Art Practical Year 3 Launch, with Music and Super-8 film

Today we look back at the launch party for Year 3 of Art Practical, an online magazine that documents and discusses Bay Area visual arts through reviews and analysis. The event took place at Fivepoints Arthouse. Upon entry, we were offered the opportunity to purchase a logo shot glass (which I did). During the evening, it was filled a few “Shotgun Shots” (Shutgun! being the title of their first issue for the year).

However, the highlight of the evening was in basement of Fivepoints, where artists/musicians Joshua Churchill and John Davis presented live experimental music set against a hand-solarized Super 8 film. It’s pretty rare these days to see actual Super 8 films, but it definitely added something to the piece. They images were purposefully grainy, and even more distorted as a result of the solarization and other treatments of the film – it reminded me of some of the effects on the Hipstamatic (see examples here and here), but on a much larger scale and with a richer depth of intensity and contrast.

Joshua Churchill sat in front of the screen and performed the live with electric guitar and an array of electronic effects. There were echoes, distortions, some elements that sounded like looping, and synthetic sounds from the combination of effects. There was a noisiness and graininess to the music that seemed to reflect the quality of the film. The overall effect was quite beautiful and evocative, and mesmerizing.

Through small slots in the ceiling, light poured in from the main floor gallery, creating a series of light streaks that worked both in concert and contrast with the images from the film and heightened the overall presentation. Even though the space was quite crowded, I found myself completely immersed in the visuals and sounds of the piece.

The piece would have been a great event to see on its own even without the party, but I am happy it was there otherwise I might have missed it. All in all, a great evening. And now Art Practical is already on its third issue of Year 3.

Storm Moon Concert

A little over a week ago, I attend the lastest in the Full Moon Concert series, the Storm Moon, at the Luggage Store Gallery. The Storm Moon concert was all about electric guitars, and featured two very different guitarists with their own interpretations of “gathering and releasing the storm.”

The first set featured guitarist Joshua Churchill in collaboration with filmmaker Paul Clipson. The music began with recorded samples, with changes in pitch and speed. The music in these samples formed a drone of minor chords, against which Churchill sprinkled metallic tones from the edge of the guitar. The overall effect was quite ethereal. With this sound as a backdrop, Clipson’s film began. The film was actually a Super 8mm film (i.e., not a video), which brings with it a certain image quality and style of editing that was does not often see in contemporary live music+visual performances. It started with simple geometric patters of light and shapes, notably rectangles and parallelograms that suggested office windows or overhead lighting. Against these emerging patterns, the music moved to guitar loops and longer tones set against the earlier metallic sounds. This gradually gave way to full chords and drones. Both the movie and the music become more intense, but the building blocks of guitar tones and shapes and light remained.

At one point, the film became entirely patterns of red and green, as the music continued to grow in intensity and fullness. There were sounds reminiscent of wave motion and some trills, but there remained overall a droning quality and a minor tonality. This gave way to beating patterns and a “loud wall of sound.” ¬†As the film progressed, I began to notice more familiar objects and patterns, such as looking through a chain-link fence. As distinct images of urban lights and street scenes emerged, the music became louder, faster and nosier. I was then able to recognize familiar images from New York, the Chrysler Building and some of the bridges. At this point the music came to a loud and noisy climax after which the softer harmonies re-emerged and both the music and movie gradually came to a close.

This interplay of sound, light and image was followed by a solo performance by Peter Kolovos. We had heard his very dextrous and energetic style of performance during his set at last year’s Outsound Music Summit; he brought the same energy and technique to channel the peak of the storm moon’s energies on this particular evening. He began with short blips, scrapes and squeaks. The overall effect was staccato and percussive – quite the opposite of the previous set – and it was quite loud. Even as the notes grew longer, they remained percussive. Kolovos not only moved fast on the guitar itself, but also with his effects, quickly switching between effects such as heavy delays and distortions even within single notes. Gradually, the texture began to include sounds with longer duration, such as feedback and overdriven delay patterns. There were even some harmonic chords in there, though I quite liked his inharmonic sounds on the guitar, with or without effects. As the tones grew longer, the music felt even louder, feeling it more in my entire body than as sound. Then all of sudden, it became software, with percussion and a tone that reminded me more of analog synthesizers. Gradually things became louder again – in one section I heard what seemed like a standard rock chord progression – and then drew to a quick and decisive close.