Albany Sonic Arts Collective features Mike Bullock

Albany Sonic Arts Collective features Mike Bullock

Date posted: 2008-08-25 10:29:00

Image:  Twilight of the Century (Linda, Ray, Mike, & Eric)

Albany Sonic Arts Collective a home of crazy rhythms

 

Albany Sonic Arts Collective lets experimental musicians gather

By DANIELLE FURFARO, Staff writer
First published: Sunday, August 24, 2008

A few dozen people sit in a darkened Lark Street gallery, watching intently as Erica Sparrow sings incantations in a cryptic language and her husband, Kevin Johnston, punctuates each phrase with sparse and booming bass notes. Over the next half hour, they leap musically from brooding soundscapes to raging tribal rhythms and back again.

The band is Bone Parade and this is the Albany Sonic Arts Collective, an organization founded to encourage the creation of experimental music in the Capital Region.

The group was started last fall by University at Albany social work professor and musician Eric Hardiman, along with a handful of friends with a taste for the unusual. The collective hosts shows at least once a month at the Upstate Artist Guild gallery, with a mix of local and internationally known underground musicians.

Hardiman, who plays in the noise rock band Burnt Hills and the electronic duo Century Plants, loved the experience of being in bands but was concerned that there were not enough venues that accepted "weird" music. He felt little support for musicians who wanted to diverge into music that wasn't as safe.

"I was putting out records," Hardiman said. "The missing piece was the opportunity to play out, build some community and get people to meet others and start new bands."

Hardiman describes the music heralded by ASAC as "music that exists outside of a typical boundary, anything that's too loud or too extreme or too quiet or too absurd."

"Music that stresses freedom," Hardiman said.

ASAC put on its inaugural show in November. It has had events about once a month since then, usually on the last Saturday of the month. That changes when the organization is able to score a well-known artist, which is what happened when they got indie-rock godfather Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to perform.

Each month, the shows have been attracting new fans unfamiliar with experimental music. Katt Schott began attending ASAC shows to support her boyfriend's band, which has a name that cannot be repeated in a family newspaper. Before that, she hadn't had much exposure to experimental music.

"It blows me away how they can manipulate sounds without using any instruments, just some pedals," Schott said as she burned the band's album onto discs from a laptop while waiting for Bone Parade to play.

Schott, 19, said she was impressed at how big the Sonic Arts scene has gotten in such a short time.

"People were really looking for something different," she said.

The July gig was Bone Parade's first at ASAC. Sparrow, who describes her band's sound as a mix between classical, noise and minimalism, said she was grateful for the organization for creating a place where Bone Parade fit in.

"We aren't a Lark Tavern sit-at-the-bar-and-have-a-drink kind of band," said Sparrow, 29.

Like Hardiman, who moved from the culturally fertile San Francisco Bay Area, Holland Hopson moved to Albany from Austin, Texas, and was, at first, dismayed by the lack of experimental music here, but the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center logistics integrator found himself buoyed by ASAC.

"It's always interesting to see who shows up," said Hopson, 36. "At the last event we had, I noticed a lot of new faces. Every time there are new faces, that's a victory."

When ASAC first formed, it started looking for an alternate venue, a place people might not usually think of for concerts. Hardiman said ASAC was lucky to hook up with the Upstate Artist Guild, which has allowed ASAC to use its Lark Street gallery as a concert hall. The deal works out well because the two organizations have similar missions of building community for creative artists and fans.

"There is a lot of potential crossover," Hardiman said.

The founders decided early on that they wanted ASAC to be a mix of local and well-known traveling artists performing in an intimate setting.

"It's a really informal atmosphere," Hardiman said. "People can sit really close to the musicians, talk to them, ask them about their equipment."

In addition to Moore, some of the better-known experimental musicians who have performed at ASAC include violinist C. Spencer Yeh, saxophonist Jack Wright and pianist Andrea Neumann from Berlin.

So far, ASAC is completely unfunded, with all donations going to the performers. But by the end of the year, Hardiman hopes ASAC will become a nonprofit, which will enable it to hold fundraisers to attract bigger artists and to buy better sound equipment. They will also create music "labs" to encourage musicians who may have laid down their instruments long ago to begin playing again and start a band.

"People always get busy with life and they don't think about doing the creative things," Hardiman said. "We want people to know that even if you aren't a formally trained musician, we have a place for you to play."

Danielle Furfaro can be reached at 454-5097 or by e-mail at dfurfaro@timesunion.com.

It's sonic

What: Albany Sonic Arts Collective's show featuring Vic Rawlings from Boston, Andrew Lafkas from Queens, Bryan Eubanks from Brooklyn and Mike Bullock of Troy

When: 8 p.m., Friday

Where: 247 Lark St., Albany

Cost: $5 donation

Info: albanysonicarts.blogspot.com/

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