Andy Haas OCAD University, Toronto, ON, October 17

Andy Haas OCAD University, Toronto, ON, October 17
Photo: Vincent Pollard
While Bob Ostertag opened Toronto's X Avant festival, Andy Haas kick-started its second run of shows. Haas, a former member of Martha and the Muffins, has been been an active player on the NYC improv scene over the past two decades, playing with luminaries such as John Zorn and Fred Frith.

For his X Avant appearance, he was seated in the glow of a single orange table lamp with a soprano sax, foot pedals, digital delay and multitrack looper on the table in front of him. Visuals were provided by OCAD graduate Steve Reaume, who played with afterimage effects that became increasingly intricate, unfolding like tapestries fed through static and heavily pixelated interference.

The set was hypnotic, at moments noir-ishly smooth, at others abrasive, as the build of samples and loops became chaotic. At one point, Haas used an AM radio placed between the mic and sax, and you could just make out the radio presenter appropriately saying, "We have the technology to do that."

Delicate moments folded into the chaos, and the visuals married well, especially towards the set's finish, with diamonds in red and green working in harmony with the music. Towards the end of his continuous set, the samples fizzed out, replaced by a haunting monasterial drone underplaying the sax, the huge arches of sound melding beautifully with the distortion while Haas played the piri, a Korean reed instrument, as the sax took on a mournful bagpipe-like wail. Altogether, it made for an immersive and challenging performance.