Y2K12 Live Looping Festival in San Francisco

For the past few years, the annual Live Looping Festival, which primarily takes place in Santa Cruz, California, co-hosts an opening-night performance in San Francisco with Outsound Presents at the Luggage Store Gallery. This year was no exception, with visiting artists coming from afar and braving the large flying piƱatas on display in the gallery that evening.

The show opened with a solo performance by Philipp Zurcher, who was attending the festival from Switzerland. His set opened with dark and subtle tones on guitar and effects, and very little overt looping. The music remained sparse for a while, but eventually started to build up into a thicker texture as the loops came to the forefront.

[Philipp Zurcher.]

While Zurcher’s performance was subtle and sparse, the next set by Krispen Hartung and Aaron Davis from Boise, Idaho went in the opposite direction. Davis played fast runs and driving chords and rhythms on keyboard while the pair layered electronics and loops in a loud and intense rhythmic texture that they sustained for the duration of the set. There were moments where things grew a bit software which allowed Davis’ keyboard performance to come to the forefront, but overall it was a full-on barrage of electronic beats and semi-rhythmic long tones that enveloped the space and the audience.

[Krispen Hartung and Aaron Davis]

The final set featured Italian ” sound-sculptor” Luca Formentini. At first glance, he appeared to be another looper-guitarist, but that label sells his highly virtuosic and narrative music short. His guitar sounded other-wordly, aided by the fact that his performance was largely without any light. The dark, tense and melancholy tones were augmented by electronics and more complex loops layered with a mixture of effects. There were sounds that mimicked natural elements, such as water, fire and even sound evocative of cats. Rather than simply building up layers of sound, he adeptly added and removed the layers to forward an abstract narrative – one had the sense of a movie with something beautiful but tragic was about to happen. Overall, it was an impressive performance.

Overall, it was a good show, with a small but appreciative audience. The festival moved back to Santa Cruz after this opening performance. I was not able to attend any of the subsequent events, but glad I saw these artists on this night in San Francisco.