Brainwashed is a long-running website/discog hosting/record and DVD label/etc which specializes in dark, ambient/electronic/experimental music, and since the important milestone of a decade's worth of existence loomed, what better idea than to throw a big party w/ loads of interesting bands and visuals. So founder Jon Whitney set out to do just that, with spectacular results. With important musicians and artists such as Z'ev, Windy & Carl, Edward Ka-Spel, Christoph Heeman, Steven Stapleton, Volcano the Bear, Thighpaulsandra (and many more) on board, this three day event was shaping up to be a spectacle of major proportion. That rare merchandise (both tour- and show-only items, as well as RRRecords prying some treasures from the vault for public consumption) was available to a pack of inveterate collectors was also a nice addition, and the prices were kept very reasonable.
Unfortunately, personal commitments kept me from attending the entire fest, but I was able make it to the 3rd and final day, and what a day that turned out to be. After some introductory remarks from Jon, the NYC trio of Charles Atlas took the stage, and played some very beautiful low-key instrumental drones, fueled by guitar and cello; fumes of Labradford were hanging heavy in the room, and that's meant as a compliment of the highest regard. the backdrop showed visuals of a trawling net, as hapless fish and crabs were caught in its snare.
Next up was Kranky recording artist Jessica Bailiff, who had a couple of guitarists w/ her, one of which records under the name Red Morning Chorus. Her plaintive folky whispers were gently buffeted by textured guitar; unfortunately bass rig problems led to some songs being cut, and a premature end to her set.
Two brothers were next, playing after each other. Christoph Heeman plied microtonal waves against the visuals of a blizzard, fine tuning the energy as he went. or maybe he was just playing tetris; it's hard to tell w/ these pure electronic artists at times. the energy coiled, yet never released. Andreas Martin, his acoustic guitar playing brother, succeeded him, and played a rousing set of impressively virtuosic manual technique, playing both below and above the neck. An obvious touchstone and inspiration was Michael Hedges, and he paid tribute by playing two compositions. Personally I prefer the sound of the Fahey disciples, but it's nice to see someone break from the pack, and the talent level he's got is plainly staggering.
Windy & Carl took the stage in relative pitch blackness, and slowly coaxed a drone from their keyboard and guitar; it felt like being slowly immersed in warm honey, and you didn't mind when the lungs filled and suffocation took over, because it felt so relaxing. Noted confrontationalist/satanist/noise performer/alleged fascist and partner abuser Boyd Rice (aka Non) was scheduled next, but was an unexplained no show; even Jon Whitney had no information on why he didn't show. Instead, the slot was filled w/ a film and soundtrack from a very familiar name in electronic/experiemental circles, Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson (if you don't know, he was in Throbbing Gristle and Coil). The film was a coming of age ritual as triptych, filmed somewhere in southeast Asia. The hypnotic state that the almost-men got themselves into perfectly complimented the soundtrack, as it moved from mental preparation to self-flagellation w/ branches dunked boiling water, to elder-administered piercing (think tent stakes and not needles). Riveting.
During the Caretaker's set (a constructed sound collage of old-timey music, bits of noise, dialog, and other ephemera) i grabbed a cup of coffee and recharged for the finale, which was Thighpaulsandra. Easily the most visually interesting act of the day (he was decked out w/ a black feather robe and a golden stalk hovered over his clean-shorn head; the sometime drummer/guitarist/laptop player had on gold lame hotpants and armbands; the other two (keyboards/mouth organ, and guitar/drums) were in head-to-toe scarlet robes (burkas?), w/ eyeslits. Although I knew of the name from his work w/ Coil (and later i found out, also Spiritualized), I'd never heard a piece. Alternating between Sun Ra- style keyboard fuckery and ebow-driven guitar haze, they would also settle into a groove at times, putting the cock into cock rock. Outstanding performance, and a great way to cap the proceedings.