Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Electronic Bliss at Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit.

November 3, 2013

logoThree nights of electronic music blazed forth the weekend of October 25-27 at the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in Asheville, North Carolina.  Scattered across Asheville’s compact downtown in five different venues ranging from a bar to an arena, musicians plugged in with a range of electronic dreams.  One musician was 77 years old with sounds that date back to 1968 while others dialed up computerized grooves from the future.  And a few of them weren’t really electronic at all.

MOEMS Halloween revelers Photo: Criss Images.

MOEMS Halloween revelers Photo: Criss Images.

The Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit is the child of Moogfest who was kicked out of the house after three successful years.  The Moog Corporation took back the licensing of their name for their own festival scheduled to be held in April.  But original producers of Moogfest, picked up right where they left off in 2012 without missing a step and only making a name change.

The festival was never a “Moog” festival to start with but with MOEMS the range expanded considerable to embrace music from across music frontiers.  The range of the music could be triangulated in three acts, Jherek Bischoff, Silver Apples and Bassnectar.

Bass Nectar in Space Photo: Crissimages

Bass Nectar in Space+
Photo: Crissimages

Bassnectar was the revelation of the festival for me.  It’s one guy, Lorin Ashton, who stood on stage flanked by two laptops with a mélange of electronics in the middle.  I got there a few moments late and as I approached the Arena (one of the silliest venue names ever), you could hear the building shuddering from the bass inside.  Entering from the back of the hall to a throng of bobbing people in full Halloween regalia on the floor, I felt like I was literally sucked into the crowd by Bassnectar’s hypnotic, throbbing beat.  As I threaded my way to the middle of the arena, Ashton bounced around onstage, long hair flailing as he moved from computer to computer, stopping in the middle to twist knobs, tap pads and swirl around on a Kaos Pad or two.   In fact, he didn’t seem to be on stage at all, but dissolved into a three dimensional landscape of shifting images projected front, back and sides.  Giant butterflies, rotating diagrams, digital noise and landscapes all moved in a constant flow.  Electronic rhythms pounded out of the speakers, as Ashton created drama and movement not through conventional melody but a collection of sound effects, electronic glitches and crushing grooves that dissolved before the inevitable bass drop.  He rebuilt tracks from his albums, including his remix of Nina Simone’s classic “Feeling Good.” I wondered if anyone in the audience recognized the jazz artists who were projected in distorted imagery during that track.  It could be argued that Bird, Diz and Max were the rave artists of their day, although I doubt few there knew who they were, let alone realized that none of them were on that 1965 Simone cut.

I’m still from the “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” school.  But as ecstatic as Bassnectar’s performance was, by the end of his set,  the deep bass and the volume, over 112 decibels, became physically nauseating.

Silver Apples' Simeon @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Silver Apples’ Simeon @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

After Bassnectar’s arena filling audio-visual spectacle, Silver Apples seemed….. quaint.  Silver Apples was a drum and electronics duo from 1968.  Simeon Coxe made all his electronic sounds from an array of audio oscillators triggered with telegraph keys. They released two cult albums before breaking up, but they were unarguably the first electronic pop band.

Silver Apples Oscillations

Silver Apples Oscillations

Now 77 years old, a little frail and bespectacled with short, thin white hair, Simeon is the only surviving member of the group. His technology has been updated, but the sound remains almost exactly the same.  He even uses a trio of audio oscillators on which he plays his lead melodies and noises.  He performed music from those first two albums spinning oscillator melodies with the ghost of Danny Taylor’s drums.  Singing in a reedy voice against psychedelic projections, he intoned the largely trippy psychedelic lyrics of the band earnestly, but also with a bit of humor.  It was a charming performance.

