The local experimental community’s annual WSK (pronounced as /wasak/) music and arts festival has been steadily going on for quite a few years already but this year’s installment marks the very first time I’ve been to one – the said festival’s closing night last Sunday in particular held at Pineapple Lab (a house located within the vicinity of Rockwell Makati repurposed as an art gallery and performance space) and for two reasons at that.
One was to finally go catch the duo of Alva and Tomi from #100YearsofSadness (with Francis of Beast Jesus on guest guitar) and their own brand of witch house as filtered through a decidedly punk lens (both members as well as Francis come from the local hardcore punk scene, so there’s that). #100YoS warmed the crowd up by playing a few songs with vocals that were warped beyond recognition (most probably via some processor pedal) to achieve some sort of otherworldly effect while still being generally chill enough. My personal favorite that night though was this one song that started with some shoegaze guitar riffs then gradually got itself blanketed by this massive wall of sound while punctuated in certain spots by piercing bursts of electronic beeps and harsh vocals that recall both Alice Glass and Margaret Chardiet. Totally dug #100YoS’ M.O. right there of easing the crowd at first with some slow jams until the noisier side of the duo eventually leaves your average well-dressed bourgeois millennial who doesn’t listen to aggressive music on account of being a spoiled, upper-class brat and all running for the door (which fortunately didn’t happen last Sunday night, thank goodness). I guess it’s also worth mentioning that both Francis and Alva were there when Full of Hell visited the country more than a week ago so the Maryland grindcore band’s occasional foray into power electronics might have actually served as an influence for that more aggressive finale #100YoS pulled off.
The other was to witness a performance from festival guest and experimental musician Bob Ostertag who I admit to not having known much about prior to WSK 2015 until a quick Google search on Ostertag got yours truly quite convinced to go check him out while still in the country as he has collaborated in the past with people like Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton, downtown New York avant-garde pioneers John Zorn and Fred Frith, contemporary string ensemble Kronos Quartet, and most recently, minimal techno artist (and Sandwell District associate) Rrose. Robert Fripp of prog rock legends King Crimson is also a fan of Ostertag’s work… what could be more badass than that?
Ostertag did this really long single droning piece last Sunday night reminiscent of his 2007 video game sound collage release “w00t” and having experienced it in a live setting very much felt like we all were transported inside some video game universe (mine would have to be Mortal Kombat X in this case as a really close friend had very recently turned me on to it) with each one of us in the crowd taking on a character. Also was honestly blown away by the fact that a game controller (not sure though if Playstation) can actually be used as a music-making device, something that absolutely didn’t come across my mind at all before. Can’t wait to see if anyone from the local electronic music scene would eventually start incorporating game controllers as part of their gear.
My least favorite performance from last Sunday night though had to be the one after Ostertag’s where this certain fella dressed in drag was chanting like some sort of shaman, gyrating like crazy and pouring ketchup all over some half-naked woman lying down in a pair of monobloc chairs while smothering him/herself with the stuff as well. So sorry to say this but I absolutely did not get what that performance was trying to achieve (I would’ve actually gotten it somehow if – as I snidingly quipped to some friends that night – the performer in drag suddenly knocked his/her head with the ketchup bottle, thus spilling the red liquid all over him/her (presumably mixed with some of his/her own blood as a result) with some dark ambient background music to make some sort of transgressive theater) – and don’t even get me started with what those two other women wrapped in plastic and mosquito net were doing in there as they didn’t even move an inch. If anything, that performance right there had surely forever ruined UFC Banana Ketchup (yes, that brand very particularly) for me that it might take a very long while before I actually touch it ever again (and not even because it was smothered all over both half-naked woman and shaman in drag, not that at all; those who were there last Sunday night would absolutely know what I’m talking about). 😦
Good thing the final performance last Sunday night called “Water Moon” as done by all-female multimedia collective Heresy was a feast for both eyes and ears more than made up for that previous headscratcher one. Since I forgot to take any photos of “Water Moon” as I felt more than obliged to fully immerse myself in it all throughout, here’s a really basic rundown of how it all went: The entire room was silent at first. A dancer was doing improvisation stuff in front while a contact mic was attached on her right leg that recorded every stomping sound she made. Every recorded stomp was then manipulated by sound artist Teresa Barrozo coupled with a video installation and light show by Joee Mejias (there’s the answer to my internal question beforehand as to what those mirrors placed above them speakers were for). Totally dug how Barrozo transformed the dancer’s stomps into something that I personally found rather akin to all the minimal techno I’ve been listening to for much of the past year (Surgeon, Regis, the previously mentioned Rrose and Sandwell District, Silent Servant, Blawan, and all associated acts as it’s a rather small circle irl). Barrozo’s contribution to the entire “Water Moon” performance actually left a rather lasting impression on me (aside of course from finding myself bobbing my head through the entire thing), most particularly that the country badly needs a minimal techno scene now more than ever as an unrelenting antidote to all the EDM crap that cater only to all those dumb enough to let it pass as “dance music” and be wowed by some good-looking celebrity DJ playing some preselected party tunes with the push of a button. Maybe next year’s installment of WSK can actually consider bringing in some minimal techno to the madness, eh?