Wavelength Music Festival 2015: A Constellation Records Soiree
words Laura Rojas
photography Aaron Mohr
The first act to perform was Khora, the Toronto-based experimental project of Matthew Ramolo. Described as aiming to blur the lines between improvisation and composition, Khora’s set didn’t disappoint. I had multiple first impressions as I watched him run guitar through effect pedals and play with a modular synth. Images of writing that I was convinced must have meant something with passages circled in red ink projected in the background onto a white sheet that hung from the ceiling. The room smelled like lime and red wine.
His music was noisy, drone-y, an array of sounds which started out slow and soothing and later erupted into a show of firework tongues. His half-hour set consisted of one song, which left me feeling a bit tired by the end. However, it was an emotional trip and anyone, whether or not into the genre, would have recognized it.
Following Khora was Nick Kuepfer who easily had the most interesting live set-up, playing with live-sampled tape loops and electric guitar with an array of effect pedals. The clicking sound of the loop running its course added a very mechanical feeling to his set, evoking feelings of futurism. I found this interesting to contrast with the fact that he played on antiquated machinery and thrived on nostalgic techniques like recording on tape. From his set I deduced that he is the wet-dream of my culture studies prof, each note permeated with dystopian feelings that reminded me strongly of Don DeLillo’s eighth novel, White Noise. His music reminded me of the industrial maze installation I saw in an underground parking lot at Nuit Blanche three years ago.
Like the first set, I found that it grabbed my interest for a while, but seemed to loose it halfway through. Maybe that says more about me than anything, though. I know there’s a niche for lengthy experimental tracks and I appreciate it, respect it, commend it. To be able to play a continuing song for thirty minutes or more and not run out of ideas, not tire of the sound of your own fingers playing on strings, is an incredible feat. I often found myself comparing the music to the projections that played behind Keeper and creating the imaginary narrative of a film scored by him – somewhat of a natural thing to do when confronted with ambient, instrumental, lyric-less music.
Halfway through the night, a surprise reunion between both acts occurred. They had toured together for some time so it was only natural that they would play a short set together to show us the goods. It was an obvious combination of their musical stylings – if you’d heard either set, you’d know what you were in for. Themes of chaos, dystopia, industrial darkness, and barren city streets were recurring. I understood their set as a kind of performance piece, multiple elements creating atmosphere starting from the small and intimate physique of the gallery space itself. Every component seemed staged in a way that nothing seemed incidental: the noise, the drone sounds, the projections on a white sheet, the small gallery space. The fact that everyone present seemed to understand each other on the same level. Living in the city, this is what it sounds like to walk home at night through unfamiliar streets, I thought.
The final act was Montreal-based cellist Rebeca Foon, also known as Saltland. I’d done some research on her prior to the show and learned that she is the co-founder of Esmerine, a contemporary chamber group, and also a former member of Thee Silver Mt Zion. I had somewhat of an idea in my mind of what she would sound like, but hadn’t expected the overwhelming feeling of beauty and loss that her performance set off in me. Using effect pedals, a cello, and her own voice, Saltland managed to capture the nostalgia-driven romance that old black and white films so easily convey. The small gallery seemed to close in on itself until everybody was standing elbow-to-elbow. Once she finished, there was nothing more fitting I could do than walk home in silence.