A veteran Wisconsin experimental musician makes a rare public appearance.
Experimental musician Erik Kowalski is best known for his long-running project Casino Versus Japan, which over the course of 20 years has ranged from the beat-driven space-outs of recordings like 2000's Go Hawaii to the ambient processed-guitar glimmer of last year's Suicide By Sun. Kowalski almost goes out of his way to avoid attention, although the music itself is available on Bandcamp and he toured with Deerhunter in 2010. And it's not necessarily a charismatic sort of obscurity: He seems largely content to hunker down in his home base of Green Bay, playing very few live shows and doing very little press or promotion—his most recent contact with the media seems to be a lovely mix for Fact in 2018. He told Bandcamp Daily in 2016 that he likes "being part of a working class community where things aren’t part of a scene," though he did play a more prominent role once in Milwaukee's music scene.
That Casino Versus Japan has such a reverent following is a testament to Kowalski's supple and clear-eyed manipulation of sound. Even in the intimidating expanse of his 2016 album Frozen Geometry—which spans 80 tracks and more than three hours—Kowalski largely focuses on concise tracks in which melodies firmly but gently tug against powerful atmospheres. He excels at combining guitar melodies, synths, and other sound sources into one pleasantly scratchy fabric. Whether giving his delay-soaked clean-toned guitar a more overt role—as on "Barefoot Belle Of The Sun," from Frozen Geometry—or favoring a bleary mass of sounds—see Suicide By Sun's "Death To The Fictitious Light Cycle"—Casino Versus Japan masterfully disarms and immerses the listener. Kowalski is playing a live set at this afternoon/early-evening show. The host venue, dance-focused record store JiggyJamz, is asking those interested in attending to RSVP ahead of time. —Scott Gordon