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photo by Selena Aument
Chemistry Set by George Chen
San Francisco Bay Guardian, June 1 - 7, 2005

COLLISION – the Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival's series of performances by electronic sounds, experimental music, and new media artists at the Lab – is seemingly more about the genre of sound art than the typical weeknight rock show, but don't let that throw off your explorations. In fact, most of this city's noiseniks have backgrounds in many other creative fields, and you've probably crossed paths, which makes the Lab series more like a Craigslist "missed connection" waiting to happen.

Take, for example, Josh Churchill. On his self-released 3-inch CD-R, under the name TR, Churchill lets loose with the sort of guitar noise scree, bristly with electronic blocks, that was a hallmark of old Amps for Christ. Alternately, he goes speedy-fingerpicking crazy like local guitar hero Mick Barr. The disc's 20-minute track then fades into some gurgling hiss before an organ line drifts in and the stereo starts to sound like it's leaking water. It winds its way through a passage of murky melody before ramping back up to the level of noise in an airplane hangar. I first knew of Churchill as a video artist who was often involved with installations at Pond. He also lived at a notorious 16th and Mission party space, but he appears to be bringing his show on the road these days as he tours the West with young noise turks like Oscillating Innards and Tralphaz. He performs with laptop cut-up Mochipet for the first night of the series.

Jim Haynes may be a face you recognize as one of the longtime Aquarius Records staff, but you may not know of his background as a visual artist and critic (notably, as a music columnist for the Bay Guardian and Wire). Coelacanth, his project with Loren Chasse, may also ring a bell if you are tuned in to the Jewelled Antler Collective. Haynes's sound advocacy includes a place on the editorial board of the 23five label. The nonprofit's mission statement, taken from its Web site, breaks things down so: "We define sound works as: artistic endeavors that are primarily concerned with the use of sound, but fall outside of what is normally considered 'music.' This includes but is not limited to: recordings, radio transmissions, performances, installations, sound sculpture, site specific public art, and new media arts."

This dedication to nonmusical sound is evident on his solo CD, Magnetic North (Helen Scarsdale Agency, 2003). His interest in rusting metals applies to the handmade packaging – layers of clear vellum tainted with bright orange rust flake. The disc is the audio component of an installation of the same name, exhibited at Zeitgeist in Nashville, Tenn., in 2003, in which rust and chemicals are applied to photograph surfaces. There are low drones and stuttery hiccups of radio blast – it sounds like a circle closing in on itself rather than an epic drama build.

Another interdisciplinarian closely tied to this circle is (ext.), an ongoing project of Bay Area resident Matt Waldron. Though others course in and out of the live setting, this visual artist and former member of Vacuum Tree Head has been recording, if not releasing, material since 1991. In addition to remixing Nurse with Wound and illustrating covers for them, Waldron has composed scores for Butoh and started a performing and literary group called the Oneiromantic Ambiguity Collective.

Irr. app. (ext.) have only ever played out a handful of times, starting in 2003. The Ozeanische Gefuhle (Helen Scarsdale Agency) record from 2001 sounds like field recordings of rain baked with a low-volume ominous buzz. Cavernous echoes are bounced with flutes, and it's all very pagan and mysterious. Smatterings of percussion and whirlwinds of delay pool about the speakers, and at about 25 minutes in, these screechy sounds swoop and attack. Bells or gongs hum in resonance as their metallic husks clang, leaving plenty of breathing space. "The Demiurge's Presumption" coalesces into a beautiful drone that mimics a harmonium before the sounds of plucked rubber bands drift in. The whole thing hovers closer to the gothic side of atmospheric doom.