“It’s not normal” – A night of audiovisual surrealism with Negativland and Blevin Blectum – Slog
PHOTO BY JEFFREY MARTIN
On Thursday night at the Clock-Out Lounge, electronic musician Blevin Blectum helped us escape reality as venerable jammers of Negativland culture immersed us in it so deeply and unsettlingly, that we had to laugh not to cry. … or maybe die.
Blevin Blectum Photo by Jeffrey Martin
Before an almost packed crowd of mostly middle-aged people, many of whom were attending their first show since the pandemic began, Blevin Blectum (Seattle’s Bevin Kelley) made his computer generate more fascinating sounds than the Most millions of other people. using the same tool to do it on planet Earth. A friend who had never seen her on stage said to me: “It’s amazing. It’s like Naked City, but with electronic music. He was right. Like a John Zorn of the laptop, Blectum went from a brilliant idea to WTF? Idea to Brilliant Idea every 15 seconds with an anti-logic that tickled the funny bone in your brain.
Blectum’s ensemble started out with weird sci-fi movie drones, then quickly moved into otherworldly atmospheres and jittery rhythms that evoked Haruomi Hosono’s film. Cochin’s Moon. We were also lucky enough to have Uranus Circus techno, pixelated angel dust iced sweet pre-rock pop songs, and a Meat Beat Manifesto-style electro-funk banger with a feminist female voice proclaiming: “Men are just desserts”. Like pioneer synth composer Suzanne Ciani on DMT, Blectum was apparently trying to put as much crazy creativity as possible into her 30-minute set. (Here’s a PSA: Blectum has an insanely idiosyncratic new album titled Deep bone now with his musical partner Kevin Blechdom. It’s their first release in 20 years and it’s quite a comeback. Want a crazy escape? To dig.)
Mark Hosler from Negativland Photo by Jeffrey Martin
Photo by Jeffrey Martin
Negativland returned to Seattle as a tight trio, with Mark Hosler as the only original member still on tour. He was accompanied by Jon “Wobbly” Leidecker and video and light artist Sue C. This line-up makes the most interesting music of audiovisual subversives, with Leidecker bringing his spacey funk leanings to augment the spoken word snippets that dot it. together. The work and spirit of Wobbly collaborator Dieter Moebius infiltrates the sound architecture of Negativland to a startling effect. Sometimes, however, the music diverts into the chillout vibes of the rave era, the haunting trip-hop of Future Sound of London to ISDN, or the improbable fantasy genre I’ll call “house music from horror movies”. Hilariously (to me, at least), Negativland even made their 1987 hit, “Escape from Noise,” as if they were a classic rock band rubbing shoulders with glories of the past.
Just as important as the sounds of Negativland are the intricately woven words drawn from I don’t know where, which overlap the distorted rhythms and distorted tones like a perfectly unreasonable schizoid conversation between dozens of strangers. Much of the set derived from Right wrong, a 2019 Acute Dissection of Cognition and Reality Itself ™. Some examples of safe sampled voices: “There is no sound. Completely made up of the human brain ”; “We are all in this cultural trance”; “The world is billions of times more complicated than we realize”; “If it’s not about me then why the hell am I going through all of this?” “; “The ability to live a normal life has disappeared”; “So don’t you think we’ll all become statistics?” ”
Negativland has made a rewarding career as prodigious consumers of media that digest and recontextualize them, emphasizing the insane absurdity of mediated reality and the infinite malleability of perception and “truth”. As a disembodied voice said last night, “It’s not normal.”
Photo by Jeffrey Martin