Review of Empac concert – “Akousma,” EMPAC Studio 2, 10/7/11 – Barton McLean


from “Barton McLean, Reviewer, Computer Music Journal.”

Réseaux des arts médiatiques presents “Akousma,” EMPAC Studio 2, 10/7/11

Since its inception in 1991,  Réseaux has dedicated itself to presenting and later commissioning electronic music works from Canadian and non-Canadian composers alike. Based in Montreal and amply funded by national, provincial, city, and other funding, it has garnered a unique place in the development of all forms of electronic music in Canada and internationally.  It assigns the broad title “electro music” to all forms of electronic and computer music, with prominent subheadings “electroacoustic,” “concrète,” and “acousmatic.”

The EMPAC audience was treated to a preview of a much larger festival in Montreal to occur the following week. Titled “Akousma,” this sound diffusion concert consisted of an array of 20 loudspeakers configured in bottom and top rows, with a few in the middle, all surrounding and above the audience, with fewer discrete channels (at times 8, at times 6, at other times undetermined).  The overall sound quality was spectacular (as we have come to expect from EMPAC), with clarity and finesse of frequency response unparalleled.

Although the stylistic mission of Réseaux is broad-based, the work of three of the four composers on this concert was rather traditionally oriented in sonic materials I would characterize as granular-based, white noise-derived, rapidly moving sound events usually divorced from traditional tempered pitch/rhythm elements, opting instead for the juxtaposition of gesture, silence, peppered with occasional sections of low key continuity.  If this sounds like a general description of your average electroacoustic concert of today, you are right.  Although these three composers managed to exhibit  technical skill in crafting the sound event, there was rarely anything to distinguish one piece from another in this milieu of common practice style that has so permeated the scene for the past decade.

One exception to this was a powerfully executed section of “Qui-vive” by Pierre-Yves Macé, in which a quasi-microtonal gestural melodic idea was repeated over several minutes with variations, to the accompaniment of a gradually rising tension in other stratified layers, producing a grand feeling of inexorable forward motion, prompting this reviewer to the conclusion that this common practice style still has room for growth in the hands of a masterful creator.

Speaking of masterful, France Jobin’s “Valence of one” forced the audience to sit up and take notice, not because of any new wild gestural statement as we had come to expect, but rather from the sheer quietness and slow pace.  The overall scheme was simplicity itself, with two main sections, the first being various derivatives of a major second chord sounding with other fleeting pitches and timbres entering and exiting unobtrusively, and the second, the same the treatment of what was basically a major triad with added sixth.  This was punctuated by an occasional piano-like note pinging against the otherwise continuous montage of sound.  Twenty minutes later, when this longest work of the evening quietly ended, I was startled, since I felt that I was just beginning to feel extremely comfortable and engaged in a wonderful world where time stood still.  It was as if awakening from a deeply satisfying dream.  How she managed to engage the audience with such simple means still escapes me, but engage she did, masterfully.

Review – Data/Fields – Metro Weekly – Doug Rule

(Photo by Todd Franson)

An early love of synth-pop helped Richard Chartier find his passion in the field of sound art

by Doug Rule
Published on October 13, 2011, 3:00am

”In the ’80s, I was a synth-pop boy,” says Richard Chartier. ”I was very into that.” But unlike many or even most synth-pop fans, the 40-year-old avant-garde sound artist was more interested in the ”synth” (short for synthesizers) than the ”pop,” the technology over the music.

”A lot of synth-pop bands were not musically trained,” Chartier explains. ”[Synth-pop] was all about this new technology and seeing what you could do with it, and pushing it.” The D.C.-based Chartier also has no formal music training. His work in sound art over the past two decades has been essentially self-taught, honed in no small part through advances in technology. Naturally, Chartier started experimenting with creating sound using synthesizers, egged on by his love of synth-pop. ”The more I got into experimental music, I became compelled to create my own work,” he says. Chartier’s work is characterized by quiet, subtly shifting sounds, in a minimalist strain of sound art known either as “microsound” or Neo-Modernist.

Over the past decade, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art are just two among many leading museums to have included Chartier as part of sound art presentations. New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art is another, selecting Chartier to be part of its prestigious Whitney Biennial in 2002.
At the moment, Arlington’s Artisphere presents a sound and video new media show curated by Chartier and featuring five international artists all making their D.C. debut with the show. Chartier says the focus of ”Data/Fields” is on ”our perception of data, which is how we experience the world.”

That may make it sound a cluttered, cacophonous mess, much like our drowning-in-data modern world. ”Oftentimes, you go to shows and there’s just too much, especially when it’s new media,” Chartier concedes. ”If you have too many things going that make sound, it just becomes a big ruckus.”
But Chartier took great care to make sure that didn’t happen with ”Data/Fields,” giving it a story-like structure and focus. ”I wanted something that was very clean [and] refined to the point where visitors couldn’t actually experience each work individually without seeing the other works,” he says. ”It has a very defined flow.”

