Open Frame Festival 2019
June 28-29, 2019
Open Frame is an annual festival of transgressive sound that is curated by the entity behind the moniker Room 40, an homage to the cryptanalysis section of the British Admiralty during the First World War.
Not entirely sure if Room 40 consulted the Signalbuch der Kaiserlichen Marine to determine the line-up of the 2019 incarnation of the festival, but to decrypt from the encoded messages emitted via the line-up and to realize that it was spiked with high-calibre performers does not prove too difficult.
The first night saw Stephen O Malley headline, preceded by Japanese avantgarde duo Eiko Ishibashi + Joe Talia; the debut of dark ambient act Loscil, local act Vanessa Tomlinson and Ears Have Ears DJs; who also appeared in between act during the second night, which culminated in Merzbow’s extravaganza after NYC based Rafael Anton Irisarri delivered an ambient set of epic proportions. Fia Fiell indulged in the creation of electronic, gossamery weaving of sounds as well as Sandra Selig, with what I would consider that most widely accessible set of the second night.
The significance of Stephen O'Malley for underground music at large is undisputed and started well before he gained bigger audiences with Thorr's Hammer, Burning Witch and the phenomenon known as Sunn O))). His performance saw both the spatial and sonic investigation of the cavernous industrial realm that the festival within Carriageworks offered. Given centre stage to his amps, his monotonous drone doom set meandered, build, ebbed and flowed in a stream of consciousness style that even though it was reminiscent of Sunn O))) at times, was way more arrhythmic, pulsating, simple in nature and thereby more confrontational than his previous work.
It was the first time I have had the pleasure of experiencing a live show of Masami Akita aka Merzbow, the godfather of harsh noise that has more than forty prolific years under his belt. While I am fairly familiar with his oeuvre, in the third dimension it is a monstrously physical experience in the best way possible, reminiscent of what a Sunn O))) show feels like.
The beauty I find in Merzbow is that it despite the superficial harshness of his emissions, I find it extremely meditative, structured and moving in seismic proportions. A powerful and intense performance of white noise that left me feeling euphoric and shaken to my core at the same time. While some might find it to be random, chaotic and nonsensical, his performance felt razor sharply structured with rhythms and patterns and at the same time pulverizing everything in its way yet also strangely consoling.
The annual Open Frame Festival and its unique curation has yet to underwhelm and the 2019 incarnation pushed the envelop to the next level.
Photos by T