colour out of space - day 2 review

The second evening of performances for Colour Out of Space came after a day of pissing rain. I went out in the morning for a walk along the beach and got soaked through. That meant I had to return to my hostel and dry off as best I could.

The beach is the reason it would probably be an awful idea for me to ever move next to the sea. I like walking. I like walking on the seashore. I like walking in all weathers. I like beaches or shorelines that aren't sandy. I would have to walk on the beach pretty much every day, which would destroy my shoes even quicker than at present.

On my walk I did get a really nice (though cliched) recording of wave sounds. Wave sounds are rather like wind in trees, or traffic, or other similar distinctive, familiar sounds, in that they're actually pretty complex. To see what I mean, stop and listen waves on a pebbly beach for instance, with a view to imitating the sound with your voice. You'll find there are a lot of different sounds happening at the same time.

Yes, I've done a lot of that kind of listening over the last couple of years. This time last year when I was damn near hallucinating from my meds I almost drove myself into panic attacks trying to analyse and mimic the sound of wind in trees. And no, I never got close. You can do a crude, impressionistic, surface only version, but without a lot of voices or overdubs nothing like the real thing.

But anyway, back to the review.

Although before I do, even with the reasonably detailed notes I took, you should know my memory of this night is worse than for either of the others. Partly as a consequence of this I've had less luck attributing names to performers than for either of the other nights. As with Friday things start out sketchy and improve a little as it goes on.

Here I seem to have the same number of names as I do performers, but as far as I tell one of those names (Andy Guhl) played on the Sunday. Or at least, one of the performances I described in my notes for the Sunday was exactly what I see in videos of Andy Guhl online. Possibly he swapped days with someone.

Links once again (mostly) via of Colour Out of Space website.

Day 2 - Saturday 9 November 2013

First performance
The evening opened with a solo performer on the side stage with tabletop electronics, tapes and amplified objects.

There was a sense of fun and play about the performance, although I can't say I was riveted. That's probably more to do with it being the beginning of the night and my inattention than anything else.

Really, apologies to all those artists I can't name or adequately describe. Apologies also to readers who might reasonably expect a review to be informative.

The Y Bend (sorry, no link available)
I'm willing to be corrected, but I think the second performance was from The Y Bend. A review and photos around a third of the way down this page suggests I may be right.

They were a sextet, and played on the main stage. The instruments included guitars, voice, keyboards and toys.

My notes on the performance are inadvertently condescending, so I'll try to say what I actually meant in them here. The performance, the way the members of the group presented themselves, the whole set-up of their equipment was bold, colourful, and unusual. And the music itself was good, though for a sense of how it sounded you'll want that review I linked above.

However, the music didn't quite carry me along. It felt a little restrained. But I think some of that was context, and on a bill with more conventional song-based performers, their strengths would be much more apparent.

Jennifer Walshe & Tomomi Adachi
Third up was a duo of Jennifer Walshe and Tomomi Adachi on the side stage. They used extended vocal technique and sounds triggered from laptop. They were also one of the highlights of the night, and of the festival.

As far as I can remember there was no language being used, but glossolalia. Voices intersecting and pulling apart. Sometimes mimicking conventional tropes of song, sometimes exploring non-verbal sounds - whether abstract or more obviously physical. The whole supported by gestures - close to sign-language in Walshe's case, and seemingly devoid of intent to signify in Adachi's.

Although there was clearly a great deal of skill and  mutual understanding in the performance, to the extent I wasn't sure how far any of it was pre-rehearsed or improvised, neither performer seemed to take themselves too seriously.

Very much recommended.

Fourth performance
Fuuuu… I really ought to be tell you more about these, but my memory fails me. I remember I liked them a lot. At the time they were more of a highlight than Walshe and Adachi.

I can tell you they were a trio and played on the main stage. I can tell you their instruments were drums, flute/wind, and noises through pedals. I can even picture the wind instrument. But can I tell you anything more? Not a damn thing.

