Last night’s offering by Outsound Presents in its LSG (Luggage Store Gallery) Creative Music Series (held, as usual, at LSG) was an all-electronic affair. You knew what you would be getting into when the Box Office offered you a pair of earplugs. When I showed up, Collin McKelvey, scheduled to take the second set, was warming up with his gear; and there was no question of my turning down the earplugs offered. Having assessed where the loudspeakers were placed, I also decided that the last row would offer the best seating.
The first set was taken by Philip Everett performing as Skullkrusher. The one disadvantage of sitting in the back row was that I did not have a very good view of what he was doing, but I saw enough to get a good sense of the relationship between his activities and the listening matter. I could thus infer that he was working strictly with analog equipment; and, every now and then, he would take out a clarinet fitted with a contact microphone and hold it up high (Benny Goodman style) and add a few blasts to the mix. Everett calls this instrument his xlarinet.
That mix went on for about twenty minutes, and the decibels came forcefully and furiously. However, thanks to the earplugs, it was possible to appreciate the rich diversity of sonorities responsible for all of those decibels. Indeed, while there were no breaks over the course of those twenty minutes, there was a clear sense of how the set broke down into episodes, often characterized by major qualitative shifts in underlying rhythmic patterns created through the imaginative use of his analog circuits.
Nevertheless, the sounds were only part of the show. Everett is a very physical performer, and his facial expressions provided an additional cue for the listener to navigate his/her way through the onslaught of all that noise. Those expressions run a gamut across inquisitiveness, bemusement, and contented satisfaction that add a rhetorical dimension that is not necessarily inherent in the sounds themselves. He is also given to the sorts of swooping gestures one is more likely to encounter from a heavy metal guitarist. One might almost go so far as to call him the Lang Lang of live electronic music.
Philip Everett performing as a percussionist (from his BayImproviser Web page)
While all of this was compressed into only twenty minutes, there was clearly more than enough for the attentive listener to try to retain in memory. The last thing I wanted was to worry about cross-talk when trying to recall the “Skullkrusher experience.” Having heard a sample of McKelvey’s work when I first arrived, I hope to hear him soon at another performance; and the same goes for the audre duo of Jorge Bachmann and Michael Gendreau. Fortunately, the casual atmosphere of the LSG Creative Music Series is conducive to such selective “tastings” when it seems appropriate.