Cosmos at VNM Oct. 21st 2004

Cosmos at the Vancouver New Music Festival

Yesterday I left work early and made the 3 hour trek up to Vancouver to see Cosmos. OK drive, traffic was tolerable at this hour and the border wait was 15 minutes or so. My MapQuest directions got me easily to the location and I found parking just 2 blocks away. I actually got there 45min early, so I had time to exchange some cash and have a beer. The venue is the ScotiaBank Dance Centre which is a great space. Several floors with dance studios, all of a good size and well lit. In the bottom floor was a performance room which had great lighting a big projection system and great surround sound. The seating was little tables on the same level as the performers.


Cosmos at VNM Oct. 21st 2004

Panel (L to R): Sachiko M, Ami Yoshida, translator, Giorgio Magnanensi

The first act was Vivian Houle and Stefan Smulovitz. The was a laptop and vocal duo. This was so awful I began to regret leaving work early and dashing up to Vancouver. Thankfully there was an artist talk with Cosmos directly following this. The artist talk was in a dance studio with everyone seated in a circle with Sachiko, Ami and a translator all together at one edge. There were several knowledgeable proponents of their “style” of music that asked most of the questions and even answered some of them. There were two older guys who were clearly “experimental” music fans but were questioning this trend toward ultra minimalism. One guy mentioned seeing a performer play one chord in 30 min. He pointed out that to do this often becomes predictable. Interesting I thought, though not really the case with Cosmos in specific. When asked about “Onkyo” Sachiko replied that they don’t like be lumped together with that term, but they find it convenient to use. Finally as the time was up and some people were walking out Sachiko informed us that there is no philosophy or meaning behind their music they just want you to have fun. I found this interesting, in that I get a lot of satisfaction out of their music but I’m not sure if “fun” is the best descriptor for that. More intellectual to me, but maybe that’s just me. Sachiko had also made the point that they put the music out there and it is up to the individual to find in it what they may (this was in reaction to a guy comparing this to older traditional minimal Japanese forms) I wish I caught the name of the guy moderating the session (It’s Giorgio Magnanensi of course -ed.). He had a great story of going to see a Butoh performance in Japan with Otomo and Sachiko that had no music. Just silent dancing. He said that at first he was questioning this lack of music but then began to create associations with the ambient sounds. They ended up watching this for hours and he claimed that it was one of the most intense musical experiences he ever had.

Next up was Pierre-Andre Arcand who played laptop music with manipulated vocals along with projected video accompaniment. This was much better then the first act but was not super interesting. The video helped keep me entertained for the duration. Inoffensive but nothing new to see here. I skipped the next artist chat as it was with Vivian Houle and Stefan Smulovitz whom I pretty much had no interest in hearing what they had to say (not to mention any potential fawning since they were clearly the audience favorites!)

Cosmos at VNM Oct. 21st 2004

Finally around 10:30 Sachiko M and Ami Yoshida came out and the Cosmos show began. Sachiko’s initial playing was very similar to her work on disc 1 of Good Morning, Good Night with a very low volume low frequency sine wave that was more felt then heard. This is combined with short clips and cuts and busts of humming or static. Ami began with sparse squeaks and snaps. Sachiko used the contact mic frequently and later in the set much more audible (and more familiar from recorded Cosmos) continuous sine tones. Ami usually led the way with more activity, often rapidly moving between different aspects of her auditory catalog. A catalog which she has expanded BTW from the inventory on Tiger Thrush. Several points that stand out: About half way through the set Ami, slowly and musically removed the mic from it’s stand which she held for the rest of the set. At one point she held it close and drummed her fingers on her thigh which created this very muted texture. She often turned away from the mic or held it far from her body to create different dynamics. Really expert use of the mic. She also had an iPod at the base of the mic stand that she seemed to be using solely as a time piece. Occasionally she would slip a foot out of her trendy shoe and wake the iPod up from sleep. Sachiko was austere almost meditative over her equipment. Head slightly bowed and only minimal movement with her hands. At one point allowing a lone tone to run interrupted for a good five minutes she sat in the pose motionless the entire duration. The dynamics of the set were pretty extreme, often so quiet that a previously unnoticed background hum dominated the field. At other times shrieks from Ami or busts of static from Sachiko would erupt at a volume to make you take notice. The set ended with Sachiko fading out while Ami made muted, rather guttural sounds. Then Sachiko turned of her gear and Ami fell silent. Then a few seconds later a few more sounds from Ami. Then they stood, bowed and walked off.

Cosmos at VNM Oct. 21st 2004

Great show, about 45min long which is the longest I have heard continuous Cosmos. While I enjoy listening to them a lot, the visual components just add so much. The merch table was well stocked with most of the recent Sachiko and Ami releases (Good Morning, Good Night was there, but not Tears) Also the Filament BOX set which I was quite tempted by. At CN$85 cash only, I managed to resist the temptation. In fact I resisted all temptation and bought nothing and left. I sure did wish though that I didn’t have a 3 hour drive home afterwards.

See all the photos I took in my Cosmos at VNM Flickr set.