Open Frame: Room 40 Festival
June 30. 2017
Carriageworks, Sydney’s largest and one of its more eclective multi-arts centres, is stoically following its ambitious mission which is informed by a commitment to reflect social and cultural diversity by presenting the 2017 incarnation of Open Frame: Room40.
Being a biannual experimental music festival, curated by composer and artist Lawrence English, it features a geschmâcklerisches line-up of artists operating at the edge of contemporary sound practice, with emergent voices in electronic music such as Elysia Crampton, Sarah Davachi and Klara Lewis colliding head on with artists such as Xiu Xiu and Alessandro Cortini who are responsible for a take on music that is aesthetically more on the provocative end of the spectrum.
Your humble narrator saw the second night of the two-day festival, which included Swedish musician, Klara Lewis, known as a sculptor of dreamlike sounds rich in texture, which finds an aesthetic charge in the mundane – be it the hum of a fridge or distant laughter – and results in experimental sounds that on the surface might sound comforting, yet upon closer inspection show a distressing quality skirting the edge of the familiar.
Lewis does not overly rely on repeating loops but prefers a fluid, stream-of-consciousness open framework, with distant, swooning, watery climaxes drowned out by muffled drones and unintelligible voices while percussion taps ominously down below, creating a mélange that is strangely blissful and unnerving at the same time.
Sarah Davachi’s work belongs to a tradition of deep, shimmering drone music reminiscent of the likes of Kevin Drumm, and Marian Zazeela.
What appears to be simple on the surface with not a whole lot happening in terms of melodic or rhythmic arrangements, her emissions work on a more subtle level combining long held tones and microtonal variations with a wealth of overtones, harmonics, and ghostly pulses produced by the friction between them.
What does not sound overly engaging and rather static on paper, unfolded its expressiveness in a live environment with Davachi’s carefully orchestrated tidal acoustic and electronic arrangements that sneak in, weaving themselves in and out of your head and taking you on a journey with the imperative being to keep moving and embracing disorientation.
Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Alessandro Cortini’s meditatively cohesive audio-visual work Avanti, was presented with cinematic fluidity, acquainting music with memory, i.e. (re-)living memory through sound. Using his family’s vintage Super 8 films, shot by his grandfather as an accompaniment to his music, Avanti created a dynamic self-portrait refracted by memory and the melancholy of remembrance.
A nostalgic requiem with fuzzy synths and melancholic drone textures against the backdrop of childhood memories that unfolds a very distinctive, emotive, poignant and melancholic narrative that was permeated with a sense of loss in combination with the sound eventually culminated in reaching a cathartic conclusion.
Carriageworks proved again to be an ideal venue that offered ample space for an eclectic evening with experimental and at times deliberately challenging sounds.
Photos from Carriageworks