell manipulated various objects such as steel wool and
bowed objects on his surface including what looked like a small bell.
At the peak of intensity everything drops out to this baseline crackly
hum, which persists for while and then by mutual agreement the set
ends.

An absolutely stunning set of a detailed drone with deep textures.
Entrancing, and complex, this set is one of the hardest of all to
describe particulars. Without the visual element (and even with it to
some degree) the two performers merged into a single sound that could
have come from either of them. Very sympathetic and a perfect example
of the ego-less performing that is so oft cited in this music. Another
favorite.

Taku Unami/Margarida Garcia

Unami has the same set of equipment from the day before with the
addition of a second speaker cone. One of the motors has been taped to
the back of the laptop screen and another taped to the front of the
table. Garcia is playing an electro-acoustic double bass with its
minimal body and amplifier. She begins with a scrabbly bowing at the
bridge and goes from their through a collection of techniques mostly
around the bridge. Unami lays out for a long time, 10 minutes or so but
then adds in a few rare loud pops. Garcia picks up what looks like a
rubber ball on a twisted bit of wire and rubs the back of the bass with
the ball. She lays out for a bit and Unami activates on of his motors
with a gentle whir. Garcia moves to the stings with the rubber ball and
Unami lets loose with an eruption of stones (or shells?) from the
speakers. Garcia returns to the bow, much more muscular this time, as
Unami drops some fresh stones into the speaker cone. Unami stops as
Garcia continues to run through various techniques. During a gap, Unami
slams shut the lid of the PowerBook and Garcia continues to wait. Then
they are done.

This duo absolutely failed to work in my mind. Garcia merely ran
through a series of extended techniques and never created anything that
Unami could really work within. His sounds, as punctuation, emphasis
and interruptions just clashed with her constantly switching
techniques. A lack of duration with her techniques, and a general lack
of space just failed to connect. There were moments like a call and
response where Unami would interject a sound as she paused to change
techniques but it seemed desperate and epiphenomenal. Some of Garcia’s
techniques produced fascinating and interesting sounds and had she
stuck to them and tried to work with Unami’s space and outbursts things
could have developed much further.

Tomas Korber/Julien Ottavi

At the start of this set Ottavi stood up and warned us that it
would be loud and that we should take that into consideration. I took
that announcement as an opportunity to put in earplugs (the only time
of the festival). Things begin with Ottavi physically assaulting the
keyboard generating a blast of sound that caused many in the audience
to physically jump. It got louder from there with wave after wave of
sound washing over us. There was some detail in the wash, from Korber
perhaps, but mostly it was just layers of sound. Ottavi would, chop,
stab and get physical with the laptop, changing slightly the
characteristic of the wash of sound. After some time the volume
stair-stepped down over some minutes. During this ending bit Korber sat
with his chair pushed back from his table, looking a bit disgruntled.
As the volume got lower this metallic grinding, rustling sound could be
heard. This seemed to be from Korber, perhaps rubbing something against
the guitar strings? Eventually Ottavi dropped the sound down to where
we could her the higher pitched drone from his guitar which he then
lowered ending the set.

While quite a striking contrast to the quiet explorations of the
previous three sets, the overly loud washes of sound were pretty
uninteresting. Korber was pretty drowned out most of the time and
Ottavi seemed to have no interest in actually collaborating. The only
part I found interesting was the fadeout at the end with metallic
scrapping sounds.

Toshimaru Nakamura/Mark Wastell/Tim Barnes

After a long break due to the previous set having blown one of the
speakers the final set of the festival begins. Setup in a line toward
the rear of the soundstage with Nakamura in the center and Barnes and
Wastell to his left and right respectively. The light drops and they
are only lit from the small white lights over their equipment. Out of
this darkness Nakamura brings up a buzz of feedback and Barnes, layers
in some texture from the wires of his snare. Nakamura moves toward sine
wave territory and roar of sound rises from Wastell and then is cut
out. This returns briefly but only once and at lesser volume. Barnes
moves to his pedals and all three of the musicians are generating sine
tones that beat against each and entangle themselves in the sound
field. Nakamures feedback generated sine wave is more textural and
denser adding a nice contrast to the pure tones from the others. Things
increase a bit in volume at this point and then slowly fade out over a
long time. As it feels to be ending, Nakamura brings up a brrrt of
static, still gentle but much louder then the nearly faded out others.
Then he drops down and the set ends.

Wonderfully intricate playing in this set but it was somewhat
disconnected as if there were several movements in it. It took a bit to
gel and there was some out of place sounds. But the point from where
all three were playing the higher frequencies was just hypnotizing. The
long fade out and especially the final bit from Nakamura was
beautifully, delicate and yet with some edge. An excellent way to end
to an excellent festival.