”All of the works are experiential or participatory in some way, and it’s all time based,” he continues. France Jobin’s sound piece Entre-Deux, for example, cycles for 144 minutes. So what you hear at any given moment is different than what someone else hears 20 minutes, or even five minutes, later. Another piece, Mark Fell’s Tone Pattern Transactuality, features shifting patterns in both sight and sound, which you appreciate through projected video and headphones. It’s a generative work, so it’s constantly changing itself based on mathematics.”

Chartier grew up in Springfield, Va., and studied graphic design and painting at Virginia’s James Madison University. He initially worked as a freelancer in both areas after graduating and moving back to the D.C. area in the 1990s. But his days as a visual artist were limited. ”I felt like sound was a much better way to communicate the spatial, experiential qualities of what I was looking for.”

Some people in D.C. may remember Chartier from his days as a DJ a decade ago. He was something of a regular at hip lounge-style events, including what the gay man calls a ”pansexual” party called Filler at Adams Morgan’s former Blue Room. The focus was on alternative, experimental electronic music, or even just ”wacky” synth-pop. Chartier has mostly given up DJ’ing in recent years, though. ”It’s just kind of tiring,” he says. The whole field of sound art is a relatively new area, aided by the spread of affordable, portable technology. Technology has certainly enhanced Chartier’s efforts in the field. After he first dabbled with synthesizers 20 years ago, focused on creating ”droning loopwork,” Chartier says he didn’t really return to sound work until he got an Mac in the late ’90s. Soon after, he started his own record label LINE.

But Chartier adds that technology only goes so far. ”I love limitations on things,” he says. ”I could have all of this software, and all this crazy this and that, and pay thousands and thousands of dollars for the latest whatever. … But you have to make those things have your voice.”
Richard Chartier performs with Mark Fell on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m., and the exhibit Data/Fields runs through Nov. 27, both at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Call 703-875-1100 or visit

Review – Data/Fields – Patch – Anna M. Schier

Data/Fields’ Brings Interactive New Media to Artisphere
Installation shows data in an unconventional way, invites audience participation.

by Anna M. Shier, September 30.201

Most people associate data with spreadsheets and charts.
But the latest exhibit at Artisphere, “Data/Fields: 5 New Media Installation Works,” challenges data’s unexciting reputation.
“I wanted to have an idea that could flow through all of these pieces,” said Richard Chartier, a Washington-based sound artist and the show’s curator. “Data is all around us.”

Works by five international artists are featured in the exhibit, which runs until Nov. 27. The pieces range from sound installations to sculptural video, and explore how people perceive, process and understand information. The works engage the senses by manipulating color, light and sound.
“It’s really a well-rounded exhibit for this kind of work,” said France Jobin, a sound and installation artist from Montreal whose work is included in “Data/Fields.”

Visitors are asked to look at, listen to and even touch the art. “Everyone’s going to have a different experience with these works,” Chartier said.
For instance, viewers can interpret Caleb Coppock’s “Graphite Sequencer” multiple ways. The work consists of several paper circles decorated with graphite line drawings, which hang in rows behind a turntable along the gallery wall. Participants can select one of the paper circles and place it on the turntable, which houses a tone generator. Because graphite conducts electricity, visitors can turn the line drawings into sound-conductors and literally listen to the art.
“We are in the process of understanding the way in which we are coming to see the world,” said Andy Graydon, a Berlin-based artist featured in “Data/Fields,” during a Skype interview with Patch this week.

Chartier originally conceived the show four years ago for the University of Maryland. After two years of work, the project was abandoned as a result of university budget cuts. Two years later, Chartier has finally executed an exhibit that actively explores data and how people process information.
“Data/Fields” is a departure from the average spreadsheet.

Review – Data/Fields – Continent- Isaac Linder

Those readers on the part of a continent that involves something called “Arlington, Virginia” should be interested to hear about an exhibition of new-media installation and soundworks that opened last week at Artisphere and will be on display through November 27th. For those readers geographically dispossessed, this announcement can at least serve as an introduction to the work of those involved. Curated by the renowned composer, designer, and LINE imprint boss, Richard Chartier, the show collates new work by five transcontinental artists:

Caleb Coppock (U.S.)
Mark Fell (U.K.)
Andy Graydon (U.S./Germany)
Ryoji Ikeda (Japan)
France Jobin (Canada)

Originally conceived to take place four years ago at The University of Maryland, in the art department where my mother and father were to meet and fall in love, the project was waylaid by the turbulence of departmental budget cuts and postponements before production was finally halted. The show in its current incarnation should then be considered as a condensation and streamlining of Chartier’s original vision. The first presentation of any of the included artist’s work in the DC area, the show marks as well the first US exhibit for both Mark Fell and France Jobin.

Straightforwardly a foray into the now familiar tropes of interactivity and data visualization/sonicization in the arts (have the arts ever been anything other than dataviz? Ah, but that’s for a whole other post…), the show is of course not only that. With it’s investigations into the themes of transfinite mathematics, the perception of quanta, and incomprehensibility, the show remains keenly attuned to the sense of the body and percipience of the viewer. (Chartier charmingly describes the viewers of the show ‘percipients’.) In an interview about the opening, Chartier mentioned that it was the longest he had experienced viewers interacting with artworks at a show he had seen in the US; a good sign for those of us who bemoan the meat-packing pace of exhibition viewership today!

