Our writer Etienne McNeill selects his highlights from the Now Hear This festival on Friday 16 October at the Whammy Bar. The Audio Foundation's six-day festival was presented in the Karangahape Road area from 13 - 18 October and is advertised as a 'celebration of glorious noise, sublime sounds, singular songs and ecstatic improvisation'.
Samara Alofa’s set was great - unpredictable jazz piano and meandering soulful vocal accompanied by a spare drum machine; overdrive bass which swallowed all the notes it played and surged with swamp texture; chimes over a sample of birdsong. Her vocal delivery was interesting, a clipped, subtle soulfulness that used different rhythms of phrasing and obscure lyrics. It was a set which encompassed a variety of different approaches, which I appreciated, even if the ideas couldn’t surpass their own intriguing qualities and courage to migrate into something more cohesive.
A set that stood out for me was Riki Gooch and Alistair Fraser; which was a minimalist setup of drums and taonga pūoro woodwind instruments. Both musicians displayed a highly adept and intuitive connection with their respective instruments and used them in unconventional and inventive ways to generate new sounds. Fraser played a variety of different instruments including a conch including shifting from the upper harmonic register of his instrument (playing so quietly that I could hear the spit travelling through the instrument) to broad drones. All accentuated with reverb and layers of reverse woodwind. Gooch’s drumming was exceptional; he made circular motions of the snare and conjured ghost voices from the crash cymbal using a mallet, his rhythms were textural and unpredictable, they flowed, disintegrated, asked and answered. It seemed to be a music of the land, the mystical feeling of its broad mountainscapes, the melancholy ocean, the otherworldly textures of bird dialects.
Grecco Romank delivered a gothic-techno overdrive which brought groups such as DAF and Skinny Puppy to mind. It had a strange S&M pulse, with sneering monotone vocals describing abstract visions of fire and humans ‘persecuted by love’. Its bloodthirsty stomp was certainly impressive, and though the form in which it is created is dance music, they would create unconventionality through strange melodic phrasings and time signature aberrances. The vocals were caustic and sharp, punctuated by measures of eldritch falsetto.
Artists performing on Friday 16 October included - The Pyramids Were Built From the Top Down, Ghost Bells, Aotearoa Snuff Jazz Sextet, Grecco Romank, Riki Gooch / Al Fraser, mHz, Big Fat Raro, Citacsy, Native Bush, Stef Animal / Renée Barrance / Alice Sparrow, Lucky Paul, Samara Alofa, Motte / Chris O’Connor, Guardians.
Further information on the Audio Foundation festival HERE