I suspect they were Roman Nose - or perhaps, since the links I've followed describe that project as a solo project, it was Jon Marshall as Roman Nose with Charlie Collins and Sarah McWatt.

Just so you know at least part of what I'm up against, here are my notes in full for this performance: '(4) drums/flute[+other wind thing]/noises thru pedals. trio, main. easily performance of the day so far. some *slightly* OTT reactions, but why not?' This is why I'm not a journalist.

Fifth performance
The fifth performance was from a duo on the side stage. Or rather, as most were, a little in front of it. More extended vocal technique, this time set against some truly immense ringing glasses.

Actually, before I get into this, a quick digression on 'extended vocal technique'. The phrase, that is. Although it's a tremendously useful descriptive phrase (I've used it a lot, and will continue to use it through my reviews of the festival), I have serious problems with it. The main problem being it sounds so damn serious and Olympian. 'Extended' vocal technique. You get the impression of something elevated, abstruse, difficult to master and understand, and probably fun-free. That it's usually none of these things is irrelevant. I don't know what the solution is. Better writing maybe.

I was split over this performance. I wanted to like it: and the sounds were atmospheric, the whole set was well played, and the vocal work was excellent. But… But it wasn't an especially long set, and my attention was seriously wandering well before the end.

Lovers Ritual
Lovers Ritual is a duo of Maya Duneitz and Ilan Volkov, both of whom I think have Primate Arena connections (see the review of Friday). They were on the main stage, Volkov on violin, Duneitz using her voice.

Initially, especially with Duneitz using a loopstation for her voice, I wasn't all that interested. I avoid loopstation these days because it's too easy to use to impose a structure (or illusion of structure) on improvisations. Not only can that stop you using more creative solutions, it reduces your responsiveness and ability to leap off at tangents. Or you can use it to fill silence (in the same way delay pedals often get misused). Personally I like silence, leaving gaps, letting some air and space in.

But then first Volkov and then Duneitz got off the stage and went onto the floor and into the crowd. At which point the set really took off. Crucially for me Duneitz went away from not just the loopstation, but the mic, and showed the real strength of her voice. She also got a large part of the audience involved in making a variety of sounds.

This final section of the set was much more compelling and exciting than what had preceded it, and easily lifted it to being one of the day's highlights.

Seventh performance
Seventh up was a solo performer at the side stage. His tabletop setup deployed tapes, amplified objects and loops. Which meant that drawback of illusory structure.

But things improved for me right at the end of the set. The loop was removed and in its place a record placed on a loose spindle was spun manually while what I'm told is a magnetic cartridge (that bit with the stylus in it) was suspended by its wires on to the record. More of that kind of inventiveness, and the genuinely ghostly sounds it generated would have been very welcome.

Gwilly Edmondez & Posset & THF Drenching
Back on the main stage the trio of Gwilly Edmondez, Posset and THF Drenching impressed. All three made use of tapes and voice.

On the night I didn't mark this down as a highlight, curiously. The set was really good though. Unlike a lot of improvisors and other musicians they were not afraid to leave silences. A good range of techniques - vocal, and manipulating tapes/mics - were deployed.

I was never in any doubt that all three knew exactly what they were doing, and were bloody effective at doing it.

Ninth performance
Oh boy, apologies to whoever played next. A solo musician on the side stage with guitar, voice and feedback. Apologies because I didn't enjoy the set, and wrote only the most cursory and dismissive notes.

The set was undoubtably well performed, but a little too somnolent and conventionally song-based for my taste. That said, it was very well received, which shows what I know.

Greg Kelley & Dylan Nyoukis
The main stage again. This time for the duo of Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Dylan Nyoukis (extended vocal technique).

This was another highlight. The combination of voice and trumpet worked better than you might expect. In part that was because there seemed to be a real empathy between the two. Kelley and Nyoukis made the most marked use of silence and space in addition to quiet passages of anyone yet in the festival.