As is often the case with my interactions with art, the thematic of the observer stilled before incomprehensible magnitude takes me back to the perennially rehashed 2,400 year old question regarding the banishment of the mimetic arts from Plato’s Republic. For Plato the exclusion would have been a question of art’s capacity to besiege its witnesses with a sense of θεíος ϕοβóς. Construing a quick trinity, it’s a concept taken up in an in-depth, Continent.-friendly tenor by Rancière in his recent work on Hegel and Lyotard. (See The Future of the Image, Verso, 2007). Even more recently, for the art historian Donald Preziosi, this a/effect, translated variously as holy terror, fear, or awe, is named as such because it is directly proportional to the work’s ability to reveal the artifice intrinsic to art and by extension the artificiality of all sociopolitical and religious modes of organization. (See Preziosi’s forthcoming Routledge title, Art, Religion & Amnesia: Enchanted Credulities.) Not good news for those with vested interests in maintaining modes of organization as they stand!

With its exfoliations, redressings, and retunings of our data and sensoria, dependent as they are upon relatively recent developments within the technoaesthetic apparatus (gigabytes of processing RAM, LCD projectors, and touchscreen interfaces), I’ll be curious to hear from those who make it to data/fields the extent to which it manages to unearth this ancient, but by no means archaic, line of thought. As Paul touched upon in his recent post on The Shifting Imago of Sovereignty the high-speed, transactional nature of data would seem to occupy a unique place in it’s ability to leave us beset by the stupor of fear and trembling.

Review – Data/Fields – Arlington Mercury – Steve Thurston

Data/Fields: What You See Is What You Hear
by Steve Thurston
September 30, 2011

DATA/FIELDS, New Media Installation Works, runs from Sept. 22 through Nov. 27 in the Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery. Free.

Data Fields: Mixing Sound and Vision
1101 Wilson Blvd., 22209
Phone (703) 875-1100

By: Steve Thurston, Mercury Editor
I hit the opening of Data/Fields at the Artisphere in Rosslyn on Friday, Sept. 23; I’m not totally sure what I was looking at, but it was fun just the same.  It’s the sort of show that people stayed to gawk over, and strangers talked with each other about what they saw, said curator Richard Chartier, and that was my experience as well.

Viewers just couldn’t help talking to one another at Ryoji Ikeda’s “data.scan.” We stared at a screen that looked just a bit like the old Pac-Man console screen (the ones you sit down to play, back in the day). A series of lines and dots scrolled over it. Three distinct types of screens developed, one looked like static, the other like empty space with red cross hairs shifting through. The final one looked like a video transcription of radio signals or something similar.
At the same time, the background sound that seemed random “ping”-ed every now and then, and those pings, we realized, announced that data had been organized or arranged in some way on the screen. It’s about then that someone looked down at the moving crosshairs and said that the ping comes when the crosshairs find a star, Alpha Centauri, for instance. It’s the heavens. That static, said someone else bent close to the monitor, is a string of numbers, tiny numbers. It’s mapping the heavens.

“This would be the coolest coffee table ever,” one man said.

Chartier told me in a phone interview after the event that Ikeda does not give interviews or talk publicly about his work, but that he is known for seeing data everywhere. Everything can be measured and turned into data, and by choosing the heavens, that sense of infinity increases.
“It’s almost like the work is about incomprehensibility. You can’t put your head around it,” Chartier said.
In another part of the cavernous room, where white noise and the occasional ping can be heard, people gathered around Caleb Coppock’s “Graphite Sequencer.”The modified turntable picks up electric signals from pencil lines drawn on heavy-stock paper. The graphite in pencil “lead” conducts electricity and sends the signals to the headphones.

“Percipients,” as Chartier calls the people who come to the installation, look at the disks hanging on the wall, think about what each might sound like, put a disk on the turntable and don the headphones to hear burps, buzzes, rasps and zzzzzzzzz-es in various patterns.
by Steve Thurston
September 30, 2011

Review – Data/Fields – Washington Post – Michael O’Sullivan

Mark Fell’s “Tone Pattern Transactuality”; photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post
Artisphere show delivers an eyeful and an earful
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, Oct. 7, 2011
When I showed up at Artisphere to check out “Data/Fields,” a five-artist showcase of new-media art, I encountered a tour for staffers who might need to know what to do should one of the high-tech pieces in the show burn out, blow up or otherwise need to be rebooted. It’s an occupational hazard for today’s plugged-in artist, whose work occasionally requires adjustments more complicated than straightening a painting on the wall.
Fortunately, everything in the show was humming and clicking as designed.
“Data/Fields” is a sharply installed and smartly edited mini-survey of cutting-edge contemporary art, selected and curated by Richard Chartier, a Washington-based sound artist whose work was featured in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Incorporating sound, light, drawing and, to some degree, a sculptural component – as well as various combinations of those things – the show isn’t just something you look at or listen to, but rather a little of both. As one of the wall labels puts it, you’re not just a viewer here, but a percipient.

The show demands – and rewards – close attention.

