BRAINWAVES :: 10 Years of Brainwashed.com

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BRAINWAVES :: Night One (11.17.06)

OK, it’s always a good sign when entering an experimental music
festival (Brainwaves) to have your first thing be running right into Steven
Stapleton
. There he was just inside the entrance as I arrived at
about 8:45PM or so… and having just attended my opening downtown, I
unfortunately learned that my biggest disappointment of the weekend
had already occurred. Yes, Z’ev opened the festival and I missed his
performance. I only saw his lovely percussion instruments at center
stage. Well, it seems there has been an inevitable hiccup, and I
will just have to live with it. Though, it wasn’t a total loss (read
on…).

After my chance encounter with “our resident Nurse” (Stapleton, for
the not-yet-indoctrinated), I took in performances by Nadja (with
Canadian Aidan Baker with whom I hope to be working with in a
1421 image 2 collaboration next year). My word, this duo sonified the guitar. It was a buzzing
drone and very inebriating in the best possible way, soothing and
striking. Next up, and I had no clue who it was as it was a trio, was
Troum (normally a duo). They appear on my just released compilation
triMIX. I thought it was an amazing new find, two gents and a gutsy
female using the voice as a drone instrument with wired percussion and
a whole lot of toying with the void of sound. My old friend Sandy
(from ‘ZBC) catered the entire gig and it was so nice to see her. She
whisked me backstage to meet Stefan Knappe who has been my contact
with this wonderful duo. We had some words back in the green room but
he made mention of his being quite tired from touring and we were
interrupted by Sir Edward Ka-Spel, so I left him in good hands. The
night continued with the very theatrical and ballsy Dresden Dolls, a
tight duo who are more theatrical than probably anything to come in
this fest. I had not seen them, though they tour voraciously, and
it’s a cross between German cabaret and goth with strong biting
lyrics. They put on a great show, and Ka-spel joined them on one of
their numbers (they are touring together) just prior to coming out to
perform with The Silverman in their own set.

Fortunately for me, in the finale of Ka-spel and Silverman‘s set they
invited Z’ev back to the stage for his raucous integration into their
already interesting set that was a cross between some off-beat techno
lines, vocals of depth and horror and lots of fun. His scraping of
his songs and sheer presence made up a wee bit for missing his earlier
set. In between things they showed a whole lot of interesting film
overlays, a lot of live video play (I played the geek by heading
upstairs to the sound deck to watch the boys twiddling a while). I
also had the great opportunity to meet Aranos (who is in from Ireland
and performs tonight) and we had a nice lengthy chat about touring and
equipment and the trials of being artists. He collaborated with me on
the original Tribryd Installation Soundtracks. It was another honour
in the evening. I also got to meet musician Jon Mueller who runs
Crouton, we have been corresponding for years. He is an example of an
artist who has truly spent countless hours supporting, representing
and being a central part of the entire experimental music scene. Hats
off.

Anyway – I have to stop short (yah, right!) and head off to today’s
afternoon events which include: Howard Stelzer, The Caretaker and
V/Vm
, Goodiepal, Cock E.S.P., Keith Fullerton Whitman, Greg Davis,
Landing… and then later tonight it’s some of the main reason I came
these miles: Aranos, DJ Steven Stapleton, Colin Potter,
Irr.App.(Ext.), Volcano the Bear. I’ll report back.

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BRAINWAVES :: Day too (11.18.06)

It’s late, I’m tired, but here’s a cool and simple re-cap. Best
performance of the day, hands-down goes to V/vm Test Records’
Goodiepal. Least inspired definitely goes to Landing and along the
way there were some pleasant surprises and other oddities. I’m going
to quickly mention each artist and my impressions; The Regent Theatre
never had it so good!

Master of Ceremonies and Brainwashed.com chief nerd Jon Whitney (nods)
alongside a freely choreographed Aranos (who did a cartwheel and some
balletic moves) kicked off the day with intros and then it was right
into things…

Cock E.S.P. :: This duo opened things up wildly in something akin to a
coarse wrestling match in animal costumes. Ya gotta like this sorta
thing
, noise crunch amp’d to the nth degree. Noise victims beware! It was
short and sweet.