Jherek Bischoff Ukelele Unplugged @ MOEMS

Jherek Bischoff Ukelele Unplugged @ MOEMS

And then there’s Jherek Bischoff.  Ironically, he was the opening act of the festival, the irony being, he wasn’t electronic at all, launching this “Electronic” Music Summit with a ukelele.  But then, there’s a lot of arch irony in this young musician. Standing at 6’3” he seemed even taller with a light brown pompadour and wearing a skinny tuxedo.  He was like a cross between Buster Poindexter and Pee Wee Herman with the overbite of Kenneth from 30 Rock.

Other than his electric bass, which was a hollow-bodied violin-style Paul McCartney model, he was all acoustic, playing with a local string quartet. Bischoff makes a quirky instrumental sound that’s part chamber music, part easy-listening and part bossa nova with a pop sensibility.  His set was mostly instrumental except for a couple of songs where he was joined by singer Jen Goma from People Get Ready. Playing music from his twin albums, Composed and Scores: Composed Instrumentals, Bischoff charmed the crowd with his aww-shucks manner and compositions that suggested a more elegant time.  He also performed a couple of songs from a forthcoming ambient album, one of which ended his set with tremulous strings while small bells rang out from the back of the theatre creating an ethereal 3D soundscape. Performing in the lovely Diana Wortham Theater with its plush seats and vaguely Art Deco décor, it was a long way, in every regard, from Bassnectar’s sweating arena assault

God Speed You! Black Emperor Hide & Seek @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

God Speed You! Black Emperor Hide & Seek @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

You could find this contrast all over Mountain Oasis.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a post-rock who were more guitar metal and noise than electronic although they certainly spent a lot of time adjusting their many signal processors.  They played the big arena but shrunk their stage plot to a small semi-circle barricaded by guitar amps where all the guitarists sat down, staring at their foot pedals or kneeled down on the floor.   Two percussionists were in shadows while the violinist and upright bassist stood impassively.  In the dark, with only their black & white  post-apocalypse urban landscapes and noise projections giving them any light, they unleashed a one hour assault of overdrive guitar glory, occasionally breaking the fog of distortion for some sweet violin melodies or glissando guitar and glockenspiel in the midst of the storm.

Trent Reznor With Nine Inch Nails @MOEMS

Trent Reznor With Nine Inch Nails @MOEMS

Trent Reznor of NIN Ready to Rumble @MOEMS Photo: Criss Images

Trent Reznor of NIN Ready to Rumble @MOEMS Photo: Criss Images

In certain ways, Godspeed is the avant-garde edge of the full frontal assault brought by Nine Inch Nails. Founder Trent Reznor, in biceps baring muscle shirt, fronted his musically muscular band illuminated by an elaborate light array. They played a lot of music from their latest album, Hesitation Marks, grinding out unyielding grooves to back up Reznor’s songs of anguish and angst.   There was little let-up in intensity except for a clunky Reznor keyboard solo and some inexplicable kamencheh, a middle eastern violin.  Other than that it was all slabs of distorted guitar, relentless drumming and electronic screams.

NIN can become plodding at times, but that wasn’t the case with a musician who influenced Trent Reznor: Gary Numan. This isn’t the robotic Numan of the “Cars” era.  He hasn’t been that way for a while.  With his jet black dyed hair, black t-shirt and black jeans, Numan was a Jesus of angst, flinging his arms out like Christ on the cross and jerking his body in tune to the music, often pouring water on his head and shaking it out like he’s just emerged from a baptismal bath.

Gary Numan Croonin' @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Gary Numan Croonin’ @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Numan’s voice is better than it has ever been. He’s lost that nasally whine and replaced it with an aggressive snarl.  He played several tracks from his latest album, Splinter (Songs of a Broken Mind) and several songs from his later period which mixes electronics and metal.  During a public interview session with journalist Geary Yelton earlier in the day, Numan lamented that people still only remember him for “Cars” (and in England “Are Friends Electric?”), but he pulled it out during his concert and played it with passion, albeit with a bit of a heavier edge.  But he didn’t have to.  This wasn’t a nostalgia audience.  They were as ready for Splinter’s “I Am Dust” as they were for “Down in the Park” from Replicas.  Gary Numan has been back for a while.  It’s time people caught up with him.

