Y2K12 Live Looping Festival in San Francisco

For the past few years, the annual Live Looping Festival, which primarily takes place in Santa Cruz, California, co-hosts an opening-night performance in San Francisco with Outsound Presents at the Luggage Store Gallery. This year was no exception, with visiting artists coming from afar and braving the large flying piñatas on display in the gallery that evening.

The show opened with a solo performance by Philipp Zurcher, who was attending the festival from Switzerland. His set opened with dark and subtle tones on guitar and effects, and very little overt looping. The music remained sparse for a while, but eventually started to build up into a thicker texture as the loops came to the forefront.


[Philipp Zurcher.]

While Zurcher’s performance was subtle and sparse, the next set by Krispen Hartung and Aaron Davis from Boise, Idaho went in the opposite direction. Davis played fast runs and driving chords and rhythms on keyboard while the pair layered electronics and loops in a loud and intense rhythmic texture that they sustained for the duration of the set. There were moments where things grew a bit software which allowed Davis’ keyboard performance to come to the forefront, but overall it was a full-on barrage of electronic beats and semi-rhythmic long tones that enveloped the space and the audience.


[Krispen Hartung and Aaron Davis]

The final set featured Italian ” sound-sculptor” Luca Formentini. At first glance, he appeared to be another looper-guitarist, but that label sells his highly virtuosic and narrative music short. His guitar sounded other-wordly, aided by the fact that his performance was largely without any light. The dark, tense and melancholy tones were augmented by electronics and more complex loops layered with a mixture of effects. There were sounds that mimicked natural elements, such as water, fire and even sound evocative of cats. Rather than simply building up layers of sound, he adeptly added and removed the layers to forward an abstract narrative – one had the sense of a movie with something beautiful but tragic was about to happen. Overall, it was an impressive performance.

Overall, it was a good show, with a small but appreciative audience. The festival moved back to Santa Cruz after this opening performance. I was not able to attend any of the subsequent events, but glad I saw these artists on this night in San Francisco.

Shani Aviram, Matt Ingalls, Benjamin Ethan Tinker. Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look at last Thursday’s Outsound show at the Luggage Store Gallery, which featured music by Shani Aviram, Benjamin Ethan Tinker, and Matt Ingalls.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, the acoustics at the Luggage Store Gallery can be quite challenging. One of the things that made this performance notable is that several of the performers made creative use of the acoustics, working with it rather than against it. This was true of the initial piece for solo snare drum by Shani Aviram, where the staccato notes of the drum reverberated around the room in a manner that was quite dynamic. There were some exceptionally loud moments, but I liked the overall texture. The set also featured compositions by Aviram for cello and electronics (performed by Devon Thrumston), and computer and Arp 2600 (performed by the composer and Benjamin Ethan Tinker, respectively).

The best use of the room acoustics was by Matt Ingalls, who performed a 30-minute continuous tour de force of energetic microtonal improvisation on clarinet. His movement affected the diffusion of the sound from the instrument and off the walls of the room, adding more microtonal and timbral variation. It is difficult to describe the experience fully, but it was a very impressive performance. I managed to capture a few seconds on my iPhone, which you can see below.

In the subsequent break between sets, I went up to see the analog electronics. In addition to the Arp 2600, there was also an analog Echoplex that appeared to be in relatively good condition.


[Click images to enlarge.]

In the final set, Ingalls joined Shani Aviram and Benjamin Ethan Tinker for a group improvisation. Aviram performed using a banjo with electronic pickup, which she bowed. The resulting long tones were used as input into the 2600 and Echoplex for a complex texture of sounds with long tones generated from the banjo and overlays with loops and echoes. Ingalls was once again on clarinet, which he matched timbrally to the electro-acoustic sounds. Once again, the acoustics of the room worked with the longer and slower tones of improvisation and the electronic echo effects.


[Click image to enlarge]

It was a good night of music overall, and one I almost missed due to having just returned from an intense out-of-town trip. I am glad I made the effort to be there.