Howard Stelzer :: This gent who has been a friend for a long while and
has very similar musical tastes has put some physical punch into his
show. He truly makes his cassette decks sizzle. There were some
concrete surprises and Schwitters undertones.

V/Vm: A way bogus, outlandish, only partly in your face (but loud)
belligerent ode to Sir
Elton John, in mask and all. His black briefs and lankiness added to
the farce and circumstance. I like this guy better on record, but his
big bushy hair is a freak-do from beyond. At one point during the
show he circled the crowd and then when he got beside me (seated) he
floor dived and ended up right under my legs and continued
lip-synching there while people took pictures and I was worried he may
have dinged his head on the theatre chair hardware. Also, he ended
with a batch of willing extras from the audience including Dave Gross
and others in a rousing deconstructed version of USA for Africa.

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Goodiepal :: This was my first time. He was eloquent, soft spoken and
yet, though he toyed with planetary systems and other handmade toys
and objects – he had a constant melody. Handling out bells he said he
cast himself throughout the periphery of the audience, he was dressed
somewhat Russian Orthodox in style (clothes and long flat beard),
spoke of being Scandinavian and basically was funny and spot on about
culture in his spoken word bit. His whistling was extraordinarily on
key the whole performance long. I was simply riveted by his lucid
loonie’ness. He invited the
audience up to look at his unique set-up at the end of his show and
then offered a 20-minute window when all his recorded material could
be bargained for at any price at the merchandise table. It was,
rightfully, gone long before 20 minutes were up.

Greg Davis :: Played a pert set, filled with evocative world rhythms and he had a cute sidekick (ooo) on violin. They kept everything mellow and grounded while sitting shoeless on the floor. Dreamy. lush, laid back and slightly numbing drones and stuff. Davis then started a duo set with Keith Fullerton Whitman which was awkwardly improv. They were playing hurdy gurdys or some type of crazy looking exotic stringed instruments. It sounded a bit rusty. But when Whitman did his solo set, though he started off a bit industrial and noisey, he shifted out the tones for a layering of harmonies that calmed everybody’s wild beast. I nearly dozed off it was THAT body-based. Absolutely clean and relaxing. And not in a skin cleanser sort of way.

Landing :: Their set sounded marred by some technical/sound problems.
There continued to be something murky for a good 10-15 minutes which
was like a lead weight. The singers voice wasn’t mic’d right and her
voice and their overall sound was a bit removed and ambivalent. It
was a complete loss, but as the final performance of the first half of
the day it left an uneven finish to a series of rather stellar and very physical performances.

Over the break I had the grand opportunity to dine with my former
studio mate college buddy, David M. Curry, of the Empty House
Cooperative (he plays with Thalia Zedek and the Boxhead Ensemble as
well as his solo stuff). He has a certain groundedness and frank
stance that he lacked in college. Back then he was wild and young,
and I thought he was just a great guy, very genuine… and still is. I
am looking forward to hearing some of his music (especially the one on
Sedimental). We dined at Arlington hot spot, the Blue Ribbon BBQ and
I had an amazing catfish sandwich. The sides, the sauces… the company,
all divine. It was a really fine catch-up and may find him again
before I leave town, though he gave me some other contacts which I may
use. Now on to the rest of the evening…

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Aranos :: Stunning, brilliant, soulful and passionate. His singing,
violin, even with the technical issues he had, they resolved themselves
and became part of the performance rather than problems or
difficulties. He had a great sense of humour in his work, stage
presence and acrobatics (three cartwheels in succession and a
handstand into a back bend and then upright again!). It might seem
odd, but odder is that this man is certainly over 50 years old. He is
stealth. Spot-on opener!

DJ Steven Stapleton :: He played some of his favourite records that
sounded a bit like mash-ups, and at one point turned to watch the
video behind him and stayed in that position for the remainder of the
performance. It was as if he had invited all of us into his living
room so he could show off his collection on a grand scale. He is
quite a collector. I remember him writing me about a few dozen
American hip-hop records he was seeking a few years back. How novel
was that? There were definitely disapproving audience members
chatting about his set. I found it comical, and less hedonistic –
more of a relaxed sharing… a celebration of his career, as all of the
artists on the evening set were somehow linked by his (former) label
United Dairies.

