Goethe Institute, Sep 22 2007
Ostensibly a platform for cutting edge electronic musicians and their recent work, “Partikel,” held Saturday night the 22nd at the Goethe Institute in Mid-Wilshire, turned out to be an ode to paranoia, fear and triumph of the spirit in the 21rst century.. The event was held at the German cultural attaché here in Los Angeles because, according to organizer Jim Cowgill, “So much great electronic music and technology come out of Germany that we couldn't imagine a more ideal place to hold (it).” The acts included John Von, Henry Strange, Reed Rothchild and Zeitpunkt, with their equipment set up simply on a series of long tables while a screen behind them projected the visuals.
Held in a small viewing room, ten rows by ten rows of chairs with maybe forty actually filled, the feeling for the first set (that I saw) seemed to be beauty by way of relaxation. Visions of small marsupials and floating balloon faces were washed over with warm ambient sounds from Reed Rothchild, gently lulling the audience into submission. Rothchild sat calmly at his machine, tweaking and twiddling and grinning while the audience sat raptly. Beautiful stuff.
Henry Strange was another thing entirely. His set brought to mind secret societies, dark cityscapes and paranoia, but not the kind one sleeps through. This was music to think about taking drugs to, the kind of drugs that wake you up instead of turning your mind into a gelatinous mass. Kill your television. Wake up. Nothing dies. Hope is alive. Visions of doctors in gas masks and marching soldiers gave way to a lone man dancing ecstatically. Through it all, we must find a way to create, but it isn’t going to be that simple if we let things go the way they’re going. We have to rebel against the status quo. We can find our way through art. The final image from his set showed a bunch of apes riding bikes down the street, whacking each other in the head and laughing. We’re senseless and primitive, but we have big expensive shiny toys, and perhaps we’re going to kill ourselves with them.
Unfortunately, the less said about the last act (won’t name names so everyone’s safe) the better, except to say they should have gone first. It was a live gig with guitar and an electronic flute of some sort, initially interesting but which quickly emptied the room. The visuals seemed to consist of bright yellow pulses of light along with some images very similar to those from the sets of Rothchild and Strange, visuals which prompted “That gave me a headache” from several folks after the show was done.
It wasn’t clear at first whether each artist had the visuals tailored to their performance, but over the course of the night, as stated, several images were repeated–some to the point of annoyance. However, the visuals- created by Optical Light Pipe- were never dull. In fact, someone in the crowd murmured, “I can see how brainwashing is possible.” The predominant imagery was that of the 1950s. Perfectly coiffed women and men in suits dancing on stages where diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Gas masks and government attacks- an interesting dichotomy between the plastic feelings and looks of the 50s- “the best decade in American history”- and the advanced technology used to create the sounds, as if our spirits have not quite advanced enough to truly catch up.
For information on all the artists at Partikel, check out