Olympia’s sonic-art enthusiasts prepare to host another round of experimental sound performances at the 23rd Annual Olympia Experimental Music Festival June 23 to 25. The Festival calls upon 24 diverse experimental music projects to grace Olympia’s downtown for a full weekend of unpredictable audio-visual adventure.
“It’s about allowing for whatever and releasing convention,” said Ashley Shomo, festival organizer and experimental musician. “We reach in, we reach out. It’s like one experiment at a time and there’s no real way to explain it. So, let’s see what happens when we gather in the same place and share.”
This year’s lineup is fully Pacific Northwest, with 12 of the featured performances coming from Olympia artists, such as Rachel Carns, Derek Johnson Love, Kevin Doria and China Faith Star.
“This seems like a nice year to keep it close to home,” said Shomo. “There is a vibrant community of unbound, passionate musicians and artists among these trees, these mountains and this rain. It feels good to notice this.”
Of course, despite the common geography, Festival artists bring a wide-array of instruments, techniques and moods to the table and there is simply no way to predict what will happen. And, that’s part of the magic.
“When we are in the zone, we will often find ourselves picking up a new instrument and magically landing on the same note as another,” said Kyle Stant, one of three Portland musicians opening the Festival Friday night at Obsidian. Stant, Jerry Soga and David Morgan comprise the group Xapchyk, named after a rattle made of a bull’s scrotum and lamb knuckles…
“In the zone, the sounds of a passing car are likely to be incorporated, and all such other ambient sounds entering our ears,” said Stant. “We often blend sounds, creating new timbres among each other. We like to stay nestled deep in the line between noise and music, but this potent zone is the primordial origin of all music, so typically we will blast into random songs and melodies from who knows where, before reigning it back in.”
Also from Portland, Noa Ver brings her home-built electronic oscillators to the Saturday Evening block of the Festival. Her project’s name is Mulva Myasis.
“Playing with the oscillators is a listening and reacting game,” said Noa. “They are unstable and are always doing things that surprise me, which is a part reason I love them so much! They are surprisingly dynamic and produce a wide range of sounds, despite their simplicity.”
Still growing from the ground up, the festival has always been a labor of love for a handful of volunteers and countless artists who believe that Olympia, and the greater Pacific Northwest, is fertile ground for creative meandering and connection. Festival organizers believe that people making music that challenges the listener and redefines society’s perceptions of art can be a powerful catalyst, making fertile ground for sewing the seeds of cultural change.
“When this festival began in 1995, we had just two nights in one tiny room,” said Festival Flounder L. Jim McAdams. “But, it was magical because everybody there wanted it to happen and wanted to watch and listen to it happening. Each act was completely different from the one before and the musicians all sat and watched every note the other acts played.” McAdams prefers the name “flounder” to “founder” because, “my role has always been to flop about and accept the currents that the Festival chose for itself. The event started itself, and I was just a willing conduit with an email account and a staplegun.”
Now, the festival has grown into five blocks of performances spanning a variety of venues: Obsidian, Le Voyeur and the Brotherhood Lounge. In addition, there is a free all-ages outdoor matinee show at the Olympia Artesian Well Commons on Sunday. It’s a chance for people of all ages to check out the festival for free in the literal and spiritual heart of downtown Olympia.
This year’s Festival also adds some visuals to the adventure with a 360-degree video display by Olympia musician and artist d.a. terence Friday night and another video work-of-art by Seattle’s Eric Ostrowski on Saturday night. In addition, a 25-minute film crafted by Festival musician Hathor Vergotis, of Hammer of Hathor, features sounds from Lincoln Options Elementary School:
“We had each kid explore sounds made by ordinary objects, and recorded the sound of their choosing,” Hathor said. “We organized the sounds in a graphical score, which every kid had a part creating, and then we went into the studio and realized the score using the sounds the kids recorded.” Hathor worked together with sound artists Pual Krogh and Direct Animation artist Devon Demonte to complete the film. “ It’s pretty epic,” she said.
The Film will play as a kick-off to the Saturday matinee block of performances at Le Voyeur.
23rd Annual Olympia
June 23 to 25, 2017
Full Freakin’ Pass $23
Information on Facebook at: /OlyExperimentalMusicFest
8 p.m. Friday, June 23, Obsidian
8 p.m. – Xapchyk – (pdx)
8:45 – L.A. Lungs – (oly)
9:30 – KGD – (oly)
10:15 – d.a. terence – (oly)
11:00 – King Tears Bat Trip – (sea)
1 p.m., Saturday June 24, Le Voyeur, all-ages, $3 at the door
1 p.m. – Burning Spirits – (oly)
1:45 – Cyclopsycho – (oly)
2:30 – Hammer of Hathor – (oly)
3:15 – Dolphin Midwives – (pdx)
8 p.m., Saturday, June 24, Obsidian, $8 at the door
8 p.m. – Eric Ostrowski (sea) & Fischkopf Sinfoniker (bellingham)
8:45 – Wilson Shook (sea) & Dave Abramson (sea) & Greg Kelley (sea)
9:30 – Mulva Myasis (pdx)
10:15 – Existence Habit (astoria)
11:00 – Angell (pdx)
1 p.m., Sunday, June 25, Artesian Well, free, all-ages
1 p.m. – Four Dimensional Nightmare (sea)
1:45 – MK Ultramegaphone (salem)
2:30 – Kole Galbraith (sea)
3:15 – Dead Air Fresheners (pdx/oly/sea)
8 p.m., Sunday, June 25, Brotherhood Tavern, $8
8 p.m. – Cop Fetish (oly)
8: 45 – K.O. SOLO (sea)
9:30 – Zach Zinn with Rebekah Zinn (ply)
10:15 – Liquid Letters (oly)
11:00 – Bortnichak Johnson Love (oly)
11:45 – oretta ynn (oly) – w/ r. carns & co.