Sterile Garden (Maine)
This past Monday I had the pleasure of attending (and performing) at a noise gig organized by Electronic Cottage contributor Dylan Houser. The show was in Ybor City at Tre Amici at the Bunker, a fantastic cafe and performance space that I’ve been to many of times (and have booked my own shows there in the past). I’ve often considered that it’s the cleanest venue I’ve ever performed at. They also make some good coffee and a damn fine sandwiches. I really appreciate the fact that they allow shows to take place in their space because I’m sure it can be deterrence for their regular customers to navigate through waves of piercing feedback to grab a latte.
I arrived at the venue about an hour early to grab a bite beforehand. One feature about the space around the venue that cannot be ignored is all of the free-roaming roosters and chickens, completely undisturbed by all the human activity. As many times as I’ve been to the Bunker, I still have to spend 5 seconds thinking to myself, “cool...a rooster just crossed my path.” As I entered the cafe most of the other performers were already working on getting their gear set up. I grabbed a vegan cuban sandwich and it was yummy.
Dylan Houser’s solo project kicked things off promptly at 7:20 PM. Dylan is probably best known performing under the moniker Hell Garbage (both solo and with collaborators), but is now performing more and more under the name Formaldehydra. Dylan used a butter knife on a contact mic’ed metal box run through a Zoom B2 bass multi effects pedal. Dylan see-sawed between undulating waves of piercing feedback to quieter moments of naked scraping metal. It was kind of amusing to see some regular folks walk in to this maelstrom of noise and quickly about face.
Penny Grune-Fae performed next. Off the top of my head, Penny utilized a looper, a drum pad, along with xylophone (I think) and few other boxes all played through a small tabletop amp. Penny really knows how to create atmospheres with her music and this evening was no different. There were noisy moments, eerie moments, and ambient moments all channeled through a dense sonic haze. It was very cinematic sounding, dare I say Lynchian at times.
I (Vasectomy Party) performed next. My anxiety was through the roof, so I decided to wear a mask as a coping mechanism. I used to wear a mask exclusively in the early days, but have gotten more comfortable performing over the years and haven’t needed it as much. I decided to go in a more creepy, atmospheric direction rather than the blown out harsh noise I’m usually (rightly or wrongly) associated with. I used a variety of loops (a construction site, vocal gurgles, and some layered pieces I made with my Language Master card reader), a Korg MS-20 mini, a black plague synth, and a Korg Monotribe. I was content with the results.
Deterritory from Gainesville brought a dancier flavor to the evening’s showcase. I got a strong early New Order vibe from their performance, but with a darker, damaged slant. I scoped some old keyboards, a Roland box, a cassette walkman, and a Sherman Filter Bank. Visuals projected during Deterritory’s set to add another dimension to the performance. I really look forward to hearing more from this project.
Sterile Garden from Maine gave the penultimate performance. I was already familiar with the project and was fortunate to catch them perform at 2015’s edition of the Denver Noise Fest. Right out the gates the crowd was greeted with pure sonic annihilation. Utilizing a sampler and a series of portable cassette players Sterile Garden added and subtracted layers, moving from crushing harsh noise, to blown out atmospherics, to periodic moments of calm (just to give us a brief respite to catch our breaths). While volume isn’t everything, being bombarded by those sounds and at maximum output was a cathartic experience for me. This was easily one of the best live performances I’ve seen this year.
Vallam finished the show with some ear-splitting results. Vallam utilized a drum machine, a Monotron delay, some pedals (a ring modulator and a distortion...I think), and a mini mixer, however it was the simple contact mic that stole the show. Vallam’s set began with some measured beats and some wobbly, delayed synth tones. As the set progressed, a contact mic was affixed to a metal slinky to make some bouncing, shimmering waves. However, it was taking that contact mic, moving it over to a metal folding chair and then hitting it with some sort of power tool that really brought some punishing sounds. It sounded reminiscent to a sustained electric charge and Vallam continued using various positioning of these tools to carry use to the set’s end.
After everything was said and done, I looked at my watch...9:40 PM. I love it, perfect old person show times. I would probably attend a lot more shows during the work week if they ended by 10:00. Thanks to Dylan and the Bunker for another memorable show...best of 2018?
Hal Harmon is a sloth-like creature who lives a sloth-like existence. He sometimes does sound art under Vasectomy Party, irregularly publishes the zine Dialtone Aggressor, and operates the record label Forever Escaping Boredom. Even more infrequently he performs and records with the collaborative projects: Nexus Monkey, Zone Tripper, and Glaive.