Sean Evans, Chris Dammeyer, Loscil, Laurel Halo, and Comp_Zit @ Pretty Good Not Bad Festival 6/17/2016

Victoria BC’s brand-new festival of multifarious underground music and artistic mediums kicked off on the eve of June 17th at Alix Goolden Hall.  As the sun sank in the West, a transfixed Alix Goolden audience was held spellbound and soaked in the resonance of three highly anticipated audio-visual sets.

I am a bit cautious about distorting the nature of Sean Evans, Loscil, and Laurel Halo’s compositions by simply calling them ‘music.’  Yes, these folks are musicians and composers, and world class ones at that, but the pieces of Friday night landed far from the narrative, linear realms of familiar musical structure.  Even as someone with a prettttty good palette for experimental soundscapes and ambient music, I still found these sets to fall slightly outside perimeters of my familiarity, so am having trouble finding the choice word(s) to summarize the time-warped nature and collisions of auditory chaos with exquisitely distilled form.  Perhaps a term like ‘sound-architecture’ could be a slightly better alternative to encapsulate what these artists are executing.  Each sonorous composition optimally paired with visual projections ranging from recognizable landscapes to mysterious entoptic imagery, was both a delight to the senses and those synaptic spaces in between.

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First up was WAV_FORMS, a performance piece created by two Vancouverites, Sean Evans and Chris Dammeyer.  Dammeyer, who when not practicing his visual wizardry, works as a pharmacist and is no doubt one of those all-around genius types, is quickly gaining recognition in the art world for his encapsulation and manipulation of organic motion.  With occasional blackout intervals for techno-beat miniature moments, the set highlight for me was most definitely the minutes (and it is hard to say how many minutes passed) of single note resonance reminiscent of an underwater chamber whilst clouds of slow-mo’ smoky ink bled and burst in an ocean of ether.

Next up was Loscil, another Vancouver-based dude who multitasks in the creation of both sound and visuals.  His trademark branch of restrained ambience includes an extra dose of grim and soft grit.  A birds-eye view of a color-inverted black and white landscape flitted behind him, lending to the sound much more tempestuous, almost apocalyptic insinuations then the audio might conjure on its own.  His music and visuals perfectly capture that unique state of the west coast winter psyche.  The melancholic, vast headspace one can get locked into after some sunless months, amplified by the severity of the black saltwater and bleak skies.  Loscil is definitely a defining representative of what Pacific Northwest ambience can look and sound like, and it was a treat to see someone who has been doing his thing in the Canadian and world scene for many years.

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To end the night, composition-chameleon Laurel Halo, accompanied by visuals from local COMP_ZIT, took the stage.  There is something deliriously sedative about watching Miss Halo perform.  As if performing psychic-surgery, her hands seemed to just float above her controls (I swear they never touched down).  Head bowed in serene reverence, it was very much like watching a child lost imaginary play, the presence of a live audience taking second place below the fact that Laurel Halo is fully Zen’d out and enjoying herself in her own little world.  I’ve heard it said this strange stage-presence is her way of dealing with the awkwardness at being at the center of attention.  Regardless of the reasons, it was lovely. Please don’t change ever, Miss Halo.  COMP_ZIT pulled off the fantastic visuals he is known for, the play of texture, light, and shadow enhancing the strange bricolage of soaring ambient tones, splicey synth oscillations, and occasional cameos of techno and house beats.  These were overlaid with all sorts of ear-pleasing samples, clinks and whirrs of nostalgic, mechanical devices.  Also, it got really trippy.  And heavy.  And dark.  And dubby.  And dance-able.  And back to ambient.  And the list goes on … it was many things.  Above all, strange and wonderful.

 

Stay tuned for more goodies to come from PGNB fest.