Art

A Noise Festival Makes Melody in Strange Ways

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Pharmakon performing at Ende Tymes (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

Ende Tymes, the increasingly extensive “festival of noise and abstract liberation,” successfully returned for its fifth incarnation last week. This year, the festival, which was again organized by the omnipresent composer Bob Bellerue, provided five full days of noise music, sound installation, video art, and an unmatched sense of a DIY community.

The size of Ende Tymes expanded significantly in its fifth year by adding an extra day of events, and it also opened its curatorial scope by incorporating sound installations and audio workshops, such as those by CT-SWaM (Contemporary Temporary Sound Works And Music), the Eyebeam concert series founded by Daniel Neumann. Despite the intimidating scale — programs spanned three locations and across two boroughs (Knockdown Center in Queens; Outpost Artists Resources and Silent Barn in Brooklyn) — an intimacy was still palpable, bringing a collective spirit that has become an asset of an independent festival that features new artists alongside established figures.

Several artists returned from last year, including Marcia Bassett and Samara Lubelski, a duo that creates dark, ethereal electroacoustic music, and the infamous Clang Quartet, whose biblically themed percussion freak-outs may easily be seared into the collective unconscious of the artist’s audience. Other returning bands included Katherine Liberovskaya, who presented a video work with collaborator Phill Niblock; the brooding electronics of Bastard Noise (featuring Anthony Saunders along with figurehead Eric Wood); the electroacoustic chamber noise of the Work/Death group; and the chain-rattling, percussive electronics of Pedestrian Deposit.

 daniel neuman's sound installation workshop. photo by becky grinkle.
Daniel Neumann’s sound installation workshop (photo by Ken Bradburd)

There were also many newcomers who drew inspiration on the home-built stage, including the disturbingly energetic Dreamcrusher, who recently moved to New York from Wichita and is one of many young artists re-energizing the local scene. Last Thursday night, the Kansas native left a lasting impression on many in attendance: after an extended setup the lights were turned off, unsettling the ruddy glow of the Silent Barn, and Dreamcrusher (Luwayne Glass) began his harsh, noise-laden, techno-tinged set — which at times broached mid-1990s gabber music — punctuated with incomprehensible rhythmic screaming (and crowd surfing).

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Granpa (Lucas Abela) performing at Ende Tymes (click to enlarge)

The high-energy performance was a marked departure from the previous set, a slow-paced and Ambien-inducing performance by Sadaf H. Nava, whose dark and warbling music drew more from minimal synth and electro-pop than punk and hardcore. The pairing, while aesthetically different (despite a mutual interest in distortion and asymmetrical rhythm), showcased the festival as stylistically adventurous and welcoming. Indeed, the schedules revealed a diverse picture: the harsh, digital noise of Facialmess against the grim, desultory reed improvisations of Dead Machines; the rough, free jazz of Don Dietrich and C. Spencer Yeh against the slow-burning, psychedelic keyboard electronics interplay of duo Metalux (MV Carbon and Jenny Gräf Sheppard); or the dense industrial electronics of Pharmakon against the simplified but still terrifying body music of Granpa (Lucas Abela), in which he played a glass shard like an instrument by rubbing it with his hands and face, making noise picked up by the mic, and cutting himself in the process.

The festival may have seemed a bit unwieldy to some due to its size, and its breadth did occasionally invite a meandering set — one Ende Tymes guest described noise etiquette as such: “It’s bad to play long, and it’s bad to play poorly … but it’s worse to do both” — yet these minor grievances pale under the sheer accessibility to new and challenging music that the event provides, not to mention the communities it nourishes. In fact, one of the most recurring impressions on social media following the event has been one of kinship, and the fact that, to performers and guests who travel from far away, Ende Tymes served as a sort of reunion.

Indeed, some in attendance saw this sense of community as a point of contrast to other events in the city, notably those sponsored by the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA), a corporate festival that covered similar grounds. For example, RBMA hosted the drone musician La Monte Young earlier in the month, and it also scheduled a stacked bill featuring noise heavyweights last week (unfortunately on the opening night of Ende Tymes, possibly splitting the crowd). Among the performers at RBMA were the Japanese noise legend, Merzbow, the local power electronics wunderkind, Prurient, and Genesis P-Orridge (formerly of Throbbing Gristle). Sharing the schedule were celebrated musicians Aaron Dilloway (formerly of Wolf Eyes), as well as Pharmakon (who also gave an impassioned performance at Ende Tymes). The event was surprisingly large and densely packed, resembling something more of a club than an experimental music show.

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Dreamcrusher crowd surfing at Silent Barn

As noise music continues to grow in popularity it will increasingly rub elbows with corporate sponsorship, something likely unimaginable to many even just a few years ago. Accordingly, the tensions might increase between independent communities, where artists find freedom but where funding is scarce, and the larger companies and institutions that might capitalize on experimental music via lifestyle branding. The tension between experimental music and its institutional support may have been exacerbated last week during Ende Tymes, but the criticisms were also somewhat lighthearted: the local synth musician, Mister Matthews, kicked off the second evening of the festival by pausing shortly into his set to gulp an entire can of Red Bull.

Ende Tymes V: Festival of Noise and Abstract Liberation ran May 13–17 at the Knockdown Center (52–19 Flushing Ave, Maspeth, Brooklyn), Silent Barn (603 Bushwick Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn), and Outpost Artists Resources (1665 Norman St, Ridgewood, Brooklyn).

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