For all the years of “classical” electronic music performance from academia, the experience of entering a club or dance music program can be awfully avant garde and surreal. There’s a barrage of sensory input – flashing lights, strange, repetitive sounds.
The Spanish/British duo Roc Jiménez de Cisneros and Stephen Sharp, aka EVOL, have taken that feeling to its extreme. And the results are weird, wonderful fun.
(The two play Berlin Thursday night at N.K. on a diverse program including Chris Douglas and Bill Kouligas; N.K. is one of Europe’s most consistent venues for electronic experimentalism, and somehow will keep feeding Berlin in case six days of Atonal weren’t enough. See the Facebook event. I hope to catch up more with all these artists then.)
You never know quite what you’ll get from EVOL – which is how we’re able to share “acid” experiences in both meanings, both trippy AV constructions and acid techno mixtapes.
Acid techno mixtape? Think three hundred three tracks, all condensed into a few seconds’ clip each (oddly hypnotic, that – it all works, somehow):
At SONAR this year, for instance, they produced a whimsical feast of blinking lights and comical, game-like sonic reductions of squelchy timbres:
Sounds are stretched to their breaking point; visuals are an assault. As the group self-describes their genre/oeuvre, they are “rave, mereology, elasticity, time dilation, chronesthesia, goo, hoover-stretching, slime.”
At Sala Moog in 2011, this … happened (warning – turn your sound down before hitting the play button):
At the same performance, they turned the tempo on acid techno all the way down, as a freeform bassline plays out in slow motion, a lonely bass meditation.
Not all of the work they do goes in that direction; in a six-channel installation for New York’s Sound Spill gallery, they “exploded” a drum machine in space, creating environmental beats:
You’ll find releases like the terrifying, unstable oscillators of Hyperobject-1. (People will run screaming if you play this. Maybe in a good way? The print, below, is pretty.)
What can save all of this from becoming merely academic, “deconstruction” for the sake of it, is the attention to the experience of sensation in the works. They’re playful – and, if you get the sense of humor, witty. The two are producing a musical analog to molecular gastronomy, pulling out elements in minimal form in a way that exposes them and delights the palette – so long as you can take it. (It’s perhaps no coincidence that this duo bridges the UK and Spain, where that technique in cooking took hold.)
Maybe we need artists like this. Dance music can become as predictable as a club’s bland long drinks – the same ingredient, the same product, in the same bottles. With those bottles shattered, what’s left is just the sound itself, the experience of the bare timbre.
EVOL’s experiments are extreme, but they’re a reminder that constraints in music are up to the imagination of the creator. And the structure musicians devise can be, truly, anything.
You can navigate through more of the project, including plenty of additional free releases and mix tapes, on their site:
And for those of you near Berlin tomorrow: