Chill vibes were the centrepiece of the first night of Wrong Wave: Art Rock Believes in Reincarnation. The night’s motto seemed to be, “Baby, it’s cold outside, so let’s stay cozy and work those necks.” Concentrated, heartfelt head-bobbing was the name of the game, and I was no exception. Each act blended intensity with patience.
Neu Balance, a.k.a. Sam Beatch and Sebastian Davidson, had the most energetic set of the night, with hip-hop and house stretched and reshaped with a mid-point ’80s synth palate cleanser. Projected behind them was a collage of black and white blinking eyes, which gave a Lynch-like feel to the performance. The visual loop in extreme closeup referenced the creative repetition and expansive feel of the music.
The most artsy part of the set may have been the quiet human drama unfolding beside the performance: a carnation-wearing rapscallion and—I think—one of the gentlemen from Spectrum Interview, deconstructing and reconstructing cigarettes with precision and aplomb. Rather than distract from, it complemented the piece. And it really made me want to smoke.
Next, Stefana Fratila lent human voice to the evening, while Ronan Nanning-Watson collaborated on visuals and shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown flute whose “soulful sound made it popular in 1980s pop music in the English-speaking world,” according to Wikipedia. It looked like a giant recorder and provided subtle undertones to Fratila’s mournful vocals. She’s definitely matured since 2009s Grows Up. Lounging amongst the cords and pedals, she too interrogated and repeated certain themes, expanding and contracting her own voice and cips into soundscapes. Extreme closeups of woods and its creatures complemented the experience.
Throughout the night, on what would usually be the dance floor, attendees had been investigating the zoo of equipment, some vintage, some kluge-like, all looking like electro-acoustic workhorses. This menagerie was corralled by Spectrum Interview, an electro-acoustic quartet of improvisers by the names of David Leith, Toby Carroll, Lee Hutzulak, and Frederick Brummer. Joining them was Merlyn Chipman, who was, I the realized, the carnation-wearing rapscallion who I admired so. Chipman provided improvised visual feedback to accompany Spectrum Interview’s melodic noise. His patterns were not particularly mind-blowing, but visuals mixed to the music. To watch someone “play” patterns and rock out to them, was new to me.
On this night of Wrong Wave the art took a back seat to the rock element, but the art-student vibe was there, and it was engrossing. Having now ridden the Wrong Wave, I see it’s a quieter, more raw, and more nebulous sibling to fests like New Forms and Swarm, and we’re already anticipating its next year.