Sound Tribe Sector 9 :: 04.20.05 :: Ashland Armory :: Ashland, OR

STS9 :: 04.20 :: Oregon by Zach Ehlert
One definition of music is, "an agreeable sound." If this is true, then Sound Tribe Sector 9's fluidly energized creation is certainly that. But the definition is lacking - for many of the things I've heard DJ's, stores, clubs, and venues call "music" are composed of sounds I do not find agreeable. At what point is "agreeable" a measurable thing? Who, or where do the measurements come from, and does it account for the corruption that will inevitably follow? Does the quality of something as "music," increase or decrease if money exchanges hands with the control group of hired goons who declare certain sounds pleasant? Perhaps we could create a non-partisan computer with an ultimate "agreeable chip" to impartially declare which sounds are agreeable and which ones are not. It could issue levels of agreeability to the wide range of sounds swimming through our universe waiting for the right portal to vibrate their tune to a few sets of ears. Perfect! - an impartial judge. The term "music" would no longer be tossed around and whored out to any genre, instrument, band, garage, or basement that claims they create it.

STS9 :: 04.20 :: Oregon by Zach Ehlert
All judges have their breaking point. What computer could call a sound fed to its kind, its offspring, relatives... tribe, if you will, disagreeable? It would be as likely as hearing a mother call her child ugly, or President Bush saying he's tired of all these goddamn wealthy elitists controlling the country. Sound Tribe Sector 9 create their sounds on keyboard, bass, guitar, drums, and percussion, then filter them through computers, like change into a vending machine that materializes into chocolate milk and Doritos. What computer could impartially judge one of their tribe taking raw human creations of sound, and expanding them into the electronic realm? It's too much to ask. Sound Tribe Sector 9 would foil and crash the system.

The experimentation, the balance of bass rhythm percussive jungle jams, with intimate ambient electric tweakings, of their music has forced me to retract any suggestion or implication that a computerized system could ever impartially determine which sounds are agreeable; thus declaring which sounds are suitable to be considered "music." The implications are widespread, for this realm of musical discovery based in an embrace of technology, leaves us with no choice but to accept all things from Michael Bolton, to Marilyn Manson, to a kindergarten class of hyperactive kids playing xylophones, as music.

STS9 :: 04.20 :: Oregon by Zach Ehlert
Is it worth it I ask you? With the Ashland Armory fully packed (potent scents of Oregon settling like mist in the music infused, yellow-green air) for this 4/20 show, it seems so.

The men on stage are shadows of shapes and angles in wide beams of light, making it difficult to distinguish musician or instrument. I'm in the kitchen while they bake, seeing no batter, but licking the bowl and devouring cupcakes. David Phipps balances slow, meditated experimentation in the auditory ether, with electrifying keyboard jams. Chords, like notes accompanying a torn and tattered boot making its final ascent to the top of Mt. Everest, ripple from the stage like visible sound waves. David Murphy, on bass, is the boulder dropped into the lake from whence the ripples originate.

Zach Velmer's left hand wields a rhythm of its own as two sticks, held like open chopsticks in his right hand, fly between drum and cymbal. Their music plays the audience like a breeze through a canopy of trees. Limbs of strangers move as if choreographed. I have not been a leaf for a while, and so shake and glide desperately. My legs move fast while my arms fly, scooping hollows of frosting from the air with my fingertips. Hunter Brown melds sounds reminiscent of Pink Floyd with those of Santana on his guitar, while Jeffree Lerner lays raw percussion beats on hand drums at the back of the stage. The music loosens my skin, allowing it to dance like cloth in water. It builds in ethereal spirals toward the sky and bursts into an umbrella of feather particles at the pinnacle of the inverted music tornado. The cycle of music, feeding body, dancing spirit, feeding musician, creating music... continues in waves, where I've come to drown.

Reanna Feinberg
JamBase | Oregon
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[Published on: 5/24/05]

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