There was also humour in the performance, particularly in the voice. It's good to let it in. Jumping the rails to get personal for a minute, the most liberating thing about discovering sound poetry (initially through recordings of Bob Cobbing and Henri Chopin*) was that I could be as childish, silly, or removed from technical mastery as I liked. Even now I like to sing only to deliberately waver off key, or interrupt it with a farting noise. For me it reconnects with the most joyful aspects of singing, restoring a degree of freedom.

*Incidentally, the first page of videos at that link currently brings up a short extract of Chopin at an earlier Colour Out of Space. Fuck, I wish I'd been there.

I'm also reminded of Culturcide's Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America. I think because it's such a disrespectful and joyous record.

So there you go, Dylan Nyoukis, what happens when you mash up Bob Cobbing, Henri Chopin, Culturcide, contemporary improvisation, and childish vocal play. And that's a good thing, by the way. Not that it tells you much about how the set sounded.

Eleventh performance
The next performer played solo on the side stage. I may have been more divided about this performance than anything else. There were passages I liked, but then moments when I found it utterly insufferable and hoped it would end.

Part of that may have derived from the combination of sound sources, variously guitar, contact mic, or non-specific noisemakers fed through delay, and possibly other effects, with plenty of feedback. The non-traditional aspects were often great, but during the guitar passages it all got a bit too trad for me.

And that's the odd thing. There wasn't much I found meh or okay, or much of a transition between being onboard with it and then being bored of it. I tended to flip instantly from 'this is great', to 'oh god, make it stop', and back again. Which I guess is an accomplishment of sorts. Next.

Twelfth performance
Seriously? Another performance I liked, and yet my notes amount to a total of 19 words that tell me nothing about how they sounded. This however is a learning point. Next time I take notes on a festival where there are so many performers I need to write more descriptively about how they actually sound.

Anyway, this was a trio on the main stage. All three sang, or at least used their voices, and there was also viola and tabletop electronics. All I can tell you is (and I quote), 'good stuff, well performed. not quite a highlight but impressive nonetheless'. Gotta love that unintentionally patronising tone from someone who couldn't do what these performers did. Apologies again to them, to you, and anyone else. Sorry.

Thirteenth performance
By this stage I was honestly (though inexplicably) tired. That probably means that the last couple of performers, and the final two, suffer from a degree of inattention and lack of engagement on my part.

Thirteenth was a solo performer on the side stage. They used a reel to reel tape with a loose loop of tape, which I think ran round a mic stand. They also deployed samples and amplified objects.

Honestly, the setup reminded me of Gary Fisher, though I didn't find the sounds quite as interesting.

That said, they were good, although might have benefitted from introducing a little more space into the sound. There again that might just be my current obsession and not worth worrying about.

Fourteenth performance
And so to the end of the night. A duo on the main stage. The familiar tabletop setup, another reel to reel player with a loose loop of tape (this time hanging down), and electronics.

Unfortunately by this stage I was all out of energy, attention, and ability to write coherently. I get the impression that the performance and sounds were actually pretty good, but that I was simply too drained to appreciate anything. Really I think I only stayed to be sure I'd heard everything. So once again apologies.

I will say that Sunday's notes, and my memory of the performers are a lot better than for either day so far. I think that's mainly because Sunday was my favourite day of the festival, and there was so much there that I genuinely loved.

As with Friday's review, here's a list of the performers (with links) that I haven't been able to attribute to their respective sets. In fact it may be a good thing. Go check out their sounds and make up your own mind, without my blether muddying the waters:

Dinosaurs with Horns, DDAA, Roman Nose, Bridget Hayden, Andie Brown & Sharon Gal, Sindre Bjerga, Dan Melchior, M.Stactor, and Andy Guhl (though as I said earlier, I think he actually played on Sunday).

The review of the Friday is here.

A link to my review of the Sunday will get posted here when it's done. No promises when that will be. It may be up by the end of the weekend, but I can't guarantee anything.


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