It was impossible to catch every act at the festival which featured five venues spread across 15 minutes walking distance with overlapping shows.  But except for two regrettable instances, I went nonstop music sets from 7 until 2 AM 3 nights in a row.

Darkside in Darkness @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Darkside in Darkness @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

They were all highlights.  The duo called Darkside played before an impressively large audience in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, considering they only have one album out, Psychic.  Like Godspeed, they favored shadows, standing in twin cones of low, smoke filled light, delivering snarling guitar leads over throbbing electronic drums and sequences like a pong game on acid. They recalled the little known French band Heldon circa 1978 and shared their dystopian vision.  It was like we were all in a bunker with bombs going off outside.

Ron & Russell Mael of Sparks - Life is a Cabaret @ MOEMS

Ron & Russell Mael of Sparks – Life is a Cabaret @ MOEMS

The long-lived band, Sparks,  was more in line with Bischoff than anything else at the festival. The brothers Ron & Russel Mael took the large Diana Wortham stage and planted Ron far left at a single Roland keyboard (which he had renamed Ronald)  while Russell roamed around the otherwise empty stage. They call it their “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour. Apply sexual innuendo here.  Ron has traded in his Hitler mustache for a pencil look.  With his trousers hiked up above his waist, short hair slicked back and scowling eyes behind round hornrimmed glasses, he was like the cranky old geezer down the street.  Russell looked discomfortingly like a Hitler youth which is a good trick since he’s 65.  He had his black hair swept across his forehead Adolf-style, wearing black shirt, black tie and black shorts.  That image was intentionally undermined, however, by his black tights and black and white patent leather saddle shoes with the toes curved up in elfin fashion.

SantasElves-blcphotography11Their show was a cross between Joel Grey’s Cabaret and a Broadway tryout as they romped through their catalog with no accompaniment or backing tracks.  It was an arch performance to say the least with Russell Mael still able to summon that calliope voice.  It highlighted the fact that Sparks aren’t really rock musicians, but performance artists closer to Laurie Anderson than Mick Jagger.  You could easily imagine Anderson singing “Your Call’s Very Important To Us, Please Hold.”  They seemed thrown off early on by monitor sound issues.  At one point both musicians heatedly stormed the offstage mixing board.  But they settled in for an entertaining, if austere set.  And no one loved it more than Jherek Bishoff who sported a happy lunatic grin throughout the show.

Alan Howarth Trick or Death @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Alan Howarth Trick or Death @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

On the same stage, Alan Howarth played his film music.  Best known for his work scoring John Carpenter films, he was accompanied by a manipulated video collage of movie clips including Escape from New York, Halloween II-infinity and They Live.  He assayed his scores with backing tracks while he played electric keyboard and synth-guitar.  It was an engaging medley that harkened back to an older electronic sound.

King Britt Getting Digable @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

King Britt Getting Digable @ MOEMS
Photo: Diliberto

Philadelphia’s King Britt made his second festival appearance with his latest project, Fhloston Paradigm, named for Fhloston Paradise, the resort spaceship in The Fifth Element. Joined on stage by singer Pia Ercole and live visuals from Mike Todd, they created some deep space music that had EDM edges but was more redolent of 70s German space music.  Ercole sang wordless vocals that were looped, relying a bit too much on long oohs and aahs, while Britt played keyboards and computer creating deep throb ostinato rhythms and swirling textures.

Purity Ring's Megan James @ MOEMS  Photo: Diliberto

Purity Ring’s Megan James @ MOEMS
Photo: Diliberto

I only caught a few songs from Animal Collective and Purity Ring, both of which seemed to have lively sets going. AC sat inside what looked like a abstract cartoon gap toothed mouth with projections on the teeth and roof of the mouth.  Purity Ring, a duo called in at the last minute to sub for Tricky, had no staging but diminutive vocalist Megan James held the audience, confidently singing their bright synth-pop.  Corin Roddick held down the electronic side, surrounded by what looked like small Chinese lanterns that the two would strike with drum sticks although their effect was somewhat ambiguous.

