Curator's notes: EMS, nothing natural, and Kleptix
Join us for a Tone Madison-presented show on June 24 at Art In.
Under the name EMS, Portland-based musician Vern Avola makes electronic music that combines a ferocious wall of sound with a deceptively subtle sense of dynamics. One could call it noise music, except that Avola puts enough into weirdly shifting harmonics as she does into abrasion. One could also call it drone, but Avola's approach to synth music is too rhythmic, itchy, and restless to fit easily under that label. She's recently shared bills with artists including electro-pop eccentric EMA, metal band Big Business, and long-running experimental rock outfit Oxbow, to give you some idea of the difficulty of pigeonholing the project.
The extended live track on EMS' latest solo release, Liebe Für Alle, begins with an organ-like synth voice in a shimmering but ominous chord, interwoven with static-y, grimy ambience. Gradually there's a surge of bass underneath layers of sound that already felt a bit overpowering, then the track shifts into a rattling rhythmic pattern. Over that come slow, high melodies that might feel serene on their own, but become eerie and icy in the setting Avola has created. It's at once melodic and brutally mechanical.
In short, Avola's approach to playing live is as nuanced and improvisational as it is punishing. I'm looking forward to seeing what strange and ingenious layers she conjures up here at her first Madison show.
Sharing the bill are two Madison artists who also straddle the experimental and electronic worlds. nothing natural is the solo project of producer and DJ Ilana Bryne. On "Scorched," a track released last year, Bryne forgoes a beat entirely, opting for sleek and dark synth lines that menacingly circle around each other. But a couple other recent nothing natural tracks, "Jubilee" and "Untitled 1," take a more straightforward approach to techno and house, with swinging percussion samples and sparse but playful synth melodies.
Kleptix is another solo project, capturing the diverse musical interests and seemingly endless tinkering of Madison's Troy Peterson. A lot of Kleptix's output so far, including last year's album Flight Sequence, has been driving but tuneful electronic music. But Peterson has been modifying his approach, as you'd expect from a guy who's constantly modifying amps, pedals, synths, and all manner of other electronics in his basement. His setup here will likely involve two reel-to-reel tape players and improvised electric guitars, with a few amps arrayed around the room for an immersive sound.
Don't forget to also join us for the following shows (more announcements coming soon):