Robert Kirkpatrick, A Spiral Cage
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.