Moogfest 2017: A Recap

Photo credits: Caleb Smallwood / Erez Avissar / Eric Waters

This year’s Moogfest was the second in festival’s history to be held in Durham, NC (up from Asheville, NC where it resided until 2014). Our team traveled to North Carolina in order to witness 4 days of astonishingly diverse mix of workshops, talks, installations and performances by the likes of Moor Mother, Michael Stipe, Talib Kweli, 808 State, Noveller, Wolf Eyes and countless others. Petridisch (aka Thor Maillet) gives the following account:

We kicked things off Thursday with scoping out a workshop entitled “Democracy’s Exquisite Corpse” which revolved around a group of players arranged in a circle performing improvisations with other members manipulating their work on the fly. Both of us were fortunate to participate in one of these workshops, which footage of is included below.

talib-kweli-in-conversation

Next on the agenda was taking in the very zen space of the “Journey in Turiya” installation, which minimally consisted of light triangles, three shifting tones eminating from speakers and a harp enclosed in a wooden case located in the center of the room. Moor Mother then graced our ears with her industrialisms, almost power-electronics, and chilling mantras – which she performed over the duration of four hours while light flickered around the space. A conversation with Talib Kweli was enlightening, funny, and blunt — exactly what one may expect.

The following performance he gave at Motorco was nothing short of stunning, running through some old hits and also paying homage to acts of the past; then injecting a strong political monologue mid-set. Rounding out the first night was a very special set by 808 State, which brought yours truly basically right back to 1992, visuals, flittering beats and guitar skronk dancing around the Armory Building.

Friday we decided to at first take it easy and check out the Moog Modular Marketplace and Oracle’s fascinating exhibit on The Sounds of Commerce on the American Tobacco Campus. A highlight of the festival, Michael Stipe gave a talk a bit later on at the Carolina Theater, touching extremely candidly on many issues surrounding the themes of his Moogfest installation piece Jeremy Dance.

nona-hendryxAnother highlight came in the form of Nona Hendryx‘s sci-fi cyber-soul mini-opera The Sounds of Dreaming, in which Christopher Konopka cast a spell on the eyes as Hendryx and her ensemble wielded among many things her own brainwaves and Wiimotes. Haxan Cloak and Nick Zinner performed Friday’s four-hour sound installation, which seamlessly fused distorted feedbacky guitar riffs with dark ambient pulsing electronics.

Zola Jesus graced the main stage that evening with her neo-goth-with-heart, among that style debuting many new songs. At the First Presbyterian Church, our evening concluded with RVNG Intl‘s Visible Cloaks literally cloaked the seated audience in Vocaloid chitter and waves of shifting analog tones.

peaceful-protest-compilation-rvng-intlPicked up a copy of the RVNG Intl. benefit triple cassette set Peaceful Protest. I expected as much a compilation of ambient music but here we have basically an album’s worth of material from each artist (!), and the material runs the gamut from extended tone interplay to, well, playful tones. Interesting in its ability to rather span what is considered ‘ambient’ all in one space, while making a very strong statement not only through its music but through its presentation.

Saturday was undeniably for us and obviously for the rest of the attendees the highlight day of Moogfest. Being able to construct a working light theremin was fun yet a feat unto itself, and despite the children getting it to function seemingly without any difficulty, this writer found it strangely difficult to get it to make a sound (I did though!) The Center for Deep Listening then offered a workshop based on composer Pauline Oliveros‘ pioneering methods.

deep-listening-instituteWalking around a space with eyes closed was strange; laying down and listening to a silent room for 20 minutes pretty much blew the minds of everyone in the room. Pauline definitely had something profound to say in listening to ‘nothing’. The third and final Durational Sound Installation was performed by Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco — and sort of set up the tone for the rest of the evening with Sol Lewitt-style flickering line light displays and pumping rhythms and clusters.

Things were happening, though for the afternoon, at the First Presbyterian Church. Marisa Anderson graced our ears with her dexterous and thoughtful guitar playing and Fahey-esque songwriting, followed by an impressive solo performance by Colleen, incorporating looping technique, electronics, a strange gut-stringed instrument, percussion and voice.

If being graced by the beauty of Anderson and Colleen wasn’t enough, immediately following that was Suzanne Ciani lighting up the Armory with her Buchla sequencer glory in quadraphonic sound, a stunning projection of what she was patching consistently overlaying her setup. In stark contrast but feeling a bit like home, down at Motorco KILL ALTERS ripped the room apart with their synth-infused highly original take on, ahem, ‘noise rock’.

noveller

Noveller drew me in with such beauty and grace with just the means of her and her guitar across the way following at Pinhook. On the way to catch Pharmakon we heard the loopy sounds of Flying Lotus echoing throughout Motorco Park, which certainly made security checks a bit more interesting to go through. Wolf Eyes, closing out the evening, were also a bit like home, taking the small sounds and maxxing them out to their extremes. A hot night. A good night.

Sunday was basically the wind-down day of the festival. Lots of workshops; few performances. Senator Jaiz‘s CREATE workshop was deceptively simple. He demonstrated the very basics of computer multitracking (and the first use of a Korg Kaoscillator I’ve seen outside of a band I play in!) — literally everyone in the workshop was able to build something exciting to create a mammoth minute of music.

Next, we decided to attend the incredibly enlightening workshop on business and personal sustainability that RVNG Intl. put on, which got rather heavy but necessary. The rest of the day was spent ‘discovering Durham’ and wandering. The pairing of Durham and Moogfest is undeniably powerful when doing this sort of wandering and it only makes us anticipate next year’s festival even more. Below are links (sorted by day) of YouTube playlists of performances taken by IHN and by others. Thank you Moogfest

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