|Simon Barker. The NOW now 2013|
photo Jeremy Tatar
At times kitchen utensils scratched and whirred against home-made instruments and tape measures reverberated against guitars; at others, pianos soared and drumsticks blurred. There were poems composed solely from guttural and other non-verbal noises and there was even a man dressed as a poo. And that is a snapshot of just two nights of this year’s festival of exploratory music.
Held over five nights in Marrickville’s beloved Red Rattler, NOW Now 2013 was programmed by Laura Altman, Sam Pettigrew, Rishin Singh, Andrew Brooks and Jeremy Tatar and marked the 11th year of what has become NSW’s premier festival for improvised music. In addition to the evening events, this year’s festival also ventured into the great outdoors with a concert at Gordon’s Bay and into the gallery with a visual arts show at SNO in Marrickville. The festival even embraced the foodie craze with an event hosted by Rosita Holmes and Rishin Singh pairing experimental music with experimental cuisine.
I attended two nights, Thursday and Friday, sadly missing a third because of ill-timed flu, and took in 12 acts which ran the gamut from shitcore to turntablism to drone, avant jazz to walls of guitar noise. Over those two evenings four startling and adventurous performances summarised the strengths of this year’s festival.
passenger of shit
|Passenger of Shit, The NOW now 2013|
photo Jon Hunter
satsuki odamura & mayu kanamori
Treweeke’s was a hard act to follow, particularly given the number of fans he seemed to have among the audience, but the duo of Satsuki Odamura and Mayu Kanamori had very different, but no less mesmerising set of their own. Now an Australian resident, Odamura is a well-known exponent of the koto, and for this performance she played both koto and bass koto. Starting with softly plucked sounds and some whispered words from Kanamori, the performance moved into a duet incorporating live visual documentation and music as Kanamori picked up her camera to capture the beauty of both Odamura’s intricate and at times violent playing along with the form of the instrument itself, with the photos immediately projected behind the performance. It was a novel way of introducing the intricacies of koto and celebrating Odamura’s mastery. Gorgeous shots of moodily lit, quivering strings were interspersed with blurred images of fingers in rapid motion, offering intimacy with the performer we would not otherwise have had, as well as a thorough investigation of both the koto and the conventions of documenting performance. It even included a musical interpretation of cleaning up, with Odamura taking out a duster and a whisk to brush down her strings while Kanamori accompanied her with the sounds of her cleaning bellow blowing the dust from her camera lens.
|Phillippe Petit & Shoeb Ahmad, The NOW now 2013|
photo Jon Hunter
Marking the first time the two had ever played together, the mood turned decidedly more spontaneous. Petit took to the decks, using his prepared vinyl, while Ahmad offered percussive guitar effects, along with longer drones before the pair crescendoed with Ahmad’s screaming guitar and Petit’s crazy fast vinyl looping and scratching. While Ahmad languidly worked his guitar, Petit resembled a manic cook in his kitchen. At times leaning in until his nose was almost against the vinyl, giving things a rub here and a dust off there, kneading, pulling and rolling his materials into shape to create a noisy, chaotic symphony from the most unlikely of sources.
simon barker & min young woo
|Simon Barker & Min Young Woo, The NOW now 2013|
photo Jeremy Tatar
Other memorable moments included Amanda Stewart’s poetry which mixed spoken word with frenzied, non-verbal sonic onslaughts in stereo; Malaysian artist Goh Lee Kwang’s investigation of radio static; and a wonderfully intimate and understated late night performance by the Culture of Un (Chris Abrahams and Dave Brown) to launch their album Moonish.
Gloriously eclectic, this year’s NOW Now festival showed the event continues to offer musicians and audiences a way to re-discover the joy of the unusual and the unexpected.
The Now Now Festival, Jan 9-13, The Red Rattler and various venues; http://thenownow.net/the-now-now-festival-2013/
See also RealTime's NOW now archive highlight featuring all our coverage of the festival from 2002 to the present
This article was originally published as part of RealTime's online e-dition Feb 6, 2013
Kate Carr is a writer and sound artist based in Sydney. She writes on sound, music and the environment and runs the Flaming Pines music label.
RealTime issue #113 Feb-March 2013 pg. 37
© Kate Carr; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org