Churches of sound

John Barton, Haco, Ourobonic Plague, Barn Owl

Haco, THNMF2013 Opener

Haco, THNMF2013 Opener

Haco, THNMF2013 Opener

The Tura Totally Huge New Music Festival kicked off with a culturally diverse concert that showcased artists from the United States, Japan and Australia. If this range of artistic diversity is Tura’s intention throughout the festival, then I am definitely excited.

The festival opening was hosted at The Bakery, Northbridge, a venue that somehow escapes the razzle and dazzle of the city nightlife, while remaining in its heart. This sentiment is also analogous to the artistic objects on offer on the opening night that never fit into an easily accessible mold, and always challenges the listener open up new directions of listening and thinking.

The show opened with Perth-based Ourobonic Plauge, a latecomer to the lineup after the withdrawal of Speak Percussion, who did exceptionally well at filling a very large void. His electronic set, with some very subtly added vocals, produced a dark sound world that managed to avoid clichés; a great achievement when layering tracks.

Haco, a Japanese singer, songwriter, and sound-artist, performed next with songs from her album “Forever and Ever”. Often more of a poetic experience backed by sound than “songs” in the traditional sense, Haco produces moments of pure vocal beauty that are infected by electronic static that hiss and crackle underneath. Haco’s performance was engaging; with ease of vocal control and an onstage presence that drew the audience into her ebbing and flowing sound world, she maintained an engrossing tension between consonance and dissonance. I found Haco’s music deeply touching, leaving me totally spellbound by its ominous beauty that was simultaneously afflicted by a persistent, yet subtle, anxiety. “Forever and Ever” is an engrossing work, which was performed with wonderful authenticity and character.

The final act of the night was San Francisco electronic duo Barn Owl. As the drones emerged from the Bakery sound system, a hush came over the crowd, as we were ushered into the Barn Owl church of sound. Using the low drone as a point of origin, the duo created a detailed sound world that moved organically through synthetic soundscapes that rumbled and pulsated through the venue. Melodies hovered over the low bass-lines with total ease, and succinctly spaced percussion allowed the music to flow onward, without ever becoming monotonous to the ears. Using the entire spectrum of sound with masterly expertise, Barn Owl took us on a journey through unchartered electronic soundscapes that were a pleasure to listen to. While perhaps not as challenging as Haco’s work, Barn Owl offered a supremely coherent musical experience that often bordered on the sublime.

With a diverse range of acts to follow throughout the festival, from purely electronic works to acoustic adventures, the festival covers a wide array of music. The opening concert displayed this eclectic yet accessible mix with a range of musical artists who challenged expectations of what it means to make music and the associated issues of identity that accompany such explorations. It is through these artists that creativity continues to press on, challenges expectations and stereotypes, and most importantly, makes the world alive.

11 August 2013