Colin Potter overlapped with Stapleton‘s set while wearing some
flashing pink and blue pin light necklace and lips-shaped white
sunglasses. His look and the set were deliberately polar. His set
was a wash of drones and mixed signals. It was pure, decadent and
damn lush.

Irr.App.(Ext.) :: Interesting batch of Bay Area boys. Or somewhere in
California. They were more of a performance troupe who play with
sound-based objects and inventions than anyone else performing. They
had a wry humour, but were more vaudevillian and dramatic all dressed up
in suits and using film, toy instruments and reading material
(Scottish odes, punch lines) as their sources. Powerfully odd.

Volcano the Bear :: I’m glad I stayed for this. It was rock meets
concrete meets stage antics and a whole lot of musical control. The
drummer is mad. This trio proved that having fun on stage, while
still keeping a semblance of cool is paramount. They were then joined
by various players over the evening to play a cacophony so I ditched
the joint for earlier bedtime… but since it is now nearing 4AM I have
written on much too long. So, off to bed I go.

PS: Oh, yes, Jon Whitney (who earlier charmingly said from the stage:
Welcome to my record collection!“) got a call from Little Annie
Anxiety
out of New York and decided to play let us in on the
conversation via cell phone from the stage. She wanted to tell
everyone to have a great time and that she was watching a meteor
shower, of all things. Maybe Goodiepal did align the stars tonight?

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BRAINWAVES :: Part the 3rd (11.19.06)

Still unduly imbalanced from the change in sleep patterns and time
shift, it all crept up on me like a small shock to the system
yesterday. Music festivals take the body into interesting states,
without additives of any sort. It’s part zen zoning, a pure shift in
the body axis. The mar of the day was the cancellation of the loved/loathed Boyd Rice (Non) who mysteriously didn’t make his
flight. I am sure that many people were there to see him perform, and
was part of what got a small percentage in the crowd to dole out the
$75 (hard to come by for many, but worth every cent here). So this was
surely a disappointment for some, though the “replacement” (a video)
was forward-thinking enough to keep it all above bar. So, this leads
me into the third and final chapter of this quite engaging festival…

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Charles Atlas :: This seven year old trio looked a bit different in this
rendition as one member was replaced. These
three play stringed instruments and started the day on a rather
calming and sombre note. Their layers were light, nearly transparent,
but always melodic. It was the perfect antidote to a long few days
into any fest like this. This was my first exposure to their sweet,
melancholy and sure not to be my last.

Jessica Bailiff :: Techical difficulties led them to cut some songs from
their set. Their sound, unfortunately, was a bit unbalanced and tinny.
Though what you could hear was pretty sweet, unplugged alterna-folk.
Not necessarily my cup of tea, but certainly passionate and pleasing
to the ear.

Christoph Heemann :: Completely charged and mesmerizing. This was a time
to close your eyes and just gently free your mind to his sacred blend
of atmospheric layers of dark ambience. Music built from body
temperatures, amped to numb.

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Andreas Martin :: Heeman’s older brother, and virtuosic guitarist
brought a seasoned sense of musicianship to the stage. His work, like
Bailiff’s is of acquired taste, and not quite “experimental” when
compared to most of the acts here, but he brought more than fingers
meeting strings. In fact, like throat singing, his body was truly in
union with his instrument. He played compositions by Michael Hedges
and others like a pro session player in a trance.

Windy & Carl :: The by-and-large sonic stand-out of the day goes to this
Michigan duo. Lovely rapture of harmonies in solitude. They performed
sounds from the Autumnal new release, Akimatsuri, a collaboration with
photographer Christy Romanick, and together they shape-shifted the
landscape into bleary, light drenched spheres of delicate tones. Windy
& Carl
tapped into some very deep synapses here.

