It may come as a surprise to some that Washington DC is in the vanguard of the global experimental music scene. There is a plethora of locally-based acts creating noise and atmospheric improvisational music, turning found sound into symphonies and traditionally non-musical objects into instruments. Every time I check it out, this DC-based scene seems to get larger, as the existing groups inspire new musicians and amateurs to let their freak-flags fly and their musical imagination run wild. As the DC scene begets new acts locally, the global noise/improv scene looks to DC as a friendly enclave for their outsider music thanks to the large, open-minded fan-base that lives here.
Sonic Circuits is a group, backed by the non-profit organization Improv Arts Inc., that serves as the primary promotion engine for the thriving DC experimental music scene. They organize and host shows year-round in the DC Metro area that showcase some of our areas best, brightest, and weirdest musical acts. Since 2001, Sonic Circuits has hosted a yearly, week-long festival in Washington combining the best local acts from this underground scene with some of its most interesting artists and groups from around the world. The 2010 Sonic Circuits Festival Of Experimental Music & Beyond begins this Saturday, September 18th. There are activities planned for every night of this week-long festival. The festival concerts take place at multiple venues in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Full festival schedule, venue, and ticket information can be found here.
Find my Hot Ticket picks for the 2010 Sonic Circuits Festival after the jump.
MAGMA – $50 – 9/18/10 – at La Maison Française
In the 1970′s there were many bands that wrote and recorded “rock-operas” but few combined the distilled essence of rock and classical composition in such original, bizarre, and powerful ways as Magma. Known most for their godlike percussion, singing in their own made-up language called “Kobaian“, and inventing their own genre called “Zeuhl“; this French, progressive music, super-group have had a massive influence on the last 40 years of underground music. Bringing Magma to DC is a real coup for Sonic Circuits and an amazing way to kick off their festival on Saturday night.
FENNESZ – $20 – 9/21/10 – at Strathmore Mansion
Christian Fennesz is a huge presence in both the electronica and noise worlds with his laptop and treated guitar compositions. Any fans of IDM or Ambient electronic music has either heard Fennesz or has listened to music that is heavily influenced by him. Famous for making electronic music that emulates and evokes the natural world like no one else, this Austrian composer is equally known for his use of harsh glitch and walls of noise to unsettle and envelope the listener in his audio landscapes. Fans of the electronic end of the noise spectrum will not want to miss Fennesz’ first-ever DC concert appearance.
MERZBOW & Richard Pinhas – $20 – 9/24/10 – at La Maison Française
For fans of noise music, Merzbow needs no introduction. Known as the godfather of the Japanese noise scene, Merzbow has utilized just about ever instrument of sonic destruction known to man to create more noise recordings than any human could possibly consume. This true pioneer and innovator in noise music is equally proficient at electronic based noise generation and tape-manipulation. What he will bring to this special performance is anyone’s guess but it is sure to be mind-blowing. Richard Pinhas is also a music legend, known most-famously as “the father of electronic music in France”. With his group Heldon and his extensive solo career Pinhas can be credited as a direct influence on both Industrial music and Techno. This live collaboration of music legends is sure to be one of DC’s best improvisational performances of 2010.
In addition to these three fantastic highlights there are several multiple-act show-bills all over the area, every night of the week. If you are looking for more bang for your buck, I suggest driving down to Fairfax on the afternoon of Sunday the 19th for MUSIC MARATHON OVERLOAD! at Fairfax Old Town Hall. This all day and night event features over ten acts for $15. Expand your mind without breaking your bank!