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This is a journey into sound…

There comes a time when an audience has to shed all notions and preconceptions of what music is. Time to throw away all societal conventions on the accepted structure of beats and rhythms. Audio Output aims to show that the time is now.

Presented as the "Sound" event in Spell#7's month-long line-up of activities collectively known as The Year of Living Digitally, It aims to bring to the forefront the importance of digital technology in the creation of music today, and how the use of such technology breaks musical boundaries and explores new frontiers in experiments with sound.

The line-up includes groups from all across the globe, emphasizing the universal message of music in all its various forms. Groups such as Farben from Germany and the UK's SND champion a funky style of techno, making their music very accessible to clubbers and casuals alike. The subtle layers of beats, rhythms and melodies proved irresistible to even the most die-hard of detractors.

The big crowd favorite was Finnish performer Vladislav Delay. Beginning his set with a teasing array of sounds, seemingly more interested in creating soundscapes than pure music. With a deep bass and industrial sounds, the audience was taken on a aural journey through an urban landscape, bringing to mind Future Sound of London's work circa Dead Cities (Astralwerks, 1996). The bass was used to especially good effect in creating depth in the listeners' surroundings, as it creeps through the skin and thrums through the bones, imprinting a virtual spatial concept in the audience's mind. As his performance grew, Delay started to tease the crowd with snippets of vocals here, a little bit of melody there. With the crowd perked enough (almost to the point of growing restless), Vladislav Delay switched to the funk house style he plays under the moniker of Luomo and dropped beats that ignited the dancefloor. The interesting thing about his Luomo persona is that Delay doesn't sacrifice on experimentation. Instead, it is an avenue for him to educate the casual clubber with accessible amalgamations of beats, vocals and melodies. Judging from the massive positive response, it clearly works.

Other acts such as Miroque from Japan were more experimental. Miroque played a chilled, blissed-out set, with many influences from her home country. To a casual listener, the music seems easy and carefree, almost child-like in some instances. Upon closer inspection, one discovers little nuances in the sounds, little off-beats and discordant keys that gives character to her pieces. It brings to mind the kind of music one would find running around in the head of Delerium (the character from The Sandman, not the band). Miroque's music gives pleasure to the one who hears it, but rewards greatly one who listens to its message.

The true centerpiece of the Audio Output lineup however, was Austrian group Farmers Manual. This trio employs a mixture of sound and visual collage to express their strong, almost anti-establishment messages. Their performance seemed more suited for a theatre than on the dancefloor as they took sound by the jugular and made their computers unleash a dirge. And what an exceptional dirge it was. Their chopped up sound was superimposed upon the jarring images of an attack helicopter swooping in for the kill. The image fizzes in and out of focus in tandem with the noise, giving a sense of impending doom at the hands of misguided technology. And their transitions are nothing if not a smooth, mish-mash of sounds and images, spelling out the importance of correct control over technology. Their performance finally ends in a focused image of Chinese characters on the screen, coupled with a cacophony of melodies. It implies how man has been buried under the spell of technology for too long, lost in its mindless drone and rigid structure. To prevent the collapse of humanity, man has to clear the debris around him and take control of technology and mould it to build a better, brighter future where man and machine is in symbiosis.

Perhaps that is the true message of digital music, and music as a whole. Man must work with the technology available to him to explore new frontiers and break new grounds. Only then can harmony be achieved and a new wave of creativity and ingenuity be formed. Already, Spell#7's initiative has shown us the early signs of this new wave. And judging from the fairly good response from the regular clubbers, it shows that the local audience is indeed open to experimentations in sound. Perhaps this might spur our own local journey of musical creativity. Only time will tell.

~ Hairul

Revision r1.1 - 05 Jul 2005 - 13:17 -