Animal Collective Open WInd @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Animal Collective Open WInd @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

I regretfully missed Ulrich Schnauss and William Basinski and I wanted to see them both.  And after hearing Bassnectar, I would’ve liked to have seen Pretty Lights with a full band.  Bands like Deltron 3030 gave massive shows to the rap side of the spectrum.

Alex Patterson & Thomas  Fehlman of The Orb @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Alex Patterson & Thomas Fehlman of The Orb @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

The festival ended with the now venerable ambient avatars, The Orb.  Celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, The Orb is essentially the bald-headed Alex Paterson and whoever he can rope in with him.  For MOEMS it was electronic artist Thomas Fehlmann.  On the medium sized club stage of The Orange Peel, The Orb instantly set the mood with an abstract collage opening of found sounds, music snippets, disembodied spoken word, all swirling in a beat-free swirl.  The full house stood patiently waiting, letting their minds rove free in Orb space.  Then the rhythm kicked in and everyone went crazy.

Alex Patterson of The Orb at the controls @ MOEMS Photo: Diliberto

Alex Patterson of The Orb at the controls @ MOEMS
Photo: Diliberto

This was classic Orb as Patterson picked up vinyl LPs, slotted in CDs and mixed and matched his sounds against the beats of Fehlman and the live mixed video projections which were by turns abstract, surreal and deliriously funny.  The Orb dropped in Miles Davis organ, Easy Listening strings, cartoon music, lots of dub, random announcements, old instruction records and a collage of noise. He didn’t play “Little Fluffy Clouds” but he did slip in the sequencer riff.

Like Silver Apples, there was quaintness to The Orb.  Their techniques harken back to early musique concrète of Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer, only with a beat.  And unlike acts such as Bassnectar, they are avant-gardists at heart.  But they kept the room enthralled with the least amount of audience churn I experienced at the festival and proved a satisfying conclusion to a festival that looks backwards and forwards, sometimes simultaneously.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))WorldsBeyond

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Bleeding Rainbow’s Psychedelic Garage Ectasy .

February 4, 2013

From Nuggets to Neu, Philadelphia’s Bleeding Rainbow Channels the Psychedelic Storm

Bleeding-Raainbow-Yeah-Right CVRBleeding Rainbow isn’t the kind of band you’ll hear on Echoes, but every now and then a new rock album catches my ear, and takes me into a different space that I don’t visit as often as I’d like, mainly because I don’t dig standing in rock clubs.  But after listening to Yeah Right,  I’d stand in one to hear Bleeding Rainbow.

The conundrum of the contemporary rock group is figuring out just what they’re going to pick from 60 years of rock history to inform their music.  Bleeding Rainbow, like The Dandy Warhols,  are scholars of rock and they draw from across the spectrum for their kinetic third album, Yeah Right.

The band has cited My Bloody Valentine and the distortion overtone guitar orchestras of Glenn Branca as influences.   You can also hear Velvet Underground drones on the opening “Go Ahead” with choked sustained feedback run that threatens to burst out and finally does on the chorus in a roar of Neu!– like fuzz.   Krautrock may be another inspiration, from the often motoric drumming from Greg Frantz (who recently left the group)  to the joy of guitar noise redolent of Neu! and Faust.  This is, after all,  a band who listened to The Can Tapes on a cross country tour.

But Bleeding Rainbow makes these sounds their own on their  third album, (the first two released under the name Reading Rainbow).  Kinetic songs like “Pink Ruff” with roiling overdriven guitar.  And that lurches right into the Jesus and Mary Chain cross-cut groove of “You’re Not Alone” with Rob Garcia and Sarah Everton’s chorused and distant vocals extolling a schizophrenic state of isolation.

