Friday, November 6, 2009

The much belated, not anticipated, Sonic Circuits review, part 1

This was meant go up well over a month ago, but due to many, many unforeseen technical difficulties, it is just now getting on its feet.

Every year noiseheads of all shapes and sizes scuttle down to the only noise festival DC has to offer. Over the years,Sonic Circuits has grown in size and stature, hosting everyone from Italian noise performance artists OvO, to John Wiese, and everywhere along the spectrum, in between.

This year was no different. After building almost an entire week around Sonic Circuits ‘09, things finally wound up to the colossal double evening finale.

I say evening loosely, as the Saturday show was an all day fest unto itself. Fortunately I had prepared myself, and was hunkered down for a long day of squeals and pops.

Hitting the play button, hometown hero, founder of Sockets Records, DJ for Fatback, member of Hand Fed Babies, and many more accolades,Sean Peoples humbly walked onto the stage and introduced himself. After that the audience slid into a trancelike place as blissful beats and tones filled the small room at the Velvet Lounge. For being the first set of a long day, it was definitely one of the more effective and memorable.

Sean Peoples performing at Sonic Circuits vid #1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Sean Peoples performing at Sonic Circuits vid #2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Let me briefly mention that, for brevity’s sake, (of which I usually am not known), I’ll only be reviewing the sets that I have video for. And while it’s true, those were the stand out artists, for me, it’s worth your time to check out all the performers from that cold and rainy Saturday.

Soft Pieces is another fragile, ambient noise artist. Again, hailing from the DC area, on this occasion, it almost seemed like a somber ritual being acted out before the crowd. A hushed silence ushered in woven blips and tones. At the height of the magical incantation, a giant slinkly was spread across the entire space, as it sent lightening over the PA. The religious expression was concluded with a communion of sorts as Soft Pieces adorned a mask, and handed out pieces of the spring as he snipped it down.

Soft Pieces performing at Sonic Circuits vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Soft Pieces performing at Sonic Circuits Vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Per usual for Sonic Circuits, as with any fest, or at least any show at the Velvet Lounge, there came a long and awkward moment of confusion. No one was playing, no one was setting up, and no one in the speculating crowd had a good idea of what the story was. Finally, outsider legend Jandek came walking out of the muck, backing ensemble in tow. It was one of the more highly anticipated sets of the festival, but at this point, people were ready for anything.

While overall it was the gratification everyone had hoped for, the rest of the group was a bit overwhelming, marginalizing the person who should have been gravitated around. Noise, in this sphere, is chaos, but the forefront was better reserved for the namesake of what in this instance was an array of artists.

Jandek performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Everyone could tell that things had gotten of kilter, but were all breathlessly awaiting the glass-like hypnotic powers of Tim Hecker. When, finally, one of the organizers sulked onto the stage to inform us, in the way that one would share a death in the family, that Tim Hecker was sick, and would not be performing, we took it with that same reaction of woe and mourning.

As the heads of the crowd hung low, Kotra, a Nietzschean Deus Ex Machina from the Ukraine, mounted a pile of gear, and saved the day. What I have to say about this unexpected talent is that he finally brought to the table what I’d been waiting for all day: real, harsh noise. While the noise genre is dense with eclectic movements, harsh noise has been a standard from the beginning, and you can’t really call this a noise fest without it. It’s true Kotra pumped beats and synth through the system, but with the volume and abrasion that gave the feeling of standing in front of a blow dryer, in the way that only harsh noise can.

Kotra performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

After this the show began to churn. People went down to the bar, or went out for food. The next few rounds of performers began to feel like a long blur. We devotees had already been there for seven or eight hours. The true hangers on were, at this point, waiting for the Dutch spectacle known as Fckn Bstrds. And wait we did. Finally, after an eternity of free-jazz, the moment had arrived. And by that, I mean the moment the management tried to shut down the show for having gone well past its cut off time. Fortunately, enough pleading took place to allow a group who had flown in from Europe, to actually perform after several locals had forgotten that they were not the only people there.

And it was absolutely worth the wait. As the group began dragging trash across the stage for set up, one member stripped naked, and tapped foam around various parts of his body. That alone could have constituted a performance. What happened in the end was roughly ten minutes of insane fury. There was screaming, shoving, the throwing of random objects, garbage monster outfits, full frontal nudity, and all set to the soundtrack of blaring disharmony over the system. A full pit, much more apt for a hard core show than this, erupted, and I held my camera out until it was absolutely no longer safe to do so. But in the end I was able to get the proof that this happened, and I could not be happier to present my first *NSFW* video.

Fckn Bstrds performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Dead is the only way I could describe everyone, after what seemed like a fest cum eternity. We all hobbled home to recover before the final day of this week long excursion.

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