Words and photo: Jesse Locke
As Friday night traffic rushed by on Spadina, a crowd ranging from veteran showgoers to hyperactive children gathered inside the basement gallery. Buzzing with anticipation and filled with grilled cheese from a festival food sponsor, the audience formed a seated circle around the performers, closed their eyes and sailed off into uncharted territory. I knew I was in for something special, but the innovation on display was truly next level.
Up first was Tristan Perich, the New York-based electronic composer pushing minimalism to new heights. I had seen him perform the ecstatic microchip manipulations of his “1-Chip Symphony” at the previous year’s MUTEK and was no less impressed. On this night, his setup had expanded to include a synthesizer, yet the unadorned tones still pulsed into unpredictable shapes as their human calculator made music out of math.
Lesley Flanigan appeared next in an unscheduled performance, melding a physical presence into her self-made machines like some kind of ramshackle cyborg. Setting up on the floor with three speakers encased in wooden boxes, contact mics and a row of loop pedals, she coaxed sharp metallic squeals, warm hums of feedback and wordless vocal drones into an abstract array. Watching her build up these subtle sounds in a continuous flow of movement was a performance in itself, and completely transfixing.
On top of their soothing electronic sonics, the L.A. duo of Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara (a.k.a. Lucky Dragons) have been known to blow minds with interactive projects such as “Make A Baby.” For the Images Festival, they showcased an equally boggling sound / art synthesis involving the circular shifting of striped sheets of plastic as light rays determined the shimmering sounds. I’m the wrong person to explain how this worked, but it sounded like heaven’s gates opening into a new pastel future.