Review & Photos | Symbiosis Gathering 2013 | California

STS9’s return to the NorCal environs was the subject of much buzz, both in the 9 community, and to a lesser extent the festival itself. The huge-by-comparison Big Island Stage was host to many of the weekend’s headliners, but it was definitely the place to be for Soundtribe’s three-hour tour de-force on Saturday night. First and foremost, Saul Williams took to the mic and delivered a fifteen minute opus, a stream of consciousness free-verse from one of his long form poems, and left the audience slack jawed, and teary eyed. Then, after a moment to breathe, STS9 took assumed their position, and “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist” came first.

[Photo by Kauai Ric]

On the heels of their near-universally revered Red Rocks run earlier in September, the stage was set for a return to watermelon tourmaline-tinged, interplanetary roots. This was partially accomplished, mostly during the first set text-book run of “Simulator, Grow, Vibyl, GLOgii, Move My Peeps” and to close the first set “Kamuy.” All of which were performed collectively, yet still vigorously. The Tribe was often assisted on trumpet by Russ Liquid, to an enthusiastic dancing crowd mix of 9 fans and Symbiosis-goers. The second set served a different purpose, as the band was not immune to the notion of the myriad of electronic music styles on display at Symbiosis. They chose to offer a sampling of their own kaleidoscope of sounds and ideas, as they have sonically traveled over the past six or seven years. Though this writer is firmly encamped with the school of Sector 9 who seek what Set One provided, kudos to STS9 for treating the Symbiosis massive with respect and providing a taste of their entire menu, from the lowdown to the “Vapors” and several points between.

Hailing from SoCal and New Mexico, the amazing ensemble Desert Dwellers first welcomed the new Monday morning with a ritual de lo habitual dripping in meditative beat- science and angelic dust. Bringing an electronic bass music cross-pollinated with the Yoga scene, and like Dub Kirtan All-stars, employing the global sounds of both galaxies in an eclectic stew. Sacred bass treaded the modern edge of electronica with ancient and organic soundscapes, this was a set of genre-bending at its finest. Hosted by the apropos Pantheon, Desert Dwellers delivered one of the single most engrossing sets of the weekend, taking the massive on a journey to the core. Main members Amani Friend & Treavor Moontribe hosted a squad of guest collaborators in a procession of earthly percussion, ethereal voices, and culture-crossing instrumentation; the downtempo’d dance grooves were impeccable way to greet the morning. The steady stream of guests, live dancers, and visual arrangers were a tremendous accompaniment to Desert Dwellers entire two hour epic breakfast blessing.

[Photo by JMH Mixed Media]

There is nothing quite like a Random Rab sunrise set. The mysticism and supernatural energies are alive and afloat as the people congregate and exude a certain brand of reverence, a symbiosis between artist and audience I’ve never witnessed at any other gathering. Ably assisted by Emancipator violinist Ilya Goldberg and percussionist Jason Cedar Miller, Rab followed Desert Dwellers over at the Cove stage, by upping the ante on what can truly transform. Captaining this delicate and admirable mission, Rab Clinton worked his magic to a near flawless perfection at the wheel of an 18-track mixing console and live sampling software, amidst a myriad of different acoustic instruments.

Rab puts emphasis on forward progression, a style that makes songs feel looser than your standard build-tension, drop-bass one-two step. Without the lavish percussion it would be difficult not to get mired in temperate noise. Rab’s music doesn't rely on simple looping or repetition, and instead assemble patiently, arching its way into a beautiful vocals and dancing to and from by pulling bass in and out of the mix. Even at the nearly two-hour mark, the producer/composer/savant keeps it ever-so-fresh, accentuating a tiny drop with a musicality that makes it clear he's unwilling to rely on simple tricks.

Mixing in the most effective handclaps since D’Angelo’s seminal Voodoo sessions, a positively tearjerking version of “The Plastic People” was especially cherished, as were many of his new songs from a forthcoming album later this month. Selections from aRose and Vissurreal were received like a sonic manna from a new Heaven, newer compositions like “Clairvoyer” resonated with profound meaning and an emotional connection. Groups of friends, old and new, rejoiced and reveled in a heightened sense of community, and dare I say…love, was present throughout the entire one hundred minute priestly benediction of bass and benevolence.

Incredibly fortunate circumstances manifested us an invitation to join Random Rab, an-ten- nae, Sidecar Tommy and other friends and well-wishers for gourmet mimosas and conversation, backstage at The Cove after their morning sets (or in Tommy’s case, before his.) To be a fly on the wall, in the geodesic dome whilst Rab, Tommy, and Adam talked shop was riveting. The topics mainly revolved around reproducing bass-driven music interspersed with midrange and treble elements, live instrumentation and vocals in the live element. Each artist offered various opinions, examples, and their own tricks-of- their-trade. The visual artist/phenomenon Professor 8000%/Thee John E. took all the arte in alongside us, and we were all pinching ourselves at what a treat it was to have such cutting edge artists discussing their respective creative process in our midst.

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