The view of A is as a tall older brother. His likes and interests are similar, he writes and even displays signs of the same inner struggle – peacefully reconciled even at this juncture. At any rate he has been one to shy away. He has, though, developed talants and natural skill I do not possess. He has an appreciation of the quality of sound, and how movements in it create an atmosphere that can move as penetratingly as finely struck chord.
His music grew out of poetry reading. Tired of performing to rooms of critics and self-obsession he began to experiment with dictaphones and recorded sounds. His words – the flow of experience – became sounds. And this is beautiful because it is precisely what the poet should be doing anyway. His words do not detach themselves from the cosmic soup, as do a journalist’s or a scientist’s which take a position outside, but are an expression of its continuous flow. Language forms break down and what is communicated is understanding. The reason that Blake placed the poets above priests and all mystics.
On Friday, A is played under the guise of Preslav Literary School. I meet him in cold Eindhoven a few days before the snows fell. Eindhoven is an industrial town and this festival sought to place itself squarely within it. Old lightbulb factories, long derelict, are cleared and filled with installations – much of it borrowed from Berlin. A highlights the last point as we pass a cascade of cassette tape, lumped in bunches like a nest, along which you can run the head of a tape recorder by hand and feed it to a speaker set. It makes a scratchy warpy sound.
A himself presides over 100s of cassettes. His case is touring case is full of delicately rhythmed noises and sounds around 14 of which he simultaneously weaves into his live sets. He has painstakingly prepared each one – his blog may read of “bouncing strings through layers of haze” resampling and looping down, coupling with a voice cue and tickling some envy through a decode before playing it back to you. He is unswervingly technical and very much a geek. His live shows create atmospheres of sound. Did I mention most of his music is free online? The CDs themselves are constructed works of art.
Preslav plays amidst a section of C[assette]Js – bringing together the disparate parts of this international scene: Awesome Tapes From Africa, Tape tronic and more are normal bedroom guys with obscure passions that bring them to the stage.
It does not always set the mainstream alight. Awesome Tapes set a room rocking that was buzzing after M.I.A. in the main hall. A student next to me during Preslav sneered “You call this music!” before running off to join his females more attractive and attentive to his immediate needs than certainly Preslav or I. Those drawn in, however, experienced a treat and movement through shrouds of sounds. Subtle shifts that shake the floor through resonance more than statement and require listening than just being aware that there is music. It was a rich reward for those prepared to sit.
If Adam is an up and coming pro, we were able to watch an accomplished Master in the form of Aki Onda, usually plying his trade in New York. Buzzing a walkmen through a portable amp he spent a while confronting the non-listeners and drawing people in. It is the biggest lesson of art, performance and drama to determine the nature of your location and lend what personality it requires before making a move. In the choas of crowds pouring from M.I.A. he managed to create a space where the attentive could listen and treated them to a montage refined through oriental knowing of energy, of space and quality. These sound experiences do feel physical which is why their texture can fascinate to such a degree and are well worth their time.
A and I move between these musics, watch the adjacent M.I.A. – an unexpected privilege I would not have paid to see. She assaults with barrages of machine gun fire, hip-hop crossover dub step to which I am under exposed and statements on sorority and making her way. It is undeniably urban, beautifully passionate and free. On a stage that refuses to light her up she parades in front of a backdrop of scintillating visuals, lighht sets that obliterate the finer senses required for next door but exhilerate just the same. Its joyful, attidunal, violent kind of peace-making. She is there to make a point and leaves you in no doubt of what it is. She is a mouthpiece for a harsh society drenched in technology, more information than skulls see fit to press on, and she’s hailing through the blizzard: “Do you get it, yet?”
The part of me that didn’t was satisfied to return to Akion, nerves and senses soothed since being frayed. A and I smoked too many cigarettes and I managed to set off an alarm that woke the hotel at 2am. A moment of acoustic rock and roll. Then he went to Berlin, I to a village near Hilversum.