The usually sparse atmosphere of Selectors’ Records was filled up by throngs of people, packed in tight. Mostly sitting cross-legged on the hard concrete floor, the crowd filled every available space in the room, from the shelves of records pushed up against the back wall, to the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the bustling corner of Pender and Carrall Streets.
Vancouver artist and vocal improvisor Aileen Bryant started the night. At the sound of her first few hummed notes, the bustling room quieted, with all eyes and ears paying close attention. Looping and layering her voice into lush pads of sound, then manipulating and distorting them, Bryant drew attention to both the creation and the destruction of the music she was creating. The effect was entrancing as her sampled voice warped alongside her live utterances in one continuous piece. She ended her performance after about 25 minutes, the perfect amount of time to leave the audience satisfied but ready to hear more.
The crowd sprung up from the floor and stretched their weary knees as Bryant moved her gear from centre stage to make room for Lief Hall, formerly of electronic duo MYTHS. After a brief break, Hall summoned the crowd back to their seated position and began. Markedly more upbeat than Bryant, Hall’s performance largely consisted of sparse and moody electro-pop backing tracks with Hall singing overtop. Between her first and second song, she said, “I have a smoke machine that I got for a music video, but I can never remember to use it when I’m playing,” before asking the crowd if anyone would like to control its remote control. A hand quickly shot up, and she handed the remote to someone sitting up front. After a quick puff of fog, she jumped back into the music. With steady bursts of haze throughout, Hall’s set was just short of getting people up and dancing. Instead, feet tapped along, shoulders swayed and heads bobbed among the seated crowd until Hall’s set concluded
Stefana Fratila, seated on stage beside a mixer and laptop, among other equipment, started by playing some quiet field recordings amidst the buzz of the room. Slowly, the crowd’s attention began to veer away from their intermission conversations towards the next performance.
“You might want to sit down again for this. It’s not going to be the most lively set,” Fratila spoke into the microphone. The crowd dutifully lowered themselves back down to the floor. After a brief explanation on the sounds she was to use during her set, Fratila began. She mixed various samples and soundscapes, from rushing water in Jasper National Park to lively bebop jazz, before quieting it down and softly singing overtop in Romanian.
As her music slowly transformed, eventually becoming a slow, almost deep house groove, the lights from buildings and cars outside the venue created an immersive experience. Knowing the evening was almost over, I settled in a little deeper and let the dim mix of light and sound wash over me.