BEE MASK @ PICA BAR, SATURDAY JUNE 16
It’s a good day so far. Super sleep-ins make way to excellent midday breakfasts. By the time you’re ready for the world to stimulate you, suddenly there’s a mid-afternoon concert happening in an art gallery bar, suddenly filled with bean bags for the occasion. There are a heap of sound wizards present, both familiar faces and mysterious strangers from near and far. There’s also a delicious array of hard-to-find lager. Why would we be anywhere else?
Ben Taaffe stamps my inner wrist with an inky brown bee. As I drift toward the tones of MICHAEL TERREN, the tones of Michael Terren drift back, and dance gently across my tympanic cavity. Terren is a handsome youth who would look out of place on neither a surfboard nor an Elven throne. As it happens however, he’s perched behind a laptop with a keyboard perched atop his lap. The sounds flowing from the PA are hybrid soundscapes of milky synth, twisted glitch piano, pattering digital noise and distant downbeat cacophony. Rarely does he linger on anything that might be called a beat, but when he does he grins and enjoys it – while there’s an arcane melancholy to the whole thing, Terren’s not averse to the odd pop-music motif. It all swells and subsides and drains you like going for a really great run with none of the interim discomfort. I’m reminded of Oneohtrix Point Never, but this is yet more maundering, otherworldly and fugue-inducing. A local wunderkind to watch without a doubt.
ADAM TRAINER keeps so busy with ventures such as writing, DJing, becoming a doctor, organizing swell events and being musical director for RTRfm that occasionally one forgets he’s actually a you-beaut musician. Rest assured, he still is. Erstwhile member of top-vintage indie group Radarmaker, Trainer nowadays performs solo experimental sets with all the beauty and frequency of Halley’s comet. Today he’s tucked behind laptop, loop pedal, telecaster and intriguing miscellany. He tickles electric guitar strings, just enough to elicit a rolling plash of chimes, washing together in a pale blue glow. The set blooms into a slow-motion journey, with e-bow and screwdriver-wrought drones coalescing into clouds of strange harmony. A handheld eastern “spinning drum” instrument adds layers of pitter-patter like wooden rain on a liquid roof, before a somewhat shonky-sounding frequency generator device melds its various discordant buzzes into an unlikely mellifluence. That sentence was verbose, but the music’s not: beautifully minimal, decidedly understated. It rounds out with some soft looping vocals, live from the doc’s mouth: it’s a great conclusion, bringing a sense of vulnerability and personality to the proceedings.
The crowd has swollen like a fresh bee sting; the windows of PICA bar look out onto a darkened sky. Adorned with his infamous WARDEN cap, Craic-hunter CRAIG MCELHINNEY embarks on another casual odyssey to the inner recesses of the mind and the outer reaches of the audible sound-spectrum. There’s an eerie benign violence to Craig’s soundscapes this time – gossamer cyclone chaos, beautiful from afar, but dangerous to enter into. This enticing nightmarishness – punctuated by soothing melodies and sitar purrs – reminds me of Manila psych explorer Ensemble Economique (Brian Pyle). But there’s a distinctive “Craigness” that permeates his every musical move, a deep vibe that you can’t help but immerse yourself in fully, and come out the other end feeling renewed, curious and luminous.
A hooded man is sitting near the speakers throughout Craig’s set. It finishes, he unclasps his hands, smiles and stands up. He’s Chris Madak – or BEE MASK – from Cleveland, and before long he too has ensconced himself in a nest of analogue synthesizers and esoteric equipment. Without wanting to read too much into his pseudonym (I have no idea what it’s supposed to signify, it could be totally arbitrary) it seems kind of apt, as the set continually offers what might be artificial renderings of natural phenomena. Singing glass and rumbling thunder, dripping dew and howling wind, all re-imagined by an android in a space station. Bubbling brook/bongwater in stark, four-dimensional clarity. Meteorites of pure data shot through misty sine-wave stratospheres. The music of Bee Mask is not very “stylized” – I find it hard to place within the current spectrum of electronic auteurs. It’s not dance music, it’s not abstract noise or academic sound art, and it doesn’t belong to the allusive school of droney, mystic soundscapes. It feels like there’s a raw sense of sonic adventure, an eagerness to structure synthetic bloops into something very listenable, but in no way related to pop music. Which is as admirable as it is intriguing.
As friends converge, both tranquilized and invigorated, the night remains young; the vibes unparalleled. Walking out the doorway and into the frosty dark, the possibilities would seem plentiful on any Saturday evening. Having just traversed four virtual universes of sound, they now feel endless.