Pas Musique and Thomas/Levin duo, Luggage Store Gallery

Readers may recall that when I was in New York last November, I performed at TheaterLab in an evening organized by Robert L Pepper of PAS, and that he also joined me for an improvised electro-acoustic piece. I had the chance to return the favor when he and Amber Brien came to San Francisco as a duo Pas Musique and I hosted them at our regular Outsound Thursday-night series at the Luggage Store Gallery.

Pas Musique arrived with quite an array of electronic and acoustic instruments and sound-making devices including analog synthesizers, a looper, a garrahand (a beautiful resonant metal drum from from Argentina), and an inflatable dinosaur.

With these tools, they crafted an incredible performance of captivating rhythmic patterns overlaid with rich timbres. Even elements such as feedback and the dinosaur were seamlessly incorporated into the overall musical structure and themselves became rhythmic. Many of the electronically processed sounds have a very natural quality to them, which fit nicely with the garrahand sounds. You can get a sense of these elements in the following video from the performance:

Pas Musique at the Luggage Store Gallery, May 24, 2012 (Part 1) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Another thing that is also quite apparent in this video is that it was incredibly windy in San Francisco that day, especially along Market Street. On one hand, the wind fit well with some of the more chaotic sounds in Pas Musique’s performance, and at the same time the relative order within their music provided a calming contrast. Musically, there were quite a few transitions, including more purely electronic sections with distortion, delays and vocoders, grounding mechanical sounds, and bells. Some points were quite meditative, others dramatic. Throughout, I was particularly taken with the musicality and sense of harmony and rhythm. This excerpt once again features the garrahand, along with looped electronics and a small flute.

Pas Musique at the Luggage Store Gallery, May 24, 2012 (Part 2) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Towards the end of the set, the music became more frenetic with more intense vocal work by Pepper and a percussive performance on a metal ladder by Brien. After being out of time from one another, the rhythms converged into a forceful, eerie loop. This eventually gave way to more electronic robot-like sounds. As a finale, the air was let out of the dinosaur with the sound picked up and processed by microphones. This was set against a swing rhythm, ultimately ending in a loud thud.

Pas Musique were preceded by Oluyemi Thomas and Ike Levin as a free-improvisation duo. With saxophone and clarinet and handful of percussion instruments, their source material and texture was far more sparse. They began with Thomas performing long resonant gong tones and pattenrs on shakers against Levin on saxophone. Thomas then switched to bass clarinet and thus began an extended wind improvisation with high raspy saxophone tones and intricately wobbling clarinet sounds. At moments, it got quite loud (including a humorous synchronicity with honking instruments and honking horns outside on Market Street) but ultimately gave way to softer repeated notes and then breath sounds.

After a section in which Thomas returned to percussion while dancing in very slow deliberate almost ritualistic patterns, the two switched instruments with Levin on bass clarinet and Thomas on saxophone. There were loud tones, key clicks, and a jazz-like riff that gave way to scat singing. Each musician performed a solo on his respective wind instrument and then combined again in a duet moved from percussive to melodic and jazz like, at first forceful then softly rhythmical. It was ultimately a very warm and intimate performance.

Overall, it was a great show that I was happy to have curated. This is something I have been doing occasionally for the Luggage Store new-music series but I hope to do more frequently in the future.

Rubber ()) Cement, bran(…)pos, Hora Flora at Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at a recent show featuring noise and theater at the Luggage Store Gallery, part of Outsound Presents’ regular Thursday-night experimental-music series.

The first set featured Hora Flora, a project of Raub Roy. Most often, we associate noise music with electronic affects, but this set focused on acoustic noise opportunities. It opened to the sound of electric toothbrushes on drums. It turns out this sound can be quite rich, and also quite loud at times. Over the course of the performance, he used other acoustic generators for excite the drums, most notably large colorful balloons.

The set continued in this way, with the balloons and toothbrushes on the drums creating ever changing acoustic noise drones, with other elements such as didgeridoo and portable cassette players layered on top. The cassette players were very deliberately placed at even intervals on the beam that spanned the length of the gallery in front of the audience. I was right near one of them, but the sounds were still quite subtle when combined with the overall drone texture.

