This morning was off to a good start with a serene listening session at Christian’s which included his newly-acquired copy of Aussie grindcore legends’ Captain Cleanoff’s “Symphonies of Slackness” (recommended by yours truly; never say I’m not a great cultural ambassador!) After explaining how you write grindcore (“there’s a blast, a d-beat and a breakdown, and you just kind of shove them together”) we headed off, and I was directed to a little bookshop near the centre of town. Cappelens Forslag, according to its owner, is “like walking into a Swedish home”. This meant books in Norwegian and English side by side, some interesting approaches to the alphabet, and black coffee as the singular menu item. I left with my second SOFA Records LP for the trip, a copy of Search For The Dice Man, and my head full of a conversation about free will and changing drunk guys’ lives with esoteric literature.
After becoming a little snowblind and losing my path, I made my way onto a tram and onwards to the Norwegian Music Academy, where I had my first experience playing with a viola player (Tuve). It was pretty exciting contrast to what my ear is used to hearing from a violin (played by Hans Kjorstad), and I probably spent too long nerding out about it. We played some musical games, including my personal favourite “compliment and contrast”, which involves constantly supporting or opposing what other players are doing. After recording some tunes and figuring out the night’s plans, it was time for the show.
Tonight’s performance took place in NyMusikk, a New Music organisation based in Oslo but with branches in several other regions. AllEars made sure everyone was stuffed with curry and bread before the show began, although my personal partaking may have been a mistake. At this point I’d been awake for about 15 hours, and the comfort food meant my brain was ready for sleep. Nonetheless, I pressed on, and managed to only embarrassingly nod off and snore one time.
Jöelle Léandre started off the night with a set of demonic conversations between her voice and her contrabass. It was like watching someone negotiate for a front-row seat in the Sixth Circle with the only other person intent on sitting closer to the infernal flames. Next up was WEDOMAGIC’s set, which involved a clarinetist, bassoonist/flutist and contrabass player being live-mixed by a fourth player. Their set was like a deconstructed musical: foley, sampled conversations, and waterside noises were mixed in with looped key clicks, string screeches and flute spits. Unfortunately this was the set where my body gave up; the music was too immersive and I was too susceptible to becoming immersed. Sorry!
Before the final act, there was a panel on sustainability in a musical and political context. Short and brief, some of the night’s performers and festival organiser Guro discussed their perspectives on the ethics of sustainable musical practices and beyond.
Finally, BNSU ensured I had enough energy to make my way home, with an improvised splattercore set which was half Agoraphobic Nosebleed and half something from the Bloody Fist archive. Nice.
With 22 hours of wakefulness, I finally dragged myself home and into bed for my final night in this apartment.
Today was a day for running around. I left the apartment of my gracious host at 10am, dragging my tiny-wheeled luggage through snowy paths beyond its design. Having overcome several physical and mental barriers, and one Sisyphean hill climb later, I arrived at Ila Fysikalske for the workshop with Wave Behaviour. The French duo took us on a living autopsy tour of a 16mm film camera, from the bulb to the lens. We were then invited to take turns making our own films: using only the light from the camera and a series of props (magnifying lenses, perforated screens, zebra-stripe duct-taped lampshades) we were each given the opportunity to explore how light travels through a camera and what happens when you disrupt this path. This may have been one of the most generous workshop experiences I’d ever had.
Following the workshop, I dragged my belongings through some more beautiful, viscous slush and arrived at my hotel. Being the clever, seasoned traveller that I am, I decided the best use of my time between arrival and heading to tonight’s event was to watch the new Jim Carrey documentary and give myself a full-blown existential crisis. Why am I here? What is the mask I wear for my art and what is real? When I quit making albums, will I have to grow a beard? Simply awful.
Eventually I left the hotel and made my way to tonight’s event at National Jazzscene Victoria. It’s a spacious hall, with two balconies, comfortable back seats and a performance/dance floor that was partially occupied by additional audience seating. It’s a $9 fancy cola kind of place, but the vibe was right.
Andrea Parkins’s set was a quadraphonic experience of looped bells, rattling items and accordion. Originally an installation, she adapted it to a live performance especially for allEars. Maybe it was the accordion, but Pauline Oliveros instantly came to mind as I felt myself constantly attending to different speakers and trying to figure out the individual voices of the piece.
Jöelle Léandre and Kazehito Seki played for the second time this festival, this time as a collaborative duo. Squelching, guttural inhales and murmuring were the main vehicles for the performance, and rather than one winding piece they relied on producing a series of moments. At one point Jöelle exclaimed “I don’t know what I’m doing”, which seemed to fit the mood just fine.
Next up was a double duo featuring Malaysia-based Yong Yandsen and Siew-Wai Koko and Norwegian natives Mofjell and Sandtorv. It was basically an alien invasion being greeted by a very upsetting saxophone and drum orchestra, along with some traditional tuned cymbal for a truly interplanetary experience.
Arma Agharta’s set was an amazing combination of broken toys, Casio drum sounds, DJ gear and plastic fruit. I’m not really sure I can explain it much further. It was... a lot.
Finally, The End carried us out in a heavy duty set of metal riffage and duelling baritone saxophones. You could tell there were some prepared bits in there, but the overall feel was as jittery as it was furious.
A sick and fitting continuation to the opening night, topped off by me falling asleep while watching The Fifth Element for the millionth time.