Electric Eclectics Festival, August 2-4, Meaford, Ontario
1. The countryside
Every year come August long weekend, smog-struck Torontonians flock to the Electric Eclectics Festival, a three-day showcase of experimental music and sound art (co-produced by Gordon Monohan, Laura Kikauka, and Chris Worden)* that takes place outdoors on a lovely farm in Meaford, Ontario. Rolling wheat fields, fresh country air, and picturesque sunsets play host to a vast spectrum of live music. And then in the wee hours, most head into the forest’s dance tent for a night of spirited syncopation, while others get caught up in the field where Cinecycle‘s Martin Heath is projecting Scopitone talkies onto the side of an idle semi-trailer. Ultimately, we all gaze upon the Milky Way’s glowing band as sleepwalking guides us back to our tents.
2. Mas Aya + Petra Glynt = Pachamama
Saturday’s magic hour was spent with Mas Aya (a.k.a. Brandon Valdivia), Petra Glynt (a.k.a. Alexandra Mackenzie), and their collaborative performance as Pachamama. Mas Aya’s flute loops and big rhythms swirled at the pace of a setting sun; Valdivia’s placid melodies are backed by great percussive pulse—primarily the patterns of electronic drum pads and occasionally the pummelling march of his snare drum. His flute-playing brought to mind Kraftwerk’s early jams (before they went all-electronic), but with a spirit more in line with Mother Nature’s efficiency than that of a power station. Pachamama was the intersection of Valdivia and Mackenzie’s venn diagram; their strength lies in the union of their duelling drums and dub-riddim aesthetic. Once Petra Glynt took the stage, her backdrop was a clear night sky. Her blend of looped vocal resonance, powerful grooves, and lo-fidelity samples (I think I heard a kalimba) whipped the crowd into a wave. Mackenzie’s powerful, vibrato vocals swayed urgently as pitch-shifting melodies yielded a rambunctious trance.
3. The Gories
The Detroit garage-rock pioneers’ cool tunes served as a comfort-food finale to Saturday’s eccentric lineup. Their boxy tom-tom beats and traditional chord progressions are bolstered by the wonderful use of blues influences, which are ever-present when Mick Collins decides to exercise his lush, soulful voice. They delivered a handful of covers—from John Lee Hooker to Jonathan Richman—that reinforced the crowd’s nostalgic awe. For me, the absolute highlight was their unrestrained performance of “Give Me Love“—their guitars and vocals blown out of proportion and blaring with no morrow in sight. Bonus: These crowd pleasers sure know how to make a Canadian feel special, by weaving Mr. Dressup, Degrassi, and Channel 9 Windsor references into their banter.
4. The costumes
In true festival fashion, everyone extended their open minds to experimental wardrobe. Man Made Hill sported a legal wig-and-globe bonnet, DJ Iris Fraser-Gudrunas lit up the dance tent with her sparkle shimmering graduation cap, and Tranz DeFonce*
(pictured above) tied burlap sacks over their genitals and draped themselves in pantyhose bosoms and watermelon dresses. Among the crowd, I witnessed foxes with afros, glitter masks, sports-day ribbon gowns, enigmatic mascots, Hulk Hogans and Macho Man Randy Savages.
5. Music for Lamps
As they sat across from one another, diligently synthesizing sounds on their Macbooks, the Montreal trio transformed an outdoor stage into something resembling a haunted home office. They borrowed a few dozen household lamps from Kikauka, and outfitted each with surface transducer speakers—making for lamps that flicker through both sight and sound. Coupled with immersive theatrics, their musical simplicity and use of the softer, more delicate qualities of electroacoustic noise music made them a standout highlight of the festival. It sounded to me like ringing telephones, piano samples, and an underbelly of crackling electronic hum and drone—and I loved it.—Moshe Rozenberg
CORRECTION, AUGUST 6, 2013: The original version of this article misidentified Tranz DeFonce as another band, Cuddles, and also neglected to mention all three organizers of the festival. The errors have been corrected.