AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Suso Sáiz and Bitchin Bajas- Live at the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago, May 6th, 2023

I saw (dark) ambient guitarist / electronic artist Suso Sáiz at the Rockefeller Chapel (on the campus of the University of Chicago) yesterday and my mind was completely blown!  He did about an hour set of intense floating dark ambiance with much variation, mood changes, and a huge range of dynamics.  It was hands down, one of the best “floaters” I’ve ever heard.

I was barely familiar with Sáiz.  All I have is something like a 35-year-old album he did with Jorge Reyes (a Mexican ambient/ritual artist) and Steve Roach that is buried somewhere in my digital library that I’m gonna have to now digitally dust off.  I knew I wanted to see this show because I felt it would be a very rare chance to see someone that otherwise would never show up in a live context in Chicago (He’s from Madrid).  The sounds and dark/earthy atmospheres he drew down were intense as all hell!

What I didn’t expect, and what made this show one of the best live music/multimedia experiences I have ever witnessed were the visuals.  From what I could gather, the organization (Floating, part of their “Reflection” series which includes Steve Roach and Suzanne Ciani) who presented this extravaganza is West Coast based and they are only doing two shows, one here (last night), and one in NYC.)

(Note, I’m not sure if the NYC show includes Sáiz but, per their website, it does include the evening’s opener, The Bitchin Bajas who performed a superb 40-minute set of TD-inspired Berlin electronics.)

Both were employing some sort of tech that I have never, in my life seen or even knew existed.  Now that I know about it…I’m praying to every deity I can think of to see more artists start using it.  If you are familiar with the Rockefeller Chapel, you should know that it’s a massive structure and, while certainly not garishly ornate like some Greek or Russian Orthodox churches, this place is a marvel to look at, both inside and out.  This is key for what comes next.

So, what they did was somehow create a digital twin (of sorts…I’m really not sure) of the inside front of the church (where the organ, pulpit, etc. are) and mapped this projected image to overlay the real structure.  This included the ornate stained glass in its wondrous details, carved stone pillars, domed ceiling, and all its details and all that other churchy stuff.  Manipulating this “twin” against the real thing created all sorts of textures and weird juxtapositions.  The show started once the sun went down to get the maximum contrast of light against dark.  What did this amount to (you might be wondering)?  This is the point where I’ll enter the abstract / opaque / unspeakable / unknowable realm.

…at different times the front of the church manifested itself into…

…a pale, plasticized, synthetic quality…

…a moist, viscous subterranean cavern/crypt-like space lit by some unknown light source…

…a brightly lit arch in the center with tongues of flame emanating/dancing from its outer edges and sparkling, crystalized geometric patterns from the complex designs of the stained glass within.

(At this point…my mind was befuddled and completely untethered from any resemblance of an earthly material sphere.)

…above this arch, a spinning wheel of flames (keep in mind, all this was in motion, constantly moving / shifting / mutating) with bejeweled lights glimmering, glittering, and shimmering in the center… …spirals fabricated from dot-like points of light whirling and building a funnel of dark matter in its center whose event horizon sure as fuck looked compelling to investigate but woe betide any person, place or thing that actually tried as they/it would SURELY be fractalized into their component molecular structure on a Planck like scale…

There were more, a lot more “experiences” that are hiding somewhere in my sub-conscience right now that may need (cough cough wink) …a little coaxing to come out but, for the love of Mithras…if you ever get the chance to check something like this out, run, don’t walk…RUN to grab tickets.

Some may have read my positive rantings about the Stephen O’Malley diffusion (This Is How You Will Disappear) at Big Ears and how utterly amazing that was…well, this was it’s equal!  I hope that this organization brings more artists to Chicago that are part of their “Reflections” series.  They bill it as a “collective offering of sound, light and architecture” and that, it truly was!

(Thanks to Larry Blatecky and Scott Van Ham for the great snaps.  Apparently, I was having my astral body ascension at the time, and I couldn’t be arsed.)

Mike Eisenberg
Twitter: @bigaudio999