Volume 91, Issue 95

Friday, March 27, 1998



More than just noise experimentation

By Sara Falconer
Gazette Staff

This weekend Londoners will have the opportunity to go where few have gone before. The No Music Festival is Canada's first "noise" festival, although it will also include different types of experimental sound. London's own Nihilist Spasm Band and Forest City Gallery are jointly hosting the two-night event as part of the gallery's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Methods of creating "noise" range from merely challenging to extremely radical. Artists are intentionally bizarre, disruptive and chaotic. While some have extensive training, most have absolutely none. The resulting sound is, to the uninitiated, a seemingly formless cacophony. Many are proud to call this blend of atonal expression and performance art "irritainment."

The Nihilist Spasm Band became pioneers of noise experimentation quite unintentionally, when they formed more than three decades ago.

"When we started out we were doing the best we could, but none of us had any formal training. We just decided it looked like fun to have a band," explains Art Pratten. "So we went out and bought some kazoos. As we discovered how much fun it really was, we built more and more complicated instruments. It just evolved from there."

The band has been content to just exist, but in recent years it has been receiving worldwide critical praise and popularity. "I think noise and related improvisational anti-music forms have slowly established themselves and now as they are recognized as a more legitimate format, some artists have been thinking about how it came to be-antecedents of the movement," says Ben Portis, organizer of the No Music Festival. "We want to provide a forum for all kinds of experimental music."

The festival will begin tonight at the Forest City Gallery's Aeolian Hall with the Canadian debut of Chicago-based trio Hal Rammell, John Corbett and Terri Kapsalis. The band combines Kapsalis' surreal poetry recitation and violin with spontaneous instrumentation.

Corbett plays guitar, while Rammell, a polymath artist, uses inventions like the single-string snath and the triolin, in addition to a musical saw.

Rammell attempts to define the complicated sound comprising his band's performance. "We don't do songs at all," he explains. "Our sound is based on the interaction of the three instruments at that exact moment. It is free flow music." Rammell is very specific about his role as an artist. "I am an improviser, a musical improviser (as opposed to a musician)."

The main event tonight will be Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore in a premiere solo appearance. Moore is still very active in Sonic Youth, but has been working with various artists in free jazz and improvised music. Not only will he perform a new composed piece, but he intends to join Jojo Hiroshige in "a caterwauling, no-holds-barred improvisation."

Tomorrow's program will opened with Hiroshige, known as the "King of Noise" in Japan, where noise is a very popular musical subculture. Jojo Hiroshige played at the Forest City Gallery last summer at a number of invitation-only events, but this will be his first public appearance in Canada. He will be performing both solo and duet with Hijokaidan's vocalist Junko.

All participating artists, including Moore, will likely be involved in the show on both tonight and tomorrow. Each evening will be concluded by InterPlay, an all-festival-artists jam session.

"Hip and in demand people like Thurston Moore, who gets many offers, want to be involved in this," Portis says. "Having a more mainstream celebrity's name associated with the festival is good for publicity."

There is hope that the No Music Festival will reward the Nihilist Spasm Band's persistence in such an innovative genre and increase Canadian acceptance of noise and experimental art.

"Somebody once said that we were a bad joke carried too far, but that was about 33 years ago," Pratten laughs.

Both shows are almost sold out, but tickets can still be purchased at the Forest City Gallery or HMV in Galleria London.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998