Alternative tunes

Avante-garde music and an eclectic array of performances at The Artel

The artists came together with a variety of sounds to brighten the Artel.
Image by: Arwin Chan
The artists came together with a variety of sounds to brighten the Artel.

Local sound artist Big River Dream “makes strange sounds and probably nice ones too,” according to the Facebook description of the event I attended on Tuesday evening, and I tend to agree.

The Artel is a local artist-run collective, and on Tuesday night it hosted an evening of aural art.

Big River Dream — the stage name of Greg Wilson, ArtSci ’16 — was one of three acts. Whereas Wilson is based here in Kingston the other two performers Noordwiijk and Hazy Montagne Musique came to The Artel from Montreal. Wilson opened with his strange sounds, setting the tone for the evening. His performance resonated throughout the room, flowing through the space and enveloping the modest crowd of listeners within its auditory environment.

“Big River Dream frequently dreams of water,” it says on the Facebook page, and certainly the performance was hydrating, washing away the dimly lit room and replacing it with its own organic habitat.

The trick to enjoying sound art, I think, is to let it saturate you, to get lost in its flow. You have to let down your sensory guard a little so that your ears can guide you into whatever experience the music evokes.

For me, Wilson’s performance transformed the space into natural environment, a forest, and The Artel’s versatile performance space and casual atmosphere made this transformation easier.

The audience gathered in the living room portion of the space, facing the dining room. Not only was this a relaxing and intimate arrangement, it made it easy for the artists and audience to mingle together between sets and after the show.

Noordwiijk performed next. His set was harmonious with Wilson’s. It was an organically woven journey — because of its relationship with passing time, sound art has the unique ability to create intricate and intense sonic experiences that move you.

The juxtaposition and mingling of different tones and rhythms can give rise to a diverse palette of feelings sometimes surprising, playful, relaxing, or even intimidating. Though not necessarily always musical, sound art is entirely expressive.

That said, the final performance was a little more conventional, musically speaking. To describe his sound, Hazy Montagne Musique uses words like “dream pop” and “mystique shoegaze”. I was drawn in by the rhythm, which was more regular than in the first two performances, but it was the use of vocals that really brought it to life.

Part of the success of Tuesday’s show came from the venue itself.The Artel is a homey place, and not just because it literally occupies a house.

With its chilled-out vibe and the open atmosphere, The Artel is unlike many other art spaces in that it doesn’t ask too much of you. As it says on the event page, “Come as you are or not at all”.


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