The idea of I Hear IC is to gather people from Iowa City to present brief performances in a local coffee house. Peformances were in the range of 10-20 minutes. Other performers on this night included Jazz singers, an improvisation from two Iranian musicians and a small ensemble improvising a new soundtrack for old cartoons.
In that context I knew that it wasn’t like playing an hour-long techno set; no one would be dancing so the kick drum didn’t need to be in the mix the whole time. As it happened I finally brought it in at around 6 minutes; this goes back to early 90s origins of ambient techno, when producers would do long beatless intros to tracks. The rise of ‘popular’ ambient — with the KLF and the Orb being the most famous proponents — grew out of never actually bringing in the beat. Sonically I think this piece has a bit of the Orb about it.
It’s also an instance of not holding anything back. I went back over projects on my studio machine and plundered them for interesting sounds and loaded them all together in one set where I could mix and match stuff that originally went with much different music. I recorded a lot of sounds from my outboard synthesizers, playing loop clips and tweaking knobs to get some movement. The main repeated pad changes chords but it was accidental — I discovered that the JP6 would change the pitch of sounds when I jacked up cross mod. Which is fun because I was playing a slider; the chords were not exactly in tune.
The basic framework was dictated by a tonal center of C Minor. The bassline is straight 16th notes playing C C Eb Eb. That kind of simplistic sequencing reminds me a bit of early Tangerine Dream.
About a week ago I liked the sounds I was hearing on the back porch of our hose, so I set my Tascam DR-05 out on the porch to capture a few minutes of sound.
Then I forgot about it. The next morning I went out and the recorder had turn itself off, but it had captured 3 solid hours of sound. The sound is primarily that of insects, tree frogs, and the occasional bird, combined with the drone of Interstate 80 which is about a half mile away as the crow flies.
I’m going to try and play the whole thing at work tomorrow, because it’s a good way to drown out office noise, and I think living with environmental sound like this — especially when one’s attention is focused, e.g. on refactoring C++ template classes — allows it to go into your brain bypassing conscious critique. Maybe you can try it too. It’s like the Ice Bucket Challenge. Without the bucket, or the ice, and you don’t have to donate money to any worthy cause.
PHOTO BY RICHARD STAN
I had a fine time, though it would have been great if more people showed up — I mean I’m used to playing to mostly empty rooms, but we had guys in from out of town who hit a deer trying to get there. But hey, Thursday night at Gabe’s — hard to draw a lot of people. Anyway Moldover sounded great. I particularly liked the a cappela song he opened with, and his guitar playing, which always drove the songs and sounded great. Exaltron has evolved a unique approach to live performance, combining voice, trumpet and guitar, live looping, expertly programmed sampled drumming and crazy electronic messing about.
I was mostly happy about my set, which may have come from working myself into a tizzy for weeks getting read to play. Mostly new stuff done in the past couple months, some of it bespoke for the live set.
My friend David Talento was trying to organize his studio and found some cassettes I’d sent him in the 1990s. The real find was what may be the last remaining copy of tracks by Jason Welch, local rave promoter and sometime musician. But I’ll deal with that stuff later.
One of the other things is a recording of a live set I did in 1996 (I believe) at the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company (what is now Moonrakers restaurant). In those days I pretty much dragged my whole studio out to play live — a Roland Jupiter 6, Casio CZ-1, Roland TR707, a home-made plywood rack of gear, a desktop computer and CRT.
I don’t even remember most of the stuff I played, or even how I played it — I suspect I was using Opcode Vision and a Turtle Beach Pinnacle card as a sampler. Vision had a facility something like Ableton Live’s clips — you could trigger chunks of midi sequences live. The beginning of the set sounds a bit like Drexciya. Anyway it isn’t bad, and interesting to hear it as a time capsule from 16 years ago.
Bonus, David put up a remix I did for him around this time on Bandcamp:
A performance of Guitar Trio by Rhys Chatham is always a stunning, overwhelming, transcendent thing to experience. The composition itself is a schematic set of instructions for 3 or more guitarists, a process that Chatham directs from the stage as he plays himself. It has been his practice to perform the trio with local musicians, as Chatham did in Iowa City nearly 5 years ago with a completely different group. Every performance is the same, and every performance is completely different.
Rene Hell, former Iowa Citian who has gone on to some renown in the experimental music scene delivered a performance that was a departure from his past forays into fuzzy analog electronica. Most of the set was a chaotic blizzard of digitally synthesized sounds; like a Warner Brother’s Cartoon soundtrack done by Karlheinz Stockhausen for an audience of deranged robots. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Solid Attitude were, err, solid. These guys play their punk rock like demons possessed by other, more evil demons, and Mickey Shaw’s lead singer/ranter performance is a thing to behold.