My parents taught me that there are always two sides to a story. I was in need of this reminder today.
The MRT maniac killing sucked.
The rain sucked.
However, the other side was picking up my sadness and attending KRG36 “Hang the Dictator” at the Wall. It is a noise/experimental music event that was organized by the indefatigable Kandala Records — “an improvisation/noise/avant-garde net label from Taiwan”.
The Wall sound system rocked.
Lai Shi-Chao started with a guitar riff and through his system of pedals, quickly morphed that riff into escalating layers of noise. The noise was harsh but Shi-Chao artfully danced with EQ to create shifting soundscapes. With the projected video footage of the recent police brutality, there was an emotional core that was attached to his set. I saw Shi-Chao perform just before the Sunflower movement (without video) and this performance was after the movement. Somehow the noise fitted the emotions and moods during the nervous days of the Sunflower movement. This is brought home in completeness as Shi-Chao wound down his set – he descended back to a riff, which at its heart was a simple heart-felt tune. Vocal samples of the protesters shouting at the police were looping – “Fuck you! Fuck you!”
Next up, Sovietronic is the noise project of one of the main guys behind Kandala Records. He started his set with a blast of harsh noise (that literally knocked me off my feet as I was standing up). He would oscillate between rolling deep rumbles and piercing highs. These oscillations recreated the old grunge dynamics – loud and soft. There was always a new noise or textured cued up for Sovietronic to transition to. Then he would take that sound and stressed it out further and further – push it louder, fuzz it up, apply EQ filters, more feedback, etc. It was a masterful display of how to stress a sound to its limits.
The final act was Scattered Purgatory, an instrumental trio who manufactures epic soundscapes. They were selling their recording in cassette tape format. It is such a “noise” thing to do as folks in the noise scene collect cassette tapes. However, their performance is a different kind of noise. Like noise, there was judicious use of feedback. However, unlike noise, the feedback used was still musical in building up soundscapes and texture. Unlike noise, the tempo was extremely slow and repetitive. However, like noise, that slow tempo challenged the attention span of the audience. After experiencing their set, I have to say:
Finally, I have to give major props to The Wall’s PA team tonight. They allowed the artists to really push the limits of the sound system. For noise and ambient soundscapes, the full effect is felt when the sound system is allowed to wrap and surround the audience. This might mean stressing the sound system and stressing the perceived limits of “polite listening levels” of the audience. When a PA team is timid, they might push back on the bass or on the treble – reducing the sound to what is on stage. It would then feel like we are watching a 2D movie. When the PA team looses up, the sound engulfs the audience and gives a 3D experience in sound.
We were extremely lucky have to a supportive PA team tonight for tonight’s performances. The bass and sub-bass were rumbled into my heart. The artists were able to push the full audio range for the noise set, using presence to get in the face of the audience or to create a detached feel. Major kudos to The Wall.
There is good and evil in this world. We can choose to accentuate the positive. Well done and thanks to Kandala Records, the performers and the Wall.
More photos by 陳藝堂 Etang Chen