In the center of the darkened gallery is the show’s strongest piece, a computer-generated “painting” of sorts called “Tone Pattern Transactuality.” The Rothko-like video projection, by British artist Mark Fell, is constantly changing colors, sometimes subtly, sometimes abruptly, like some Brookstone gizmo that tracks the stock market by changing from, say, pink to blue. It’s accompanied by an audio track you listen to with headphones. The sound ranges from a quiet hum to what seems like a phaser on overload. It’s intense and, at times, scary. You don’t take it in; it takes you in.
Less frightening, yet more interactive, is Caleb Coppock’s “Graphite Sequencer.” The Nebraska-based artist has customized an old turntable to “play” his own abstract pencil drawings, 48 of which hang on the wall. Take one down and place it on the turntable; the size and shape of vinyl LPs, they’ve all got holes in the middle.

Graphite, you see, conducts electricity. So as you watch the drawings spin, electrical contacts on the tone arm – which replaces the traditional needle – create a music of staticky clicks, like Morse code. It’s cool, though it lacks the emotionally enveloping quality of Fell’s work.
Around the corner you’ll find Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda’s mesmerizing “Data.scan,” consisting of a computer monitor set into a console about the size of a Pac Man machine and accompanied by an electronic score that seems to emanate from everywhere – and nowhere. The speakers are very well hidden.
On the screen, the images alternate, rapidly, between data based on star-mapping – you’ll spot the name Alpha Persei, and others, if you look hard enough – and television static. But look more closely. That static is actually a screen full of apparently meaningless numbers. Ikeda pulls off an effective, and surprisingly compelling, tension between the cosmic and the everyday. Whose head isn’t filled with phone numbers, passwords and other ID codes these days?
Ikeda’s score is so pervasive – it’s the one bit of sound art in the show that you don’t need headphones for – that it spills over into Andy Graydon’s nearby sculptural installation, “Untitled [band pass Arlington].” That Berlin-based artist’s work is just a pile of rubble on the floor. But periodically, a bright, thin band of light, cast by a motorized projector mounted on the ceiling, sweeps over its rugged surface, illuminating its peaks and valleys slowly, like a scanner. Along with Ikeda’s borrowed soundtrack of spaced-out beeps, the work invites extended looking – and listening – for previously hidden details.
Taken together, the works in “Data/Fields” sharpen your senses, even as they blur the boundary between sight and sound.

The story behind ‘Entre-Deux’

You can’t see France Jobin’s contribution to “Data/Fields.”
“Entre-Deux” (“Between Two” in French) is a sound installation, created specifically for Artisphere’s outdoor terrace and pumped through three sets of stereo speakers mounted along the wall. A fractured sonic collage created from recordings made by the Montreal-based sound artist at Artisphere and elsewhere, the piece includes the noise of airplanes flying to and from nearby Reagan National Airport as well as the gurgle of rainwater running into the terrace level’s drains. (Jobin was there with her recorder on a rainy day.)

The recorded sounds mix with the real ones, tricking the ear in a delightful way. The best time to visit, according to gallery director Cynthia Connolly, is at dusk, when street noise quiets down and you can look across Wilson Boulevard to see computer monitors twinkling in the windows of office buildings just across the street.
Come to think of it, maybe “Entre-Deux” does have a visual component after all.

— Michael O’Sullivan (Friday, Oct. 7, 2011)

review – Mutek 2008 – Nocturne 2 by TJ Norris


« Back in the Hub of the Universe
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Mutek Musing Montreal

Thursday I caught A/Visions II with The Fun Years, Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman as well as a portion of Martin Tétreault & Michel Langevin. Tight overall, filled with abstract percussion, broken beats ala world rhythms. Tétreault dazzled with a multi-bank of turntables while Liebezeit and Friedman have honed a balanced blend between their disparate world of Krautrock meets dub/jazz.

Later in the evening I spent a majority of my deep listening time dedicated to the goings-on at the Savoy (within the Metropolis complex where it was a blend of dub and dance music for party people). I managed to eavesdrop on a touch of both Moderat (a loud crowd-pleaser of techno ala rave pairing Apparat and Modeselektor) and DJ Mala whose intriguing rhythmic flow could have had the crowd on its feet ’til the wee hours. I focused on the more dense and diverse smaller room, however its proximity to the larger had caused for an aural spillover that was distracting at times when the artists performing were headed for deeper bass lows. That said, all were in top form including Anticipate’s Ezekiel Honig whose funky set had a wash of minimal, calculated harmonies layered together like a treasure map. Clinker of Alberta was the evening’s biggest risk-taker, evolving a commissioned Leonard Cohen piece with voice (digital and live), smoke machines and video. He crossed austere religious references with passionate sexuality in an emotional set that was imbued with a certain sense of longing. i8u along with video artist Chika (doing double duty w/Honig earlier) performed a pert 40-minute long set that was simply perfection. The unique culmination between the most minimal acoustics with beats that teased but never fully prompted a pop sensibility. There was something sensual yet very cryptic in this stand-out set of the showcase. Grecian artist Novi_sad’s part of the evening began off the main stage and behind the audience (”chill out” floor area) sans visuals. It was darkly experimental, full with lush drones and lost voices, sound effects and strange field recordings. His set ran longer, but I could’ve gone all night with him. Finally Montreal’s Aun took the stage, making for a continuation of the previous set, but perhaps a touch more ambient…though sleep beckoned and I left about half-way through all was well into the night.

