Discorporate Festival, June 7&8 2013
The word discoporate literally means, as those familiar with Zappa’s We’re Only in it for the Money will know, ‘to leave one’s body’. However, to the unfamiliar audience, the word, the base of which is ‘corporate’, has a totally different meaning. The ‘dis-‘ acts as a negation à la ‘disinterested’ or ‘disemboweled’, and thus one associates the word with the antithesis of the almost mechanistic music world. With great pleasure I can say that the wonderful pun pans out in the world of which language is merely an approximation. The Discorporate Festival was a fully sublimative experience, probably somewhat akin to being a Buddha protesting on Wall Street while on copious amounts of drugs. My goal with this review is not to make any true attempts at describing the sounds, but only to hopefully pique some interest. More so than almost anything I have ever encountered, Discorporate Festival was not something worth an attempt at description. It was far beyond the sum of its parts, and oozed a warmth of static embracing energy.
The totality of Discorporate Fest was mind warping. The entire building had been given the perfect DIY makeover, with grass roots art coating the walls, the perfect lighting, and a general ambience that one has given up expecting from venues. There was not an inch of space that was not in one way or another entertaining. The lawn in front had a free-for-all picnic atmosphere, and one entered the actual playing space (which was fitted with various papier-mâché deep sea animals) to what is close to the perfect crowd atmosphere: ready to dance, ready to talk, ready to enjoy in any way possible. Everyone there was ready for a huge spectrum of music, which the festival delivered all on one stage. Everything from comedy-pop of Freeze Puppy, the disco of Ptterns, the brutal tech-noise of Staer, to the indescribable sounds of ZA! SchnAAk and Guardian Alien. Each band had a distinctive set up, which the crew was able to get functional well before one would expect, which was almost downright astonishing.
I would be completely satisfied saying that every band kicked ass in their own right, and that the environment was more than one would have expected, even given the incredible combination. The three bands of whom I have interviews were, biased or not, my favorites, and I will give a quick synopsis of what it was like to see them. I find the interviews themselves more interesting than anything I could say about the experience, which simply must be experienced.
The first of the three to play was Guardian Alien, who dredged forth from the pits of technicolor chaos the usual unreproducible bath of sound. The recent loss of one of their musicians had changed their sound, but definitely not for the worse. The new texture relied more on the thick web of loops coming out of the pedal board, which immersed the listener in a high-octane audible soup. Greg, as usual, played out of his skin, with his usual look of meditative concentration. Alex’s vocals cut through the Technicolor din with shimmering clarity of thought and sound. The chaos was perfectly balanced, overwhelming, and beautiful. In fact, it would seem that the recent loss drove the band to summon forth a greater degree of intensity.
Previously when I have seen Guardian Alien, there is almost a sense of a Zen, as the river of sound contracts and expands in on itself, weaving unidentifiable layers over itself, a chord of ether in constant flux held together loosely, more than by anything else ,by the sheer conception of a band. Here, there was more of aggression in their attack on the instruments, a clear and deliberate compensation for new space, and I believe the pressure to fill the space brought forth a carnal sense (simply take a look at those faces). For a crowd that was looking to dance, they were not so well received as more approachable acts, but definitively found their home amongst other acts, and naturally as a unfathomably individual act, intended for the headier appreciation. That is not to say there wasn’t the same energy in the crowd that thundered from the stage (the law of diffusion, thankfully, held true), but simply that the various Euro-style club meisters (yes, there were a couple present) were not quite sure what to do with themselves. We of the enlightened convulsed with the torrent and were so freed.
SchnAAk is almost untouchable in terms of showmanship. Between the perfect execution of their material, which is in itself beyond commendable (just listen to it), they have established the perfect balance between nonchalance, humour, and self-laudation. High energy ferocity characterized everything they played, and the interpretive dance that interposed a couple of the songs (which was not so animalistic as elegant, but in a Groucho Marx style). Mathias’ guitar tone gut pummeled right into my gut, and I would speak about the awe of watching Josen play the drums, but I don’t think I was ever able to focus for a long enough time to digest it (not that anyone could). SchnAAk has recently incorporated the perfect arsenal of tone color and texture, and these sounds become both rawer and more refined when heard live. They are bouquet of living breathing mechanical cosmic god flowers, glowing hot aurora borealis in perfectly orchestrated insanity. My only complaint about SchnAAk was volume. I wished to exist as nothing other than a being engulfed in SchnAAk, which would have required some sort of mystical crossing brought on by split ear drums and a distended bowels (yes, I have heard sound vibrations can achieve this result), but I suppose it is good I continued on in existence to hear them again.
What is key to SchnAAk, particularly live, is an understanding of the masterpiece of pure artistry combined with a distinct sense of accessibility. Where Guardian Alien did not cater to the understanding of dance that the crowd came with, SchnAAk may as well have bestowed it upon them. However, the music is, self evidently, highly technical, ripe with fruits for the most devoted music geek. However, taking I believe a leaf from the mainstream metal acts following in the wake of Meshuggah, the underlying groove never is completely lost. To a listener with some familiarity, seeing SchnAAk, hearing them perfectly execute the sounds you had assumed to be the work of a production wizard, is nothing short of Sublimation. For new listeners (an opinion I had to get by talking to others), SchnAAk quickly asserted itself as a monster, the aural grip of which is inescapable.
It is possible that ZA! Has more fun on stage than any group I, at least, have encountered. The best analogy for understanding ZA! is in physics. When particles are bonded, they are at their lowest energy state. When they are separated, their kinetic energy sky rockets. So, there are many points in ZA!’s music when there is space between sound (they are only two people and there is only so much tasteful looping can do) but these seems to make them more intense, and more interesting. Everything from ZA! was lighthearted and engrossing, incredible danceable despite its unpredictable changes, and with more fire at its ass than any band I’ve seen.
Pau and Edu lose, from what I could tell, a sense of ego upon entering the stage. They become conductors of circuit, a circuit that is not fully connected. That is to say, perhaps 1000 volts are moving through a wire, but one part of the wire is broken, yet the electrons simply jump over the gap to reach back into themselves. ZA! has a sense of spontaneity, a sense of the impossible. The music should really not being able to come forth, it feels like they are so unaware of themselves they would be no way for them to connect. Yet they do, and it sparks. They ooze machismo, but in almost a self mocking way. They are playing music to have fun, to try new things for themselves and for others. They are the ultimate party in and of themselves. Even knowing consciously that the notes I was hearing were correct, there still remained a feeling of seeing something that had not yet occurred on earth, but maybe was cascading through a rip in some plane of existence, from a place where cross faded electrodes of flourescent rainbows collide in ecstacy to the rhythms of mumbo and schizophrenic merengue.
There is something particularly futile about trying to talk about this festival. A lot of shows come and go, but very few become something bigger. Discorporate, and the bands that played, created an experience, a community, and interaction, a reality, that just didn’t exist in any quantifiable or describable way. There will be one next year, if there is any sort of order and goodness in the universe. Tickets to Germany aren’t that expensive. Enter the Starworld, where people are still excited to be alive, and unafraid to engage with it. Discoporate is, for me, characterized be the dedication to the music, with intense thought to the experience. The final hours of the festival consisted of a jam session including all the musicians who felt like the should get involved (thus, involving two drumkits). Discorporate Festival takes itself seriously, but as an alternative. This ends up entailing a different idea of what serious is, and I personally comfortable believing that some of the most interesting, progressive, familial music is happening.