This weekend saw the impressive transformation of East Hastings’ Waldorf Hotel into a thriving hotbed of electronic music and arts as the city’s daring experimental music institution, New Forms Festival, entered it’s 11th year.
Any passerby should have been immediately tipped off by the light displays projected on the facades of the hotel as well as on the warehouse across the street. With the lights playing with the geometry of the buildings outside, I was welcomed into a very unusual experience.
The subaqueous, eerie soundscapes of local emerging producer Filip Gorecki subtly flowed in through the nebulous, faux-celestially lit tiki bar, beginning the night’s sonic trip through ambience. While the crowds were still assembling, a dozen bystanders stood entranced by the echo and whisper-laden sounds in the bar’s semi-circular space. The room eventually gave way to the travelling sounds of Vancouver synth-artist Joshua Stevenson, playing under the moniker Magneticring, whose deep gothic flavours were masterfully crafted through his analogue equipment.
The ambient treat in the tiki bar was just a warm-up though. As the synthscapes under the bar’s starry dome were winding down, local experimental artists Resorts took to the stage in the cabaret downstairs. Through their innovative use of wind instruments and samples, the trio concocted a deeply flowing mix of minimal house beats that kept the crowd in subdued but perpetual motion.
Then things got dirty, as Jeremy “Ayro” Ellis brought out an array of infectious hip-hop beats cut and re-cut through his masterful use of twin samplers. The Detroit-representing prodigy lightheartedly contrasted his sharp communication through electronics with his soulful attempts at singing. By this point resisting dancing was not an option.
Meanwhile, back upstairs, the richly layered sounds of L.A. producer TAKE, aka Sweatson Klank, were constructing and deconstructing themselves, fusing influences ranging from jazz to dubstep and beyond, all driven by hip-hop beats that kept the restaurant-turned-dance floor wildly bouncing.
As the time started moving into the early a.m.’s, a smiling Irishman by the name of Mike Slott charged the restaurant stage with a cosmic synthesis of very loosely hip-hop based dance beats, while downstairs, NY-based DJs Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, notorious for their parties as Mister Saturday Night, spun a kicking set of deep-house drawing from the schools of Chicago and New York. Their streaming, four-on-the-floor beats kept the room alive until the lights were turned on.
With at least five hours of unstoppable sounds and rhythms being played, and with the perpetual
knowledge that so much was happening in other rooms just steps away, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with all that the festival had to offer. It was definitely exhausting. Frankly, there wasn’t enough of me to take in all that New Forms had to offer in one night, but the sensory overload I did get was enough to bring me back the next night. It left me very excited about the future of the festival.