If ever the shape of a recording’s waveform presented the potential listener with a vision of an enticingly varied performance, the April 6, 2011, live concert by a trio of electronic musicians (Ted James, Erik Schoster, Brendan Landis) is a chief contender.
The waveform of the 20-minute set, as shown on Landis’ soundcloud.com/hey-exit account, seems to take every possible visual approach, from sharp changes in amplitude to staccato subsets to extended singularities, from tepid passages to richly dense ones. The instrumentation is loosely described in the accompanying liner note: James on “Synthesizers, Electronics,” Schoster on “Computer, Electronics,” Landis on “vox, guitar.” To begin with, the voice: this isn’t singing, not in the sense of words and songs and melody; the voice, as employed by Landis, is one instrument among many, one source of drones and noise among others. If it at times seems distinct from everything else because of its recognizability, so too is the occasional case with the guitar, which once in a while stops being an anonymous provider of sonic effluvia and comes to resemble what is more immediately recognizable as a guitar. In both situations, though, even when the sound sources become familiar, the music remains abstract, deliberately non-associative. There are, indeed, varied approaches here, from light percussive fields to attenuated drones, from subdued glossolalia to heady shimmers. Furthermore, these sounds are just a few among many others, and overall the performance is less about simultaneous collaborative effort, less about harmony, and more about concentration and communal pursuit, about music that unfolds, that develops, that moves forward.