Horoflora was followed by bran(…)pos. I had last seen him perform at the 2011 Outsound Music Summit. Once again, he was performing from within a curtained space with video projections on the outside, but the setting was far more intimate setting. From my vantage point, I was able to see both his live performance “behind the curtain” as well as the enveloping video projection.

In his performance physical use of his face both generated and shaped the sound, which in turn controlled the video. The performance opened with expressive percussive sounds, which become more resonant through electronic processing and gradually formed a rhythmic pattern. It continued with a series of slurps, crunches and other forms of face percussion mixed with breath, voiced sounds and synthetic sounds. In addition to electronics for direct vocal processing, there were synthesizers as well, including an Access Virus:

Overall, the performance had the phrasings and overall structure of storytelling, but in a language whose words I cannot understand. It did come to a strong finish with growls and roars against a frantic thudding pulse.

The final performance featured Rubber (() Cement (pronounced “Rubber oh Cement”). The set was quite the spectacle, with a large costumed figure, a space creature of sorts, next to a towering old-school computer system made from cardboard. The visuals and sounds reminded me a bit of Caroliner Rainbow, but on a smaller scale, and on top of the audience instead of separated by a formal stage.


[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

Somewhere inside that lumbering lurching figure was a large custom string instrument. The plucking and striking of the strings formed the sonic base of the performance, which were both processed electronically and countered by other synthesizer sounds emanating from the “computer”. I suspected that the things would get quite loud, and indeed they did, with lots of loud shrieky pedal noises processing the strings and reprocessing themselves in complex ways. Of course the focal point remained the physical and visual aspects of the performance. In fact, that is a bit of an understatement, as part of the audience experience including being “attacked”. I got swiped at least once by one of the extending parts appendages, which are actually quite heavy – I was nearly knocked over. Things got a little crazier as the creature moved out into the audience. But it was all in good fun, and I don’t think anyone was hurt. Definitely an unusual experience for this series.

Overall, it was a great show attend, with different sites and sounds than usual. The audience was different as well, with the artists bringing their own followings. I hope to see more of them at other venues in the near future.

Gino Robair and Andrea Centazzo, with Trevor Dunn and Travis Laplante, Luggage Store Gallery

The first Thursday of this month featured an impressive performance by Andrea Centazzo together with Gino Robair at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. I had missed an earlier performance of theirs at another Bay Area venue earlier the week, but glad I was able to make this one.

The evening opened with solo sets by Trevor Dunn on upright bass and Travis Laplante on saxophone. Dunn’s set unfolded as a single piece, which had just started when I arrived. It was a combination of long bowed notes that are part of traditional bass practice along with timbral effects and more percussive extended techniques. The low tones filled the room nicely and provided a more meditative start to the evening.

Laplante’s solo saxophone set was quite a contrast in terms of energy and dynamics. It was nearly all extended technique with fast runs of notes. And it was quite loud. Given the acoustically active nature of the Luggage Store Gallery, this made for some interesting effects. I think the combination of the two sets worked well. Dunn and Laplante were touring the west coast of the United States and Canada together, so I suspect their contrasting styles played into their other performances as well.

Afterwards, the audience shifted 90 degrees towards the front of the gallery, where two tables festooned with a variety of percussion and electronic gear awaited the start of the second set. Andrea Centazzo’s table was dominated by the MalletKAT, a marimba-like electronic controller.

He also had a variety of small acoustic percussion, as well as this toy that he said was from a previous visit to San Francisco in the 1980s.

Gino Robair had his usual assortment of percussion, noisemakers and electronics, including the Blippo Box and his signature broken cymbals.