For all their garage rock/punk conciseness, Bleeding Rainbow can attain the epic and they do that on both “Shades of Eternal Night” and “Fall Into Your Eyes.” The former is a minimalist haiku love song set against a storming rhythm and razor guitar chords.  “Fall Into Your Eyes” is a lament of love and transcendence lost with a grinding, shredded guitar riff and one of the more interesting drum grooves of the album.

The psychedelic trip of “Waking Dream” references The Kink’s “Tired of Waiting” in the guitar riff of the verse and then rips into a New Wave chorus that tears you out of your seat, adopting the quiet-loud approach of Nirvana.  It’s another song that makes good use of close vocal harmonies layered up in multi-tracked girl group-style choruses by the husband and wife founders of the group, Everton and Garcia.

Yeah Rightt is the kind of advance you’d expect from a group that’s maturing and finding more nuance in their sound.  The stripped down, lo-fi-to-a-fault production of their earlier work gives way to a more anthemic, body-shaking sound.  Instead of peering at the music through the haze of a washed out Polaroid, instruments are shredding like shattered glass and frayed fabric before your eyes.  My Bloody Valentine is an influence, but I know I’ll be listening to this a lot more than the new MBV release.  Yeah Right, along with Ulrich Schnauss’ A Long Way to Fall, is one of the few albums that I not only listen to repeatedly, but when it’s over I often go back to the top of the slide again.
~John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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Barry Altschul’s Swinging Freedom with 3Dom Factor

January 15, 2013

Drummer Barry Altschul Opens Ars Nova’s winter-spring 2013 season with a storming set at Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Barry Altschul

Barry Altschul

It’s been a while since I’ve seen drummer Barry Altschul live.  In the 70s and 80s he came through Philadelphia all the time, powering bleeding edge improvisations with the Sam Rivers Trio, The Anthony Braxton Quartet and others.  I first heard him on Paul Bley’s Scorpio, fueling Bley’s synthesizer improvisations with deft subtlety.

Jon Irabagon

Jon Irabagon

None of that power has been lost in the intervening 30 odd years.  Coming into the Philadelphia with his 3Dom Factor Trio, you would’ve thought you were back in the basement of the Empty Foxhole Café in West Philadelphia.  Even though this was in the 3rd floor loft of the more gentile Philadelphia Art Alliance, the music was no less powerful.

Joe Fonda

Joe Fonda

Joined by tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Joe Fonda, they essayed a handful of tunes, stretching them out in extended improvisations and solo showcases.  Despite his avant-garde lineage, Altschul was always a musically inclusive drummer and he brought his trio through storming freefalls like “Be Out S’Cool” with Ibragon’s muscular tenor bursting with overtone squeels and belches.  But they just as easily slipped into the slow ballad “Irina” with Fonda plucking a slow blues.

It was a relatively short set at one hour, but it felt perfect, especially with their rousing closer.  Halfway through Carla Bley’s “Ictus” with Fonda’s sprinting bass line and Irabagon’s increasingly impassioned tenor run I thought, “This has to be the closer.  You can’t come back with anything after this.” And they didn’t.

Barry Altschul's The 3Dom Factor

Barry Altschul’s The 3Dom Factor

Altschul turned 70 on January 6 and he’s just put out his first album in over 25 years as a leader,  The 3Dom Factor, on the Finnish TUM Records.  It’s a strong set of Altshul originals and Bley’ “Ictus,” and it shows this trio to good effect, especially Joe Fonda whose double bass got a bit lost in the unamplified performance at PAA.  On the album however, he’s a counter-weight to Altschul’s shifting rhythmic pivots and rim-shot flourishes as they rotate like a carnival Scrambler.

This was a strong opener as the first concert of Ars Nova Workshop’s Winter-Spring season, providing yet another link to the jazz experiments of the 1960s and 70s.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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Prog Heaven Past & Future coming to Philly.

