Abode (Paul Stapleton, Caroline Pugh) and RepoRoom, Luggage Store Gallery

Tonight we review last Thursday’s concert at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, part of Outsound Presents’ weekly series. I arrived to a darkened gallery with abstract bands and shapes of light being projected onto the wall, with Jan Pusina sitting in front controlling electronic musical sounds. The video was being controlled Bob Pacelli using analog video synthesizers.

The stripe patterns remained for a while with different combinations of colors and widths, before eventually changing to geometric shapes and even some curved forms. The music was primary long drones with complex timbres, but towards the last third of the set there were additional textures with shorter-length sounds. Overall it was a short performance, but I thought the duration worked well given the minimal nature of the visual and aural material and kept it interesting.

The second set featured Adobe, a duo of Caroline Pugh on voice and electronics with Paul Stapleton performing on his “Bonsai Sound Sculpture.” We have reviewed Stapleton performing with his creation before (see this article from last year). However, this was a more formal duo that has been performing together for a long time.

Stapleton’s electronic sounds blended well with Pugh’s vocals, which combined tradition Scottish folk singing with extended vocal techniques, feedback and cassette-player effects. I was impressed with her performance, both the range of sounds and techniques and the overall strength of her voice. Her sound ranged from long brilliant tones to rapid-fire sequences of phonemes that may or may not have been actual words. There was also an element of humor in her presentation and some of the text. Stapleton’s sounds ranged from DJ-like recordings played at variable speed to metallic noises and other scratchy bits of sound, and fill in the spaces in between the vocals. After the performance, I went to take a closer look at the Bonsai Sound Sculpture itself:

Overall, a strong performance with very contrasting sets, ranging from the more meditative opening to the more dynamic and virtuosic conclusion. I was quite happy I made the effort to come out on an exceptionally cold night in San Francisco to hear these sets.