unBLOGGED © 2002-2008 TJ Norris.

review – immersound at The Others August 6.2010 by Baz Nichols – WHITE_LINE / FOURM

Immersound at The Others, London August 6th

by fourm on August 8, 2010

Nestled amongst the hurly burly of the hinterlands of Hackney and Stamford Hill is the alternative arts/music space known as The Others, situated in a former industrial site on Manor Road. This is to be the location of the inaugural event promoted by the newly formed Soundfjord organisation, based in London, UK, featuring renowned sound artists from around the globe. Curators Helen Frosi and Andrew Riley have here assembled a representative cross section of the current sonic arts community, featuring established artists, and introducing burgeoning talent. Within the framework of the increasingly maligned and marginalised genre of sound art, this is no mean feat, however Frosi and Riley wisely manage to enroll the talents of Yann Novak and Robert Curgenven to bolster the event’s status, both being recent additions to the USA’s prestigious LINE imprint curated by Richard Chartier, and NVO recent additions, i8u and FOURM, alongside Dragon’s Eye (Novak’s own imprint) stalwart Ian Hawgood, and relative newcomers, Mimosa Moize Mimosa Moize open the evening with rapturous swathes of tonal and textural elegance, taking a highly restrained approach that is to be the essential theme of the evening. The duo of Lucia Chung and Martin J Thompson set their stall early, intently crouched over laptops, their work envelops and swirls with graceful, understated activity. Sadly, the set is curtailed by what appears to be an ailing mixing desk, and the duo exit the stage, discontent, but doubtless having learned some of the lessons that live performance brings to bear. The new set by yours truly (FOURM), showcases a work called “interval.impuls”, loosely based on the Method and Area series of recordings, informed by and through architecture, and using the resonance and harmonics of the performance space to evoke curious and engaging sonic patterns. Performed in near total darkness, the overall effect was (hopefully) intense, with cyclic patterns and tonal bursts revolving around a continuously (r)evolving resonant bass-scape. Not being a fan of live presentations on the laptop, I am an unwilling spectator of my own works, and the success (or not) of the piece depends on others more qualified than I to comment upon. Ian Hawgood took to the performance space with a burst of endearing good cheer and a brief explanation of his recent work with gamelan music and instruments recently purchased from the far east. The husband and wife duo are crouched on the floor for the duration of the set, with wife striking copper bells, and Hawgood himself crash editing and sampling them, fusing them into his now trademark soundscapes, best exemplified by his recent Snow Roads release on Dragon’s Eye. The overall effect is a slightly dreamy, murky gamelan, that to these ears at least would have benefitted from more volume in order to impose itself on the space. That said, the net result was interesting, but once again suffering from interference and unwanted crackle from deficient P.A. wiring. Yann Novak, to those sadly uninitiated souls, hails from the seething metropolis that is Los Angeles, and his more recent works are a harsh counterpoint to what one imagines is a city brimming with activity. Novak’s works are elegantly rendered affairs, taking tones and textures and overlaying and interlacing them with a poise and grace that resembles Richard Chartier’s early forays, however, this is no pallid derivative of Chartier’s work. Naturally, the two have met and performed in the same spaces, yet Novak has carved his own identity into his work, and is here presenting works simultaneously with an installation “Stillness”, also curated by Soundfjord. The entire performance, once again takes place in near darkness, an eerie silence befalls the audience who are doubtless enraptured by Novak’s exquisite tonal renderings. The diminutive figure of France Jobin, aka i8u, takes to the performance space almost unnoticed, closely followed by a series of muscular, energetic sounds the like of which it is hard to imagine her crafting. “Crafting” here is the key word, and as the piece unfolds, it reveals multiple layers and textural shifts, alongside subtle interplays of dynamics and the building of tension, this for me is one of the high points of the evening, and in uncharacteristic unrestrained manner, I let out a loud whoop as Jobin’s set ends, such is the joy that I felt at such an elegantly crafted work. Having never encountered the work of Robert Curgenven, who only recently burst onto my radar, through having his sublime “Oltre” work just released on LINE, I was intrigued as the man strode in predatory manner, barefoot towards a triptych of record decks, with all manner of bowls and wine glasses strewn around him. The intensity of Curgenven’s work is mirrored by the man himself, whose mild manner and effortless sense of humour dissipate once he enters his space. At soundcheck, Curgenven is scrupulously principled, instantly winning my admiration as he verbally emits a series of clicks and clucks to test the natural acoustics of the space, and then sets about pushing the equipment and the technician to their absolute limits. Curgenven is obviously a man who resists any form of compromise, and his performance is as engaging visually as it is acoustically. Once again marred by the ailing P.A. Curgenven halts his activities to adjust the speaker’s crackling wiring system, only to once again ignite the space with sensuous feedback, and swirling harmonics. It’s a warm, soupy blend that really should be rich and multi –tonal, vivified with sparkling harmonics, and a decidedly bottom heavy affair, but we have to settle for what the ailing rock P.A, ( and presumably slightly bemused soundman) are able to offer. Technical difficulties aside, this was an encouraging first outing for the Soundfjord organisation, and doubtless, after the initial licking of wounds, promises to carve out a unique path for the UK’s woefully under-represented sonic arts community, as well as visitors with the clout and kudos of Novak. Th event billed itself as “An evening of momentous sonic environments,absorbing, contemplative sound sculpture + sublime, immersive sound art”, and to most of the folks that I spoke with, that remit was admirably filled. The necessary limitations with regard to a specialised space, top quality sound equipment and adequate funding will always rear their ugly head, particularly in marginalised art forms that deserve better, but as events go, and if lessons are learned, the venture has the potential to fill a gap in the sonic arts that is long overdue, and my respect and admiration for the artists and promoters alike is unbounded. Baz Nichols – WHITE_LINE / FOURM/ Level August 2010

