Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Utech Records Music Festival - A Retrospective (Part I)

The Cactus Club
June 11th has come and gone and, I have to say, URMF has proven to be one of my most memorable concert experiences yet. Not only did I get to finally meet old friends and establish new friendships, but I also learned a lot about my job as "the press guy"; who knew taking clear photos and steady video would be this difficult? As the first festival of which I had to cover, I needed to make sure that I covered every nuance and base that I could, which resulted in hours of film and an entirely filled camera. The fest took place in the quaint and quite established (posters on the wall boasted past concerts from the likes of The White Stripes, The Promise Ring, and more) Cactus Club, whose intimate atmosphere more than suited the more experimental and "heady" music found throughout the festival.

View the full post for pictures, video, and live reviews for each band.


ITHI is Luke Krnkr and Joshua Convey
Celebrating the release of their debut album, URMF began with New York experimental electronica duo ITHI, whose set revealed many aspects to their music that I had initially missed or misheard on their "Persistence of Meaning." As the video I took shows, ITHI's dark, almost gothic-tinged live sound suddenly became so apparent on their album, buried beneath layers of contemplative ambiance and noise. Featuring both Luke and Joshua's droning, haunting vocals over inhuman keyboards that slowly but surely descended into shimmering, abstract sound, ITHI's set might have been short, but it turned out to be one of the most powerful sets of the entire festival. Kudos to you, Luke and Joshua.


RM74, the project of one Reto Mader, turned out to be a less noisy, more "pretty" ambient set featuring wonderful, creative instrumentation and textures. In the first live excerpt Reto is using a keyboard through various effects, excerpt two is a bass guitar with a music box hovering over the pickups. Not shown in the videos is my favorite instrument used in the set: a microphoned kalimba, or thumb harp. Stunning, stunning music. I was fortunate enough to see RM74 perform again on the 13th, where he played a much longer and just as beautiful set.


Ural Umbo
Making their first ever live appearance was international duo Ural Umbo. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from this project. I'd seen the cover art floating around the internet and am familiar with their drummer, Steven Hess (Pan-American, Haptic, Locrian, et cetera), but for some odd reason I just never listened to it. This set proved that maybe I should just go against my instinct, however abstract it may be. Reto Mader's wonderful, shimmering textures worked perfectly in conjunction with Hess's seasoned feel towards the more experimental side of percussion; bowing and electronically treating his drums as often as he would lay down a rather tasty groove like what appears in the second video. The fact that they had their first ever rehearsal earlier that day (less than a half hour, as well) shows just how well these two work together. I'm definitely going to have to pick up this LP as soon as I can.


William Fowler Collins
William Fowler Collins, whose collaboration with GOG was released for the fest, performed a set based in slight timbre evolution. Using only a guitar and a paintbrush, Collins built walls of searing, dry sound that would change ever so slightly over the course of his 20 minute set. Sitting stoically throughout his performance, face unchanging, Collins himself was a totem through which sound escaped. An interesting and rather moving set for William Fowler Collins, and definitely a deciding point towards checking out his back catalog.


GOG feat. Steven Hess
Mike Bjella's GOG, the second half of the aforementioned collaboration, performed with Steven Hess, whose name will appear multiple times throughout this recap, in complete darkness. GOG's dreaming, amplifier worship drone, complete with Hess's abstract drum work filled the room with sound and, without any visuals to distract from the walls of guitar which he was building, the darkness gave way to layer upon layer of effects-laden guitars. Bjella's GOG is definitely an interesting live set and, with only Sunn O))) as a personal live reference, I found GOG's textures to be much more interesting than the refrigerator sounds of most live drone acts.

On to Part 2!


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