Published Apr 25, 2011The elusive V.Vecker, member of the Vancouver Free Jass + Drone Society, took the stage just as the Canucks ran out the clock in their astounding Game 5 playoff loss to Chicago. His music perfectly captured the sense of defeat in the air, looping saxophone layer upon layer between two mics and EFX pedal stations until it sounded like an accordion bludgeoning a gaggle of geese. He seemed suitably self-conscious and awkward for much of his half-hour set.
Volker "Hauschka" Bertelmann's set was apparently a little different than the Düsseldorf resident's usual tour fare, which requires him to source string ensembles in each North American city and rehearse with them for several days. On this night, it was all up to him and Samuli Kosminen, a Finnish drummer from the otherwise Icelandic group múm, but their sound was not lacking in the slightest. Bertelmann brought his signature prepared piano, and spent much of his set-up time taping a variety of rattles and metallic objects to the bared strings of his open-faced upright. Kosminen came equipped with prepared cymbals, xylophone and various noisemakers, employing a little extended technique on the drum kit with a variety of brushes and beaters.
The resulting jagged timbres unified both percussive instruments, marrying their sounds from across the stage into one glorious creation. It sounded as if one had stumbled into a post-apocalyptic German cabaret, with Kosminen's off-kilter rhythms supporting Bertelmann's minimal piano melodies ethereally warped and dilapidated. Where many proclaimed "avant-garde" artists use noise to mask a lack of vision and/or talent, Hauschka uses it evocatively, to make his otherwise complete and moving compositions otherworldly, familiar yet always slightly off.
Much of his set was culled from his most recent Hauschka record Salon Des Amateurs, which sits in stark contract to 2010's Foreign Landscapes, a heavily classical work. Conversely, Salon represents Bertelmann's love of electronic music and his desire to dance. Though much of the crowd was seated through the set, there was a shocking amount of bass between the noises, EFX, and bittersweet tones. Both Bertelmann and Kosminen have a great sense of timing and electroacoustic gesture, making it difficult to tell exactly where some sounds were coming from during their performance, whether they were on tape or whether they emanated from the ether itself.