May 6, 2012

Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream

Philadelphia, where Echoes is based, will be experiencing a wave of progressive music past and present in the coming months. From the past, Tangerine Dream, UK and Van Der Graaf Generator.  Reflecting the past, Broekhuis, Keller & Schonwalder.  From the present, Sigur Ros, Dead Can Dance (well, kind between past & present), Radiohead and Iona.  If you live in the area or are visiting, here’s what you can look forward to in the coming months.  I have a kind of weekly mailing list that I send out to interested parties.  Here’s what’s in this weeks.

Candy Rat Guitar Night


Tangerine Dream Coming July 6
Sigur Ros Coming July 29 & 30
**********DeadCan Dance is Coming August 26. ***********

Note: The Spectrum Road show at Keswick was cancelled.

*******THIS WEEK*********

Monday 5/7/2012
World Café Live! Wilmington
The last important band of of the first generation of progressive rock group returns with ½ of the original members. Still should be pretty good.

Tuesday 5/8/2012
8:00 pm EST
World Café Live! Philadelphia

Wednesday 05/09
Tin Angel
This is a phenomenal array of finger-style guitarists. We’ve been playing Sergio Altamura’s Blu on Echoes a lot, produced by Will Ackerman. Forastiere is a true disciple of Michael Hedges but with an even stronger melodic sensibility. (read review and hear trax from lastest CD). Australia’s Owen Van Larkins puts a lot of energy into a lot of melody. Trevor Gordon Hall plays the kalimbatar, combining kalimba and guitar.

Thursday May 10, 2012
Colonial Theatre
Phoenixville, PA

Fri 05/11/12
Union Transfer

Friday 5/11/2012
8:00 pm EST
World Café Live Wilmington
New album is very good

Saturday, May12
The Gatherings
St. Mary’s Church
Vintage retro-space music from this synth trio.

Sat 05/12/12
Theatre of the Living Arts
Sun 5/20

Friday, May 25
Theatre of Living Arts
334 South St.
Philadelphia, PA
phone: 215.922.1011
doors at 7:00 PM / show at 8:00 PM
tickets: $18.00 in advance / $20.00 day of show

The Dandy Warhols

Monday, May 30
Purveyors of alt-rock with deep roots in psychedelia, Krautrock, New wave and more. They have a great and expansive live set. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s solo album, Totalwerks, Vol. 1 (1969-1977) was an annoying slice of faux-Krautrock, but the Dandy’s always nail it.  Read a review of their last show here.

Tue 06/12/12
Union Transfer
Post-rock provocateurs, this Scottish band will slam you into the floor.

Tue, 06/12/2012
Johnny Brenda’s

Wed 06/13/12
Susquehanna Bank Center

Thu 06/21/12
Union Transfer

Peter Hammill of Van Der Graaf Generator

Saturday 6/23
Sellersville Theater
Fresh off their Nearfest show a the night before, VDGG will bring the classics and new tracks to town. They did an amazing set at Nearfest 2009. (read review ) Sellersville will be a great venue to hear this band.

Tuesday, 6/26
Sellersville Theater
The English progressive rock band with a bent towards the ecclesiastical. Beautiful singer in Joanne Hogg and a great guitarist in David Bainbridge. Read review of their 2010 Nearfest set

Friday 07/06/2012
Electric Factory
It’s been a long time and I think TD may have gotten better. They played Moogfest last year and I have a commentary on that performance and a link to a live recording of it.

Fri 07/06/12
Wells Fargo Center

Sunday May 29 & Monday 7/30
Mann Skyline Stage
The Archangels of Atmosphere come to Philly and demand was so high that they added a second show. Are you sure this is Philadelphia? They were amazing a couple of years ago and Jonsi’s solo show 2 years ago was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.

Longwood Gardens
Kennet Square, PA

Thu 08/23/12
Union Transfer $20

Kimmel Center
Transcendence awaits.

Mon 09/17/12
Electric Factory

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