The set began in either a dramatic fashion, nor in an especially subtle way. It was well timed and well balanced and drew one quickly into the music. As I have said on previous occasions, a masterly improvisation performance will balance rhythm, dynamics and timbres into a cohesive whole, and this performance was no exception. Even with the “noisy” source instrumentation, I felt like the interaction of the performers created a harmonic structure of sorts to go along with the rhythms. And the electronic and acoustic elements blended well in this context. You can hear a short excerpt in this video:

Overall, this was a great performance, and I sat quietly and intently in full absorption of the music, foregoing the note-taking I sometimes do during experimental-music concerts. And it was a perfect conclusion to what had been a long day of not only experimental music but art-gallery openings. But that is another story.

Hare and Arrow, Charm and Strange

Today we look at the last show I attended in 2011. On December 29, Outsound Presents featured a pair of duos at the Luggage Store Gallery: Hare and Arrow, and Charm and Strange.

Hare and Arrow was a duo of musical-instrument maker Sung Kim and David Dupuis. I had the opportunity to hear Kim perform on his instruments several times during 2011, but I found this performance to the the most musical. The instruments were of course quite interesting sonically as well as visually, but the music held its own with having to be conscious of this. The set started with a combination of scratchy noise and feedback, but then moved to more traditional bowed sounds and glissandi. The combination of harmonies and relatively gentle noise had a plaintive quality. Over time, the music grew noisier and darker, and more animated. You can hear a short clip of the set in this video:

There were some interesting moments as the piece continued, including a clarinet-like timbre from one of the string instruments and a jazzy bass line. The second piece was more percussive, with plucked strings and striking of the instruments. As a result, it had a more sparse texture. Towards the end, Kim set aside the instrument to manually control the effects pedals for an electronic conclusion to the set.

It was then time to transition to Charm and Strange, an electronic-music duo of Julia Mazawa and Sharkiface. During the intermission, I found myself quite curious about this bright red device. It definitely had the look of a Ciat Lonbarde instrument (i.e., like the kitten-nettik that I have somewhere at CatSynth HQ).

It turns out it is a combination of oscillators and loop processors, although in this performance it was mostly used for the latter. Plus, the red color matched Sharkiface’s shawl. And they both contrasted nicely with the leopard-print table cover.

The set opened with a looping sound and a texture that was industrial, ambient and machine-like. Mazawa, who was performing on an iPhone, appeared to be controlling the loops and applying turntable-like effects. Over time, different looped sounds came in. It was only after the performance that I found out that the sampled sound sources were actually from Hare and Arrow’s set. Simultaneously, Sharkiface played the red instrument, both using the raw contacts and applying jumper cables at various points. A syncopated rhythm emerged, with environmental sounds set against machinery. It then turned to a more turntable-like pattern with metric scratching. There were repeated string phrases (i.e, from Hare and Arrow), hissing sounds, and loud machine noises. The loops seemed to have similar lengths, but set at different phases to create rhythmical effects. Other pieces featured chaotic noise that reminded me of circuit-bent instruments (though I think the sounds were coming from the iPhone), a steady pulse set against more random wobbling sounds, and a section where Sharkiface played the red instrument more expressively, almost melodically.

You can hear a tiny bit of their set in this video:

The video clip is rather short (only a few seconds). I’m not sure why that is all I have of the video, but it is what it is. And I hope to hear more performances from them in the future.

Space Music Night at the Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco

Earlier this month, I participated in a show at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco called Space Music Night that turned out to be quite memorable. So what exactly is “space music”? It is not straightforward to come up with a definitive answer, except that it should reflect some sense of “outer space” as one might imagine it. Or, perhaps more accurately, as people might have imagined it in the 1960s and 1970s. The music that we performed that evoke “space rock” that one might associate with early Pink Floyd or Gong, but also more freeform ambient soundscapes. The latter comes closer to ambient music one might hear on NPR’s “Hearts of Space” program but without crossing over that dangerous line into New Age. The music was certainly contemplative at times, but retained an edge to it and often veered back to rock and jam idioms, and moved back and forth between defined harmonies and more abstract timbres. The “space” effect was also heightened by having a dark room with abstract video projections by Tim Thompson.

