Get Bent! 2005
Gelatin brains. A live saxophone player. A bank of old-school film projectors hanging from an apparatus. Circuit-bent instruments. Old friends. New faces. All this and more was last Friday’s electronica night at Nanci Raygun dubbed ‘Get Bent!’
First, the venue. I’ve always known Nanci Raygun as Twister’s, from Richmond days in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Like most alternative/underground clubs, its always been a magnet for a certain strange combination of creativity and darkness. It was Goth Night at Twister’s sometime near the dawn of the Century that Brad Richmond, formerly of an old band o’ mine (‘Stahl Tippen Der Vecker’ later to become ‘Steel-Toed Alarm Clock’) met his wife. I saw her first – a petite, shaved-head, army-booted waif who was carrying a munitions case for a purse – and pointed Brad out to her. Call me cupid for punks. I remember leaving there talking to a shaved-head lad about the lack of actual goth music at goth night. I expected to hear Bauhaus at least once. Or Dead Can Dance. Somehow, in some people’s minds, goth and punk get mixed up.
Nanci Raygun has an ample stage and a nice sound system, though the speakers are situated far too close to the stage so that hapless performers like yours truly can proceed to bang their heads against them while loading gear up. And I don’t mean ‘bang your head’ in the good way that metal dudes and dudettes refer to. My skull is still sore from that little mishap.
Being my first time actually performing on my own in my adult life in a club venue, I was actually a lot more relaxed than not. I had decided up front that I would bring the least amount of equipment that it would require to do a decent show. I had already done a lot of work in the studio with my circuit-bent instruments. So I brought a lot of that product to perform and left some of my more daring (read: unreliable) circuit-bent instruments home, particularly a circuit-bent children’s educational toy which I turned into an instrument I refer to as the ‘Black Apple’. Much of the prepared material I performed was created using sounds made by the Black Apple.
The gear that made it on stage consisted of:
1. A circuit-bent Yamaha Portasound (a mid to late 80’s toy-like keyboard) that I won on e-Bay. The cool thing about this instrument is that it has a record function so that it can act as a loop generator for its output. It also has percussive possibilities. I have three bends on it. The first creates a distortion. The second creates a whining distressed sound with distortion. The third jacks up the tone about an octave.
2. A circuit-bent toy remote control. I bought this thing at CVS in the highly limited toy section and couldn’t resist seeing what I could do with it. It has one bend which adds distortion. And I rearranged the numbers so that some are both upside down and out of sequence. Whoops.
3. A Gateway Solo laptop. It was loaded with a program called Tuareg, which is a package that contains a .wav sequencer, two soft synths (one FM synth and a four-channel analog modeling synth that has a visual interface/randomizer that lets you ping-pong between channels while you switch them on the fly. Great for performing), and extensive .wav editing capabilities. The .wav files can be set as simple loops or set as full performance tracks in and of themselves. The problem with this set up is that the .wav files can take up a lot of space, so each Tuareg package file not only takes time to load but also tons of memory to play. The laptop, which I got for about $350 at a computer show a few years back had major problems handling it. I upgraded the memory to its max just for this show (after unloading all non-essential software). Still, the main problem now is it has a tiny hard drive. About 2 or 3 GB. It’s running XP Pro, which takes up about that much space by itself. Some major re-configuring is in order at some point, but with the memory upgrade it did pretty well. However, instead of being able to directly tweak and play with some of my pre-prepared material live, I had to ‘perform’ the pieces using Windows Media Player (gasp) and add live overlaid sound using my other gear. Though, I was able to use the soft synths to do a few interlude type improvs. One of these was prepared and one was entirely improvised (including the piano roll content).
4. MicroKorg synth. The microKorg is a small keyboard not much bigger than the Portasound, but is actually a robust analog modeling-type synth. I mainly used it to improvise noises and embellishments over the prepared material. There was a point, though, where I was only playing the microKorg and the Yamaha together – another improvised moment (my forte).
5. Alesis AirFX. This is an effects processor that has an electronic eye. You control the sound by waving your hand over the eye. I had the Yamaha hooked up into this thing. It can crush the sound, produce Theramin-like bended tones and whirring sounds, and a host of other processor effects.
6. Alesis NanoVerb. This is also an effects processor. It does great reverb. I had both of my circuit-bent instruments hooked up into this. The reverb can extend the sound into infinity. Great for transitions especially when I was preparing the piano roll content for the Tuareg improvisation.
7. A microphone. I had this hooked up but actually never used it for anything.
The coolest part of my show (and the whole night, for that matter) was Projexorcism, which had their visuals going the whole time. I think I could’ve been humming into the microphone some jibberish through the NanoVerb and it still would’ve been an entertaining set with all of the stuff they were projecting. See the pictures in the NEWS section at http://www.thesilencebureau.com/ and follow the Get Bent! link for a tiny inkling of what this was about. And if you want to see more check out these links: http://getbent.mcremix.com/event/119_1976.AVI andhttp://getbent.mcremix.com/event/119_1996.AVI. Courtesy of Intelligent Machinery Productions.
Controlled Dissonance came on after my set and brought forth tons of ambient tones with his rig anchored by the mammoth Darkstar synth. And by ‘mammoth’ I mean in terms of its gargantuan powers of drone.
The theatrics, however, did not truly start until FERALCATSCAN did his revue of the potentials of electricity through sound and mysticism. Rumor had it that there was to be an electronic séance performed on stage. I think a Oija board was involved at some point, but I had gone in the back to try to pawn off my bumper stickers to some unsuspecting patrons or something at that point.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the entire show. Khate was about half-way through her set when I left with Charles to get some grub at 3rd Street. Khate would be the reason anyone would want to show up. In fact, if it had been just Khate and Projexorcism, that show alone would’ve been worth the entry fee. John says he’s got the whole show recorded, so I’m looking forward to hearing what I missed once he’s posted the link.