Review of Mutek 2007 Nocturne 3 by TJ Norris, Igloomag

For the remainder of the night it was over to the cavernous Metropolis for a split venue/themed presentation. In the larger room were mostly the dance music, in the smaller space more experimental and quieter or quirky offerings. I tended to spend most of the earlier part of the evening alongside LA curator Robert Crouch watching the mostly female driven evening of music by the wash of heady and physical, cyclical and sensory sounds of I8U, the soft tweaky dissonance and ambient layers of Sawako and my first exposure to the vivacious Bubblyfish doing 8-bit renditions of Kraftwerk songs. The whole intimate space was filled to the gills with an audience craving a very contained experience. This all started with a helmet scream gaming match where two players stood side by side in a race that used their voices to drive motor vehicles. Noisey and fun.

review of Mutek 2004 concert by Exclaim!

Montreal QC – June 2 to 6, 2004
By None None

By Darren Eke, Joshua Ostroff, Lorraine Carpenter, Melissa Wheeler
Magali Babin / I8U

Floral skirts? Bare legs? Dear God, it’s women! (And one adventurous dude in the audience, actually.) Despite the estrogenic shock, watching a duo deep in concentration at their consoles wasn’t thrilling on a visual level, but their audio was refreshingly unhinged. The ladies introduced their set with a threatening ambient base, patiently building the noise and the tension until their machines screamed thunder. Digital crackles and pops emerged from the fallout as the clamour subdued and sonic order was gradually re-established. Maybe that’s what a hot-flash feels like. LC Olaf Bender From the very first beat, Olaf Bender established himself on the danceable end of the experimental spectrum. With concrete rhythms overlaid with a rapid, low key back and forth hum, and various other bleeps and bloops, he continued to subtly add and alter tones and patterns as though the music was a slowly turning kaleidoscope. As always, the melodies were played down and the visuals were played up. Backgrounding the laptopper were blazing black and white shapes that changed with the music; I’ve never been so entranced by rectangles in my life. It’s the kind of visual work that seems simple, but many aim for it and miss the mark. These images were spot on and corresponded sharply and effectively with the assertive presence of the music. MW Frank Bretschneider With a blue background and a few lines of colour, Frank Bretschneider looked like a mad scientist concentrating on his master work as he stooped to look at his computer screen. With a set that seemed more limited in its range of sounds, beats and durations than the previous acts, he used his limitations to great effect, strangely enough. Beats would cycle tightly around each other, resulting in frequent but subtle changes in the pace of the track. Rigid and organised, the terse micro abstract techno came off as highly sophisticated. This is the stuff that people aim for and seldom achieve. MW Chess Machine Conceptual sound/art pieces constantly run up against the same problem: some ideas are better left as ideas. Chess Machine fits nicely into this category. Using the strategy and turn taking framework of chess, the duo of COH (aka Ivan Pavlov) and Richard Chartier sat across from each other, each trying to goad the other into doing something – just what though wasn’t quite clear. With Pavlov in blue and Chartier in pink, and a lovely blue and pink video peacefully morphing in the background, Pavlov routinely spent his turn on forceful, assaulting bass and searing high tones with very little rhythm. Chartier began with a quieter minimal abstract style, but eventually fell prey to Pavlov’s aggressive prodding and began churning out heavy, angry and formless music. As it turns out, Pavlov’s goal was to make Chartier go agro, so Pavlov won. But Chartier wasn’t the only one Pavlov managed to aggravate into a tizzy – the performance was at times spooky, nerve-grating, and highly agitating. I have never been so angry after a set. MW Crackhaus Hometown heroes Crackhaus (aka Steven Beaupré and Deadbeat’s Scott Monteith) had just released a record on the fledgling Mutek_Rec label and one understood the organisers’ exuberance as soon as the pair took to their laptops. Dressed in overalls, red neckerchiefs and backed by tractor visuals, they produced a brilliant farm-themed set that occasionally sparked comparisons to Timbaland’s more out there Bubba Sparxxx beats but was largely their own avant-country concoction. Tech-y, trippy and oozing rural and urban energy, they finally set-off the crowd, who started spontaneously cheering in the midst of their upbeat beats and funky licks. JO Jason Forrest (aka Donna Summer) At an experimental music festival people have truckloads of patience, but somehow Donna Summer still got booed off-stage. Emerging in a white dinner jacket and an “honourable mention” ribbon, he immediately began spazzing out. “I’m here to play some rock’n’roll for you,” he yelled promisingly, but instead delivered a quickly numbing set of industrial noise, while triggering sounds, playing air guitar and dancing like an electroclash refugee on PCP. It spiced up the proceedings, for about five minutes, at which point his Andy Kaufman shtick grew tiresome. After calling out all the “techno motherfuckers in the back,” the non-responding crowd had had enough. Naturally, Forrest played an encore while the crowd continued voicing their vitriol. It’s one thing to rock out with your cock out, it another to