By Andy Soloman
August 1, 2015
VANCOUVER — Reviewing experimental electronic shows can be tricky. So often, the show is so deeply rooted in the abstract and ephemeral personal experience that any attempt at summarizing it afterwards can seem a little absurd. It was clear from the start of this 1080p presented show however, that the atmosphere was going to be slightly different than one might have expected. Due to a late sound check, the crowd was outside chatting on the front steps of the intimate and neighbourly Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Strathcona before being ushered in for a beautifully layered and immersive performance by Vancouver local, Sarah Davachi. Using loops from a vintage synth, Davachi’s performance built intensity before she added the tone of her violin, creating a crescendo of harmonious noise which she meticulously controlled and gradually brought back to silence.
After a brief interval, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Ariel Kalma’s set began with Kalma himself leading those who had wandered outside to cool off back to their seats by walking and ringing a bell from the front steps inside and up onto the stage. In performance, Kalma and Lowe seem like somewhat of an odd pairing, though their differences complement each other perfectly. Both are supremely talented; Lowe moves with a slow-flowing rhythm over the tones his synthesizer, methodically adding layers of ethereal vocals, while Kalma adds flurries of saxophone, flute and warped keys with maniacal excitement, grinning at the audience with each line that he plays. It’s hard to remember seeing a musician seem like they were having as much genuine lighthearted fun on stage as this man. The pair played improvisations throughout their set, using their critically acclaimed album We Know Each Other Somehow as a basis, and showing no uncertainty in exploring less familiar territory — their second-to-last track, for example, repeatedly exploded into an energetic synth-pop riff led by a positively vibrating Kalma, which is a far cry from the meditative soundscapes found on the album.
In a recent interview, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe spoke of analog synth music as a very organic process, referring to the direct control that the musician has over an electrical voltage, and the minute adjustments that can create huge differences in the sound and atmosphere being projected. When performing with Kalma, this idea of organic and natural performance is undeniable. The personalities of the two artists are so distinct in what each of them is playing that it is almost as though we are listening to them have a conversation with each other. Key moments of synchronicity are met with huge grins across the stage, and mistakes show an open lightheartedness between the two; an unexpectedly loud effect from Kalma’s synth or sudden feedback produced uncontrollable laughter at the show. As the two men embraced at the end of their performance and Kalma moved forward to give a final grinning ring of his bell to signal the end of the show, we were reminded that it is this playfulness and human touch that is one of the most important aspects of the experimental genre, as it is exactly what can turn a good show into a great one.BC, British Columbia, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma, Sarah Davachi, Ukranian Cultural Centre