The show was divided into two sets with four musicians each. Although many of us were familiar to one another, this was the first each each set of four played together as a group. The first set featured Matt Davignon on drum machines and effects, Kristen Miltner on electronics, Karl Evangelista on guitar, and Andrew Joron on theremin. Musically, this set had a very thick electronic texture with a soft beat from the drum machines that came in and out of presence. The electronics and heavily processed guitar provided anxious harmonies, and the theremin seemed to be narrating a space story with warbles and slides that approached the rhythm of human speech. At moments, the rhythm dropped out altogether, while at others it came closer to an extended jam. You can hear a bit of the set in the following video:

In the second set, I performed with iPad and the Dave Smith Evolver, along with David Leikam, Sheila Bosco on drums, and Steve Abbate on guitar. Perhaps it was the instrumentation of the set, or the musical leanings of the performers (including myself) towards strong rhythm, but we very quickly gelled into a steady rock jam rhythm that extended for most of the length of the set except for avery deliberate breaks. I mostly used Sunrizer on the iPad to provide ethereal harmonies to set again Leikam’s Moog Rogue and his “electric bass cello” and provide structure for melodic improvisation. This was definitely approaching the “space rock” idiom that inspired the evening.

I was quite happy with how well we able to play together despite having not played together before, and indeed a few people afterwards expressed some surprise that we hadn’t. But perhaps we will get a chance to play again.

December 1 Electronic Music at the Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco

The December 1 show at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco marked my official curatorial debut for the long-running Outsound Presents’ series. The show featured three solo performances with electronics, all very different in terms of musical style and technologies. But while all featured and celebrated different facets of electronic-music technology, there were strong connections to the acoustic and natural environment.

The evening opened with a set by Headboggle (aka Derek Gedalecia) with an array of analog electronics, including a Blippo Box. The sounds and possibilities of analog electronics were paired sounds of nature as recorded in the Yosemite Valley. The music began with a rhythmic pattern of high-pitched sounds against longer machine noises and clear presentation of the nature recordings. Gradually, the two sonic strains collided and mixed together.

As with previous Headboggle performances (such as the set at the 2010 Outsound Music Summit), this one was full of energy and stage theater, with head banging, dropping of the stage furniture, and even a moment where he tossed shakers down the Luggage Store Gallery’s stairwell. The music also became more dramatic and percussive, with more glitches, percussive hits and bursts of noise, but all set against the continuing presence of the nature sounds. The harsher electronic sounds gave way to a more rarefied tone over time, with longer periods of harmonic oscillator sounds fading into a quieter single tone. After another percussive period that included lifting and dropping the table holding the care, the environmental sounds took center stage. Between the stereo speakers and the acoustics of the gallery, the leaves and other sounds were strongly spatialized and felt present.

Thea Farhadian followed with a set for violin and computer running Max/MSP. In some sections of her performance, the violin was more of a traditional chamber-music instrument, with its familiar timbres augmented by electronic samples and processing. In others, it was more of a controller, with pizzicato notes triggering long runs of notes from the computer or other purely electronic events. The set started out with solo violin, with the electronics emerging slowly like the orchestra in a concerto. The music continued to unfold as interplay between the violin and electronics. As the texture changed to more pizzicato notes with electronic responses of backward tones, the music grew more anxious, channeling the anxious moments of countless films. I also was reminded of works by Penderecki and Xenakis. A large barrage of electronic pizzicato sounds started to take on a drone-like quality with its density. In both the melodic and percussive sections, the music was harmonically a very strong, a brought in electronic orchestration that suggestion the presence of a cello or bass off stage. Other effects included fast glissandi and electronic pitch changes such as one might achieve by changing the speed of a tape.

Farhadian’s performance was divided into a series of short movements, and some had very different character. In one, short pizzicato notes on the violin acted as triggered for long runs of electronic notes and processing, with various speed, pitch and timbral changes applied. In another, a very lyrical string melody was set against fluttering sounds and dramatic low tones. In yet another, she used “prepared violin”, with bits of foil and other items placed against the strings for percussive effects. The electronic accompaniment was equally scratchy and inharmonic. And in one of the final sections, repeated rhythmic phrases and echoes perfectly aligned.

