STAG HARE at RHINOCERPOLIS | 5/28/11
"If you allowed your imagination to synch up with the music, it felt like you'd been on a journey through inner space across vast plains lit only by the moon."
Awash in shifting, colored lights and interlocking circular images behind him, Stag Hare sat down in front of a laptop and bank of other devices. Occasionally vocalizing while manipulating sounds with a keyboard and an Abelton controller, he produced a gentle swirl of sounds that started out quietly with resonating blips, and when the vocals came in, despite being low in the mix, they added a tonal texture similar to what you often hear in qawwali or griot, only with the vocals not occupying the forefront of sounds. The slow, subtle evolution of the sounds and rhythm over the course of the performance suggested movement, and if you allowed your imagination to synch up with the music, it felt like you'd been on a journey through inner space across vast plains lit only by the moon.
Stag Hare's illustrious expedition was bookended on either side with Seven Feathers Rainwater and Married In Berdichev, who closed out the evening. Brittany Gould started her set so quietly that even the nearly silent turn of a notebook page was louder than the sounds coming out of the P.A. After building the background drone, Gould's voice gained greater clarity than on most other occasions.
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It's almost as though she has been experimenting with her levels and what she is able to do with and without amplifying her voice through her mixer and the sound system. At one point she even put down her mike and sang out her vocals over the ambient drones come out of her looping pedal, and surprisingly, she was not drowned out.
When Gould mixed organic crinkling sounds into the music, it sounded like a crackling camp fire -- which was perfect because it always feels like you're seeing something both intensely personal and sacred whenever Gould performs one of her shows. When she performs, it seems like she's letting her inner spirit speak instead of hiding it behind social conventions that often keep people from communicating completely honestly with one another in a direct way.
Earlier in the evening, Seven Feathers Rainwater and Voices Of set the perfect tone for the evening. Employing synths and electronic drums, with other instruments brought in as necessary, Seven Feathers Rainwater played a set of songs that flowed one into the next with no breaks. Offering up a brand of tropical pop pioneered by acts like High Places, mixed with elements of bright psychedelia, that, at times, recalled Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Seven Feathers played in front of two panels of shapes with interlocking spiral patterns. The designs, one with squares and the other circles, were painted in such a way that the colored light reflected off of them gave a gently hypnotic illusion of movement. Between the emotive vocals and shifting pacing of the music, the quartet created chill atmospheres punctuated by an earnest emotion.
For his part, Chris Westin, who performs under the Voices Of moniker, appears to have reworked his entire set-up and the way he generates and employs sound. With bubbling electronic noises in the background giving way to echoing tones flowing through the whole, Westin weaved in what sounded like analog synth work through it all in a melodically ambient way.
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Personal Bias: I've been wanting to see Stag Hair for a long time.
Random Detail: Ran into Tom Metz (Iuengliss) and Tamed Animals at the show.
By the Way: Stag Hare had a great split 12-inch with White Rainbow available at the show.