February at Lampo Reviewed

Chicago‘s Lampo is rapidly becoming a model of how to bring modern avant-garde to a dedicated audience. Our friend and contributor Mike Eisenberg reviews three recent Lampo shows.

In February I saw three really excellent sound artist shows (can call them electro-acoustic, but I’ve been using that term alot lately so wanted to call them something else this time) here in Chicago. The performing space/program presenters is called Lampo, and all shows are at the Lampo space in the heart of town. Basically a fairly large loft space with lots of exposed brick and ceiling (you can see the network of heating ducts etc.) with a large skylight that sometimes adds the only natural light (moonlight) ambience into the room below. There is also one very large white wall which is used as a projection screen for those artists that have a visual component to their shows.

The seating configuration of the room is almost always different, depending on the performers specification of how he/she wants the audience to experience the music. The four speaker surround system is very state of the art, and the sound of the room itself if fantastic.

This was the Lampo winter series, and it consisted of artists that are, or were at some point associated with the LAFMS (Los Angeles Free Music Society), a loose collective of musicians formed in 1973, with a shared interest in Cage, Partch, Zappa, Beefheart, Bailey and Ra (Sun).

Rick Potts (b. 1957, San Gabriel, Calif.): My impressions: Wonderful wonderful show!! A comment I heard as I was leaving was…”if you weren’t stoned coming into this show…u certainly were coming out”. The music was, in a word, colorful, like a Disney cartoon. Nothing dark and ominous here, all the sampled sounds were happy, bright, cheerful and…clown-like. Starting with some live playing of a VERY musical saw sampled and looped into oblivion, the sounds came at us/around us/though us (thanks to that great sound system) at a super rapid rate. About half way though he whips out the hinged-neck guitar (something I’ve certainly never seen before) for some very well placed axe skronk…fantastic! It was a short show, only about 50 minutes for both pieces, but a memorable one.

Ulrich Krieger (b. 1962, Freiburg, Germany): My impressions: HOLY SHIT!!! This was one loud, powerful sound experience. The lady who designed the sound system at Lampo was specifically invited to attend this show to see what her handywork was capable of. Plenty!!!

Talk about feeling the music. There was copious amounts of subsonic lows happening during this long, about 75-80 minute set. At points, my stomach felt like it was being torn apart and my jaw was about to unhinge from….well, whatever it’s hinged to. Everything was done live, with one sax, and some sound enhancing delay/looping boxes. Krieger was mixing everything live, as he was playing it. The music went from low, almost silent, breathy waves morphing into something more dark and sinister…high pitched squeals, and low, and I mean LOW foghorn like blasts. Frankly, I dont know how the windows sustained the onslaught of sound that was being created.

The last 20 minutes or so was pure heaven. Subsonic war crys from the sax, sampled and sequenced back at every changing intervals and layered with some more live playing, also in the subsonic range. Bone-fucking-rattling and a total tour de force!

John Duncan (b. 1953, Wichita, Kan.): My impressions: Another great show, but would have to say was my least favorite. “The Hidden” is a short, maybe 30 minute piece that definitely explored the darker recesses of the human soul. It reminded me of times of Bernard Parmegiani‘s “L’enfer” (a sonic exploration of hell) but never really reached the disturbing perfection of that work.

Duncan did the live mixing, and again, the great sound system of Lampo was put though it’s paces. Ear plugs were offered, but not needed, although it was quite loud in spots. The piece started off with about 10 minutes of white-ish noise, and as that section progressed, you can actually pick out the seperate layers of sound. It ended abruptly with some very otherworldy speaking describing the environments of the “Hidden” but, never really describing what was “Hidden”. That was up to us, the audience…as it should be. The speaking was quite creepy btw…and mixed in a very novel and interesting way using the four speaker set up at the venue. Treated voices were coming at us from every direction, and constantly moving around us. While these voices were “talking to us”…there was also some processed sounds going on…something that I would equate more to the INA-Grm folks like Bayle…high pitched chiming, treated bells, etc.

Well…that was the Winter season at Lampo. If you have read this far…you are a total trooper!!! If any of this sparks anybodys interest, feel free to respond..and by all means, check out these three artists work.

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John Duncan at Lampo

From Chicago’s Lampo:

FEB 21 9pm

John Duncan returns to Chicago for his first visit in over five years, presenting a new 4-channel work, “The Hidden.” Digital audio debris, generated noise, field recordings and shortwave radio static. Cinema for the blind, where the sighted are the challenged.
John Duncan (b. 1953, Wichita, Kan.) is widely recognized for his performance events, music and installations, often exploring audience response to sensory deprivation and stimuli. His work has been presented at MOCA in Los Angeles, PS1 in New York, MAK in Vienna, MACBA in Barcelona and MOT in Tokyo.

His formative artistic years were spent in and around Los Angeles. As a teenager Duncan left Wichita and his strict Calvinist upbringing for CalArts, where he studied for 18 months before moving to Hollywood and then Pasadena. Throughout the 1970s he presented his first controversial performance events, recorded early audio experiments with shortwave radio, hung out with friends Paul McCarthy (with whom he co-produced Close Radio) and Tom Recchion (John says, “Tom introduced me to an entire spectrum of sound, patiently playing one record after another…”) and was an unofficial L.A.F.M.S. associate. He spent most of the 1980s in Tokyo collaborating with Japanese noise artists, and the 1990s in Amsterdam, before moving to Italy. He now lives and works in Bologna.

Of special note, his 1996 project “The Crackling,” composed with Max Springer from field recordings made at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California is considered a landmark in experimental sound. “Nav,” his audio project with Francisco López, received a 1999 Prix Ars Electronica award for digital music. More recent work includes collaborations with zeitkratzer, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Asmus Tietchens, Valerio Tricoli, and Pan Sonic members Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen.
John Duncan first appeared at Lampo in April 2000, when he performed the U.S. premiere of “Palace of Mind.” In October 2003 he presented “Infrasound-Tidal,” made with sounds derived from seismic data and tidal readings collected on the Australian coast.

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