The final set featured Later Days (aka Wayne Jackson) with a variety of circuit-bent instruments, acoustic and electronic noisemakers, and a laptop running his custom Cambrian Suite audio softsynth with both hand-designed and algorithmically evolved patches. If Farhadian’s performance was all about software-based manipulation and Headboggle was focused on analog hardware, Later Days combined both.

The space was quickly filled with an ocean of electronic sounds, glitches, bleeps, rumbles, short loops and echoes. At one point, everything became extremely quiet, with a few lo-fi distortion sounds and high squeaky analog sounds. The new sampling and looping capabilities of the software were showcased with repeated loops of circuit-bent sounds, a solo on a photo-sensitive oscillator, a car horn and recordings from a microphone dangled out the window onto busy Market Street. The loops built up to a frenzy and the slowed down to almost nothing. The sounds picked up again in pitch and energy, with feedback loops providing an edgy and unpredictable quality. A metallic rhythm emerged, and the faded a single feedback loop. A flurry of “little loud bits” formed an odd harmony of their own. After a series of machine-like noises and a more elemental wind-like sound, the music slowed down once again and came to a watery end.

Over all it was a great concert with a rich variety of music. Indeed, the three artists fit together sequentially even better than I had anticipated. And fortunately, the logistics and technical requirements (e.g., soundchecking) were not that challenging, so I was able to enjoy the show along with the audience.

Reconnaissance Fly, Equators and David Douglas, Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at Reconnaissance Fly’s performance last week at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. We were the third act in a concert that also featured Equators and David Douglas.

We performed selections from our “spong cycle” Flower Futures, with each band member contributing pieces based on “spoetry”, or poetry from spam messages. The Luggage Store is quite acoustically active, which can make our highly-rhythmic and punctuated music challenging. But we did the best we can with the environment, and in fact a couple of our songs, the tango-like As Neat As Wax and funk-latin-combo sanse es crede nza, were the best we had played them to date. You can hear a recording of As Neat As Wax below:

Another challenge arose from the fact that I can had forgotten the small Chinese gong that is featured at the beginning of Small Chinese Gong. Fortunately, I was able to substitute a “small iPhone gong”, and the rest of the song unfolded smoothly after that somewhat amusing start.

Once again, we performed as a quartet, with myself on keyboard and electronics, Polly Moller on flute and vocals, Tim Walters on bass and electronics, and Larry the O on drums. When we next perform, we will be five – Chris Broderick will be joining us on saxophone and clarinets.

The show opened with a set by Equators, the experimental music project of Trevor Hacker, with Cody Hennesy. They performed with guitars and effects, and an instrument that resembled an “electric hurdy gurdy.” Things started off quietly enough, with ambient guitar chords centered around a suspended major harmony. After a short time there was a sudden switch to rather loud noisy material, and the remainder of the first piece moved back and forth between these ambient and noisy elements. One particular moment featured descending noise and a loud “analog burst” followed by a softer, pentatonic pattern. The next piece followed a similar pattern, starting with odd major-mode harmonies and eerie effects, with slide guitar and looping as the major elements – gradually, the sound moved towards more noise-based elements.

Equators was followed by David Douglas performing a solo set with drums and laptop-based processing using Max/MSP. He had a standard drum set as well as numerous additional percussion instruments and a small electronic drum pad. These were used as source material for a variety of signal and event processing elements on the laptop. There result was richly textured both rhythmically and timbrally. It started off with metallic sounds processed with stretching and harmonic effects, followed by drums with pitch and delay effects. A slow repeating rhythm emerged that served as the foundation for subsequent elements with bass drum, cymbals, and other percussion. I thought the effects Douglas chose with the bells were particularly effective. Some of the rhythms were more free form, which small runs and loud hits combining with delays to form fast rhythmic passages, and longer metric patterns were combined with delays and loops to form complex counterpoint rhythms. Throughout, Douglas demonstrated a strong skill in playing the acoustic and electronic elements off one another.

