Power Electronics Hits Siberia
The scene in Siberia on the 4th felt more like a poetry jam than a concert. The rhythm of the evening was unexpected. Most of the acts collected that evening would fit under the broad category of Power Electronics or the more specific sub-genre of Death Industrial. This music is marked by screeching feedback, improvisation and distorted vocals, but it goes far beyond this simple (and quite frankly horrific sounding) description. With five acts on the bill, one would expect a fairly protracted evening of performances and stage changes. On this night, the performances were short, no one went over fifteen minutes. In many cases, the hauling, arranging and installing of the myriad devices necessary for building these sounds took longer than the performances themselves. Most performers were solo, each clearly inhabiting a persona that was of equal importance to the music. The goal here was not the creation of melody, but the development of an emotional scene through the intersection of persona, sound and audience. There is very little to hold onto within this type of music.It’s not something that you hum later as you’re walking to your car or even necessarily seek out for later listening. It is not a relaxing genre, but in the moment and under the sway of the environment it creates, these sounds work together to produce a profound connection between the raw emotion of the performer and the audience.
Besides Chardiet’s headlining set, Pro Bro Gold and the locally based Proud/Father were the standouts among the opening acts. Pro Bro Gold developed a school of Kraftwerk style sound with an amazing abundance of laser effects. In the small space, the juxtaposition of the two drew a fantastic critical comparison between the excesses of spectacular production and the anguish of individuals. The ability of the glamour to hide pain and distortion was exposed through this interweaving. Local producer Proud/Father (Sebastian Figueroa) turned his cassette drone on the nature of imperial relationship by substituting repetitious projected footage of our wars of empire for the laser effects of the earlier act. The combination of the droning analogue loops and the seemingly endless progress of the footage built to a sense of futility and revealed a critical exasperation with daily drudgeries from both performer and crowd. Again, due to the length of these performances we were just able to catch impressions from the producers. There was no long emotional journey, only the quick flashes of intense impression.
Pharmakon (Margaret Chardiet) didn’t take the stage till a little after one a.m. She began by literally hammering out a series of loops on a sheet of metal attached to contact microphones. From the first strike, she was uncontrollable. Below are my first three notes all taken within the opening five minutes of her twelve minute set.
There is a fundamental tension in Chardiet’s sets between the ferocity of her performance style and her absolute dedication to precision. In a genre that is often improvisational, she takes great care in the construction and manipulation of precision in her sound. This desire for order and explosion of energy through performance work in concert with each other to produce a very intense effect on the audience. Although short, the set was masterful and after a long evening of impressionistic performances, it left an indelible mark on those present.