The Caretaker :: The remainder of the night seemed to have lots in
common with associations to Coil and/or Threshold House. There were
obvious themes of homoeroticism, however veiled or distorted. The
Caretaker
dedicated his very dark and somber set of ballroom ambient
to the Johns of yore, Mr. Peel and Mr. Balance. It was truly an
honoring nod. It was a warbly requiem that included twisted and muted
themes of dancehall darkness while on the screen was a single panel
black screen, a dedication to the void of loss. Eerie and haunting.

The Threshold HouseBoys Choir :: In a video directed by Peter
Christopherson
, this new solo project is based around
computer-generated vocals. The video depicts Thai men and boys in
ritual situations. Sectioned in three parts we witness a chant of
out-of-body consciousness, a boiling water dance with feathers and
finally a mouth and face piercing/modificaion and dance ritual as
street festival with water. The tribal sound is mixed with a light
industrial blend of percussion and hard ambient collage elements. The
peculiar mix is repetitive and claustrophobic at times, airy and
mysterious elsewhere. Christoperson did not make a live appearance,
and this replaced the Non show.

Love’s Secret Domain :: Jon Whitney took to the stage with a surprise in the form of a secret (“lost”) video of John Balance (Coil) doing
this album’s self-titled track. The very 80′s-ish video shows a young
Balance in ecstasy singing in an underground Thai nightclub among many
pre-pubescent boys erotically dancing, with melted wax and sheath-like
sarong-clad. Quite pop, and lightly lustful it was surely raise some
uninitiated eyebrows – but here it seemed like video light to some
extent. It was in good fun, and purportedly only seen by very few eyes
ever.

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Thighpaulsandra :: Headliner, the set started with a lil’ pomp and
costuming (feathers, veils, go-go gold short-shorts). The rhythms were
intense rock industrialisms and Thigh’s feathers were surely standing
on end. Though the man cannot sing, and should stick with the
instrumentation and mix. His vocals come across quite murky and
unblended, uncoordinated and faux. The accompanying video of various
shots from his Double Vulgar and Rape Scene sessions depicted
bloodied, skinny and hairless younger men in various states of
undress, around pyres, in bathtub bondage and otherwise in best mock
death positioning. Most of these scenes can be Googled on his website.
Though the video, however “provocative” really didn’t hold my interest
for more than fifteen minutes (isn’t that all we get anyway?) as you
could clearly hear something off on stage. The quartet, stacked with much expensive equipment just brought it
home awkwardly with a unfortunate stylized repertoire that didn’t go
far enough, except when he added the sex sound samples which elevated
a much needed expectation of physicality therein. Though a
practitioner of many things homo, this seemed like a censored
knock-off to titilate. But it was rock-lite. This man’s recorded
work is divine, as his collabs with Julian Cope and even Spirtualized
have a bright past – but since the decay of Coil, his oeuvre may need
some fluffing.

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Earlier I had the pleasure of having coffee with Aranos and we
discussed acrobatic martial arts forms and education. The man is an
artist’s artist. I also met Colin Potter who has a clean smile – nice
man. Howard Stelzer mentioned that someone wanted me to sign a copy of
triMIX, and since I knew to whom I gave copies I headed over to
Potter’s ICR table. There I noticed that the set I earlier handed to
Steven Stapleton in the darkness was out on the sales table. As I
stood in the cener of conversation between Potter and Edward Ka-Spel
about his upcoming tour and visit to Iceland to see his girlfriend,
Potter noted me standing there. When I asked about someone wanting me
to sign a CD he asked if I was TJ Norris (yes). It’s always odd being
asked to sign something, as being a visual artist rarely ever has the
allure of being a performer. After I made it clear that the discs were
a gift to Stapleton he realized it was an oversight and put it back in
his personal stash bag. I had a few words with Ka-Spel about having
seen him many years ago at the Middle East club in Cambridge when Dead
Voices on Air
opened for them! It was a memorable show and I let him
know. I talked about his theatrical emoting and he’s a good listener. He was very gracious and metioned that the business has less glamour than the stage permits.

For more information about Brainwashed, visit their website at Brainwashed.com.

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