just be a dick. JO Richie Hawtin Chuck D warned us about hype, but it was hard not to get excited about the first Plastikman show in nearly a decade, especially when it was billed as “the most ambitious and audacious audio/visual undertaking of a live set any producer has ever assembled.” Well, then. But Hawtin overreached. The crowd of cultists showed up but the promised performance collapsed when, after months of planning, the purpose-built technology went awry. Re-jigging bits and bytes of his entire discography, the minimalist music sounded amazing most of the time but the matching visuals hardly worked (though they were sufficiently trippy when they did) and there was no discernable light or smoke show. Hawtin’s intentions were admirable, but this was one multimedia spectacular that turned out to be neither. JO Herbert Hitting the tables at 5:40 a.m., Herbert (who hardly ever spins) dropped the festival’s sole DJ set, and it was possibly the most eclectic set I’ve ever heard. Beginning with Radiohead’s glitchy “Everything In Its Right Place,” he moved into extraterrestrial techno, German electro and even the rubberised bass lines of booty tech. His own work, like the better than the original remix of Moloko’s “Sing it Back,” rammed against tracks like “Wordy Rappinghood” and then he delivered a ragga encore followed by a Barry White rave-up around 7:30 a.m., when they finally tore him away from the still-chanting crowd. Matthew Herbert, get thee to thy Technics more often. JO Isolée The German star of the revered Playhouse label, Rajko Muller was the early hit of Mutek’s first all-night party. Backed by impressive visual projections of cityscapes and comets, his funky tech-house was mellow without being overly minimal, packed as it was with lots of little noises jumping about the steady beats. His live set picked up the pace partway through, propelled by more complex drum patterns marked by laser zaps, pseudo-trance-y synths and electro stabs. It began as a primer for what was to come but sounded even better in hindsight after the two subsequent acts flopped. JO Junior Boys With the sheen of disco and new romantic pop, this Toronto act joined their emotive vocal style and morose lyrical mantras with rippling synths, minimal guitars and low-key beats. The effect was somewhat tepid, significantly more soft-focus than its recorded counterpart, where the beats take precedence and the vocals don’t demand a strong stage presence, which was lacking. To their credit though, once the Junior Boys picked up the pace, they drew the night’s first dancers to the floor. LC Kpt. Michigan With a guitar strapped around his torso and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Schneider TM sidekick Michael Beckett took this opportunity to rebel against the ‘Tek. Simulated piano and organ led some tracks through melodic pastures, while raucous guitars cemented others, each accompanied by either canned rhythm or ‘tronic gurgling, some even capped with live loops. Awkward second-language lyrics detracted from the set, which was mercifully half-instrumental, but the night-vision video amplified it; its industrial images expanding, multiplying and rippling with the size of the sound. LC Krikor French DJ/remixer Krikor made his North American debut with a dark, if decidedly dull, set. His opening “get off yer shit” samples boded well, but instead of the danceable music people were expecting – being 1:30 a.m. and all – he fixated on minimal loops and solitary beats that invoked little more than a metronome (albeit with the odd IDM flourish). It was surely the most Mutek-y set of the night, so it wasn’t entirely out-of-place, but the anxious crowd was hardly swaying, much less roiling, as the skittering beats went about their business. If the sinister vibe had been taken further, Krikor might’ve been more than a placeholder. JO Loscil With the all-night Metropolis party finishing earlier the same morning, Loscil’s set was the perfect remedy to open the festival’s fifth day and final night of performances at the SAT. The Vancouver musician didn’t waste any time constructing a relaxed atmosphere, tapping into his laptop and gently coaxing his mixer into produce some of the finest ambient pulses of the festival. Attentive audience members quickly dropped to the floor from equal parts relaxation and exhaustion, partaking in a brief applause for “Sickbay” early in Scott Morgan’s 40-minute set, which seamlessly linked together selections from all three Kranky releases. DE Chris MacNamara Starting his set with a low, treading thump and an electronic-gilded harmony that sounded like a chorus of monks piously singing with their mouths wide open, MacNamara proved himself in the same tasteful and stylish way the other Thinkbox members have. In the background, footage of an active city-centre street played slightly slowed to give it a dream-like feel. It was an appropriate visual accompaniment to the full music, which used sounds that could’ve been a large deck of metal playing cards being shuffled, and chatty compressed fuzz. MW Carsten Nicolai With sharp, crystal clear beeps and thumping bass lines, Carsten Nicolai relied largely on intricate yet low-key melodies to distinguish his minimal techno from the other performers. There was a great gap in the serious, nearly pain-inducing bass and the lighter sounds, some of which were comparable to the sound of a ring knocking a glass of water, but amplified. His gorgeous black and white visuals kept the bar high, with black and white moving rectangles corresponding to the music. MW The Rip