It was interesting to contrast our more idiomatic set with the two more “experimental” sets that preceded us, but I thought the overall program was effective. Experimental audiences shouldn’t be afraid of a tango or a funk rhythm after noise improvisation, and I like the energy and emotional balance as a listener. Overall, it was a good show, and look forward to our next outing.

Myrmyr and Tiny Owl, Luggage Store Gallery

June began with a particularly strong electroacoustic and noise performance at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco with Myrmyr and Tiny Owl.

Myrmyr is the electroacoustic duo of Agnes Szelag and Marielle Jakobsons, and their performance was in anticipation of the release of their new album Fire Star. Their work incorporates strings (in this case, electric violin and cello along with other instruments) and advanced electronics. I have heard and reviewed Myrmyr before, but this set was perhaps the most beautiful I have heard from them. Set amongst a dizzying array of electronics and wires, it opened with a series of struck string sounds that invoked the sounds of strings in South Asian or East Asian music. Szelag’s voice emerged over a series of rich arpeggios and became part of the texture via live looping. The complex harmony resolved to a long major-seventh chord, after which the strings became harsher and more percussive. Amidst pitch and delay effects, a plucked cello entered in counterpoint to the voice and other instruments. The overall effect was quite tonal and dream-like, and gave me the impression of glass objects.


[Myrmyr. Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The next piece started with strings, both plucked and tapped and used as a live-looping source. A rhythmic pattern formed from the loops, which built up in complexity and volume with lots of distortion. Over time, the distorted sounds became clearer and more ethereal as the strings cut out and left only the bells and electronic effects. These were in turn displaced by more liquidy sounds and the return of cello and violin, this time bowed. The piece featured interesting harmonies and vocals.

The final piece was from the soon-to-be released album. It became with a drone, with harmonium sounds and voice building up into a rich texture. As they fade out, a plucked string instrument (possibly guzheng after reviewing Myrmyr’s website) enters on a minor pattern. The sound was accompanied by bells and distortion effects. The music built up to a big recognizable chord that was unresolved. Another build-up followed, this time with voice that turned into a rich harmony with a particularly plaintive violin line.


[Tiny Owl. Photo by Michael Zelner.]

Myrmyr was followed by Tiny Owl, a band consisting of Matt Davignon (drum machines and synthesizers), Lance Grabmiller (computer and synthesizers), Suki O’Kane (percussion), and Sebastian Krawczuk (double bass and objects). Their performance consisted of one long constantly evolving piece. It opened with an impromptu round of “Happy Birthday” for Matt Davignon (it was indeed his birthday) that appropriately elided to a series of glitchy noise sounds. Soon the bass drum and cymbals and string bass entered. The overall undulating timbre seemed very insect-like, but there also bits of melody that came and went in opposition to the overall swells and dips in the sound. One gesture that I particularly liked involved drum machine “gurgling” set against bass. The gurgling sounds, which formed a complex timbre, were gradually slowed down to the point where it became a series of rhythmic elements – moments like this always make me think of Stockhausen’s Kontakte II. Eventually, they merged back into the overall ambient sound. Over time, the overall texture became busier, but also more drone like, with high pitches and even some screeches eventually emerging. Pitched noises moving up and down like factory machinery were set against a drum rhythm reminiscent of “Wipe Out” (that very insistent sixteenth-note rhythm that every young percussionist attempts to play). As the percussion (drums and objects) grew more rich, so the electronics became more intense with bursts of machine noise and longer notes with strange harmonics. The section of louder sound and more complex rhythm grew to a climactic point and suddenly faded out with just a low rumble and a sparse texture of percussive sounds. This part of the performance was drier, with more punctuated elements and scratching sounds. During a gentle rise in pitch and volume near the end of the performance, the sound seemed to merge with a passing siren on Market Street. (It wouldn’t be a Luggage Store Gallery performance without at least one siren incorporated into the music.)

The show concluded with both groups uniting for short jam. It was fun to hear the combined sounds: noise drones punctuated by strings, and at least one more siren from the street.