By Emily Jayne
VANCOUVER – Arrington De Dionyso’s shows are more than a just a performance, they are magical acts of conjuring.
Based in Olympia, Washington, De Dionyso is a prolific visual artist, musician, linguist and instrument inventor. From 1995 until 2008 he was the leader of beloved art-punk combo, Old Time Relijun (K Records). He recalls his times in Vancouver fondly, in 1995 being shown around by members of July Fourth Toilet. Years later, De Dionyso returned to perform at a now defunct venue called the Butchershop where he gave his first Voice Workshop for overtone singing and vocal improvisation. In 2009 he founded Malaikat Dan Singa, melding free associative Indonesian translations of William Blake with dancehall rhythms and postpunk angularity.
“Performance is a commitment to embrace the ecstatic. Music is one means of navigating those seldom charted realms of conscious awareness, where your individual identity both expands and contracts in the service of the sound itself,” says De Dionyso. “My approach to music is very physical, whether it’s vocal or through saxophones or other wind instruments — it’s literally a form of holotropic breathing in the way I play — so it’s very easy for me to enter into trance space just through the athletic nature of how I’m pushing air through these wild tubes of sound. As much as I might try to disappear into the pure sound, I am also responsible for curating some kind of shared experience for my audience at the same time, and that I think is where the real artwork of a performance occurs. It’s not enough to me to just have some kind of singular peak experience if I am not able to offer some means of transportation for the person there at the show as well. So if the audience is already willing to go along for that ride, it’s certainly that much easier…”.
He found himself the target of the alt-right, implicated in a bizarre and unfounded conspiracy called #pizzagate after painting a mural at Comet Ping Pong in Washington DC in 2010. Although only up for a year, it was picked up by online conspiracy theorists who took it as a “clue” pointing to a fictitious politically involved sex trafficking ring. Despite the online harassment, death threats and illogical onslaught, he is more determined than ever to keep creating art and music with a message promoting the joy of being human, mythology, dreams and the magical gift of being alive. So it’s perfectly fitting that his latest project, This Saxophone Kills Fascists, opens the gates and calls upon the heavy medicine of music with a nod to Albert Ayler’s The Healing Force Of The Universe (1969).
“Because we need this medicine now more than ever before,” De Dionyso’s latest press release reads. “A Music of Resistance is found in the templates of Spiritual Free Jazz. Through the guttural delivery of ancient horns and stretched skins, a resounding echo cracks the foundations of the walls built to divide us.”
De Dionyso will be joined by uniquely gifted Philadelphia percussionist Ben Bennett, who brings some amazing perspectives to his musical playing, informed by a wealth of experience in both poetry and meditation.
Arrington De Dionyso performs January 12 at the China Cloud (524 Main St.) at 9 p.m. along with the Watermill Project and Ridley Bishop and Clarinets. $10 at the door.Arrington De Dionyso, China Cloud