Published Jun 09, 2011A wise man once said that technical difficulties are the fifth element of hip-hop, and overcoming them is the sixth. Apparently, the same applies to electronics in experimental music. Each of the four sets in this night's entertainment coped with minor and major gear malfunctions, and the hesitant beginnings to each set were the biggest negatives on the night. But that was more than overcome by the Constellation (pun intended) of approaches to marriages between stringed instruments and delay, with the night kicking off a tour for two artists on the Montreal label -- Nick Kuepfer and Khôra.
In some respects this evening was an encapsulation of the 2011 sounds that set the pace at the Tranzac, Toronto's venerable home of freak folk. Set one was a blast from the past; I Have Eaten the City emerged from a bit of a hiatus. Drummer Brandon Valdivia and guitarist Colin Fisher have instant chemistry as a result of frequent gigging as Not the Wind Not the Flag, but even though cellist Nick Storring was battling new hard and software, the trio confirmed their reputation as one of the finest electronically tinged free jazz ensembles Toronto has ever produced.
Silent Land Time Machine never figured out that hum in the right channel, but the Austin, TX native cycled between haunting violin loops and Supersilent-esque evil choirboy vocals to nimble guitar passages and squelched rhythm loops. Even more nimble was Nick Kuepfer, who showcased astonishing, classically inspired guitar technique on a heavily tremoloed solid body. His hand was a blur as the tremolo and reel-to-reel tape-delay loop made his bizarre tunings shimmer. Another neat touch was his custom-built spring reverb unit salvaged from clock innards. When he bowed the springs the combination of tonality and noise was intense.
Khôra was pushed back late into the evening and only had about 15 minutes to straighten out his gear and say his piece. His guitar melodies recalled Pink Floyd's mid-'70s work but were trapped inside a cacophonous wall of Glenn Branca-sized guitar noise. This wall of sound soon became painful in the high mids, which detracted from the enjoyment of those up front. Nevertheless, his slow shifts through the movements in his songs combined with the dissonant slide noises of a chisel raked over hollow-body guitar strings straddled the line between exquisite and annoying. As he found a surprising Afro/reggae-ish groove, the foundation he was attempting to lay became more durable. The night ended off with dreamy mechanical seagull-like noise; finally the machines had been tamed by human beings.