Off Artist American minimalist the Rip Off Artist (Matt Haines, to his mama) had the crowd onside as soon as he turned his laptop on by simply playing something – anything – that could actually be boogied to. The Tigerbeat 6 recording artist pumped out a nicely tight live “minimal click tech-house” set filled with squelch-y sounds, microscopic beats and propulsive, if still somewhat staid, rhythms. But soon enough he brought in the heavy duty bass lines and abstract glitch funk, providing a nice overall balance of experimental production and dance party populism. JO Steve Roy As a louder presence, Steve Roy maintained a balance of the thick and thin. He tempered upbeat vibrations powerful enough to shake your knee caps with bright, spacious elements reminiscent of a heat mirage on a stretch of highway. For the first part of his set he kept his rhythm as a guideline, until he kicked it into high gear in the second part, coming with a full, heavy, pacing sound. Tasty and effective. MW Schneider TM This was a show in which men in white lab coats instilled the crowd with the infection, the cure and the pop lover’s Mutek highlight. On vocoder-filtered vocals, guitar and percussion, Germany’s Dirk Dresselhaus (aka Schneider TM) was joined by regular cohorts Kpt. Michigan (a wildman on the E-drums) and machine manipulator Christian Obermaier, together building exquisitely crafted beats, melodies and songs to dance and sway to. Along with tracks from Schneider’s LPs, Moist and Zoomer, the trio tackled “The Light 3000,” their sweet cover of the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” LC Signal As Signal, the three Raster Notonities came together to present a refreshingly danceable set, and I saw more than one “so good it hurts” face in the crowd (as well as a few spastic dancers. Woo!). From the sets each performed earlier it seemed Olaf Bender was taking the lead with the blocky bass and angular, lively melodies. The composition was dusted with subtleties native to Carsten Nicolai and Frank Bretschneider. Those sounds were nearly lost in the organised commotion, but moments when the bass ramped down gave play to the more delicate features. Once again, the visuals of morphing shapes in black and white were ridiculously captivating. It was definitely a performance worth staying until the end for. MW Skoltz Kolgen Using an obvious and refreshing visual link to the sound (the left screen connected to the left speakers, the right screen to the right speakers), Montreal duo Domique Skoltz and Herman Kolgen presented their two-screen “Fluux:/Terminal.” Using a variety of architecture-like line drawings and occasionally more grainy images, it was reassuring to hear the sound fuzz out and the image go with it as it trailed across the screen. The presentation came off as cohesive and intentional, and although the sound was sometimes too abstract to be followed, the visuals presented a magnet for wandering minds. They built their performance on the concept of bipolar personality, and it came through wonderfully. MW Smith N Hack In an eventful twist of irony, Smith N Hack provided a syrupy-thick dose of anti-pop to cap off the first event at the SAT. The Berlin duo (Errorsmith and Soundhack) immediately assaulted their gritty disco and funk samples, processing them through various filters and demolishing loops at a medley of speeds. This immediately set off some alarms: “Is this a dance party or a techno set?” By the time the two deconstructed the vocals of Ricardo Villalobos’s “Easy Lee” into helium-induced samples, it obviously didn’t matter to the crowd anymore; they pleasantly continued to start, stop and start dancing until the wee hours of the morning. DE Rob Theakston As every performer knows, no plan is completely solid, and sometimes the bottom will fall out. But the show must go on! Rob Theakston forgot to do visuals for his Mutek performance, and then his computer crashed. Shortly after opening his set with a kitschy little triumphant horn salute, he let the audience know about his predicament via text instead of those forgotten visuals. But it seemed the audience was enjoying “plan B” just as much as I was – Theakston even garnered a “hell yeah!” from the audience when he asked for one via the screens after a Bush-related comment. But maybe plan B was a little too effective – the only thing I recall about his music was its charming and fluid nature. MW Thinkbox The Detroit/Windsor collective made full use of their “carte blanche” showcase as each of the six members delivered diverse half-hour sets, pairing visual displays with a range of earthy atmospheric textures and structured beats. One of two free events at the festival, the diverse and somewhat inattentive audience finally devoted their attention to Rob Theakston’s amusing visual aspect of his performance. Delivering a Powerpoint-styled presentation to apologise for his lack of visuals, Theakston managed to balance the absurd with the serious, while also slamming the Bush administration and garnering an enthusiastic “hell yeah!” response from the crowd. DE Vitaminsforyou As heard on his debut LP, I’m Sorry For Ever and For Always, Bryce Kushnier’s incandescent pop-speckled mosaics set the tone for an evening of sweetness and light. With beats alternately atmospheric and danceable, Kushnier layered piano, synths and vocals (sampled and sung into headphones) while players added more melodic texture via guitar and squashbox. The set peaked as a lady friend joined Kushnier for a duet, a celebratory tune by local indie rock stars the Arcade Fire. LC