Electronic music showcase fills up Stormy’s
“About half an hour into his set Helmut Gloss triggered a drum machine and synthesizer track that packed the limits of the universe into a new paradigm of sound. Earlier, gentler grooves had provided a pleasant background ambience for conversation, but this one escalated the vibe to a rhythm wonderland.” So say the hastily scribbled notes within which I tried to snare the spirit of last Friday’s event.
Gloss, an electronic-music composer and performer, was showcasing material from his just-released self-produced CD, The Changeling, and the party vibe at Stormy’s was definitely that of a nightclub full of friends gathered together to celebrate a worthy accomplishment by one of their own.
Starting off the night’s sonic entertainment, another local (by way of Sweden) electronics wizard, Holger Honda, filled the small club with synthesized rhythms, electronic pulsations and exotic vocal samples that, as the best electronica does, could either be absolutely captivating if listened to carefully or could slip unobtrusively between the lines of conversation, augmenting interpersonal communication with a stealthy neon soundtrack. It was a groovy 21st-century scene, in other words.
Keeping things interesting on the visual side was a display of the CD cover art, a multi-media piece by artist Grady Manion depicting a keyboard-wielding metamorph in the doorway of a gypsy wagon emblazoned with the words “Transmogrified” and “Alive!” Over the wagon floats an ornate key and a stylized celestial object, the whole tableau framed by drawn-back crimson-velvet curtains. The blend of macabre imagery with elements of post-psychedelic humor in the cover art is a keen evocation of the music within.
Gloss, who formerly played with the now defunct Bone Gruel, is a master of creating grooves that reveal glimmers of dark humor within even the most funereal currents of flowing gothic synth lines.
Using dialogue samples as diverse as phone messages from irate club owners and B movies such as Logan’s Run, Gloss builds his tracks on simple drum machine patterns overlaid with repeated keyboard motifs and oceanic synthesizer bass riffs. As the basic patterns are established, new patterns are interlaced and interlocked, so each composition gathers in intricacy as it progresses. A particularly fine example is “The Carousel,” which uses a repeated vocal sample as the core of a track that metamorphoses from a gentle, almost soothing invitation into a disorienting whirlwind of interlocked keyboard patterns and intersecting buzzing synthesizers, the whole composition eventually fusing into one interwoven ocean of tones.
To some, watching a performance of electronic music lacks the excitement of seeing a group of musicians interacting on stage, but after watching the ascetically thin and intense Holger Honda at work over the dials and knobs of his synthesizer, and then seeing the more robust, equally intense Helmut Gloss manipulating his bank of keyboards, sequencers and signal processors, I’ve gotta tell ya: It might be weird, but it definitely rocks.