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Review: Outsound, Days One and Two

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The inaugural edition of Outsound, a three-day festival devoted to experimental art and sound, kicked off this Wednesday at Big Car Service Center with mostly local performers, followed by a Thursday show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. (Friday night will see the festival return to the Service Center, with performances by DMA, Kristin Miltner, shedding and Matt Davignon.) The festival's first two evenings were chock full of highlights, though growing pains were of equal notice.

Night one took place at the Big Car Service Center, with both video and music components. First to the video, projected inside a tiny, sparse room tucked to the side of the equally sparse venue. A mélange of styles on offer made for an awkward though often rewarding study. Jonathan Dueck’s “Nuit Atypique” was a strange mix of animation, bold colors and editing tricks that wasted too much time on technique. The clunky, squeeze-box drone that accompanied the lengthy piece made it all the more tedious, five minutes feeling like ten, ten feeling like twenty.

Other selections were inspired if brief. Ryan Irvin’s “Soft Power” presented a soft palette of white and pastel overlays. Lynn Cazabon's “Junkspace” is as simple as its title, showing obelisks of our modern age (disks, laptops, power chords, household appliances) discarded into an ivory abyss, remnants of our wasteful society set free from their duty in a gravity-free environment.

The highlight of the films, “BioGeology,” which paired visuals by Gala Bent with a soundtrack by Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro, who performed Thursday night at the IMA), saw inorganic scribbles playing out quixotic fantasies of becoming something meaningful before falling into a Technicolored chaos.

The unevenness of Outsound’s visual submissions carried over into the first night’s performances. The best performance was by the night's opener, Bloomington one-man band dREKKa (otherwise known as Michael Anderson), whose somewhat-retro work mimicked that of Climax Golden Twins or Algiers. Armed with a trinkets, noisemakers, and pedals and knobs, Anderson put his whole body into the performance, gargling water, crawling on the stage floor and bending himself into pretzel-like shapes to achieve the sounds he wanted. Even mistakes were a part of the bigger sonic picture, as his calculated drones and beats morphed into ghostly rattles and heavenly mantras.

Others didn't find the sparse, unfinished Service Center space quite so friendly, including The Glitch Clique, a clique of one that produced the sort of mess that happens when ideas aren’t filtered and distilled. It's to the festival's credit that a variety of performers — some polished, some not — took part, with the panoply of experimental work being made in Indiana and beyond on display. That being said, a kitchen-sink approach was nowhere to be found on the festival's second night, which featured more polished performers: Helado Negro and Son Lux.

Roberto Lange, who opened Thursday night's concert at The Toby, made his physical presence known with a set that blended tender drone with feral beats. Performing as Helado Negro, Lange delivers Spanish vocals that toy with the timbre of his work. Even when a tune threatens to get nasty, his easy voice balances things out. Despite the respectful, sit-down audience, Lange didn’t let up when the mood called for a bit of dance flavor, not that anyone took him up on his implicit offer to dance.

Combining the field recordings and odd noises of Wednesday night’s Service Center performers with slick melodies and accessible live instrumentation, IU graduate and NYC dweller Ryan Lott greeted family and strangers alike with a performance as much about style as substance. Calling back the akimbo aesthetic of dREKKa, Lott cut loose and interacted with the mood and the music, feeding off their energy to develop his own. His use of odd noises and samples along with live music (piano, guitar, and drums) bridged the gap that many believe exists between experimental music and more "accessible," pop-based work.

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