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House Of Tudor 

The cyber space-age anniversary of "Synth," and the habit-forming trip hop of Loquat

Wednesday, Feb 20 2002
As an artist, Phoenix Perry somehow savors the damage inflicted on the human body even while she suffers from a repetitive-strain injury severe enough to prohibit her from brushing her once-long hair. In her film The Shadow of Digital Living, the co-founder of the monthly club experience "Synth" plumbs the interface between biological form and man-made machine to exquisite, unrepentant effect. Such visual and cerebral stimulus is par for the course at the cyberspace-age "Synth," which gives as much attention to conceptual films and video-art environments as it does to the "dreamy electronica electro funk electronic dub new wave disco robot porn soundtracks" it offers every month at the Blind Tiger. Over the last year, audio authorities such as Mr. Velcro Fastener, Scanner, Jonus Bering, Languis, Kid606, and Germany's Anthony Rother have shared space with visual artists such as New York's Astria Suparak, Seed (), and girLie8, the latter of whom also holds a monthly residency at the Oxygen Bar.

To celebrate a year of torso twitching and head bobbing, "Synth" presents an anniversary show featuring live performances by Memory Systems, the electronic trio comprised of Perry, fellow "Synth" co-founder Brian Jackson, and video artist Jenny Young; New York City's Hong Kong Counterfeit, a collaboration between retro-futurist techno artist Inform3r and Eastern European designer/DJ Katya Casio; Twerk, local Shawn Hatfield's "spatial perspective" dance music persona; Broker/Dealer, an S.F. duo that creates improvisational soundscapes using record loops and crank phone calls; and Eelio Estevez, the Dali-esque rapper in black leather who invites you to taste his laptop fog. Visuals will be offered by Philadelphia's Scott Pagano, whose work focuses on the byproduct of machine error and breakdowns in communication systems; local photographer Sue Dean, whose live video performances include photographs, negatives, drawings, and tiny objects set in motion and digitized in real time; and Devan Simunovich, whose vintage video game installations and lo-bit visuals have embellished shows at Blasthaus, BOLT, and SFMOMA. Finally, if your sensory boards are not completely blown, you might learn something at one of the booths manned (and machined) by Alchemind Society, an international nonprofit that defends freedom of thought; Independent Arts and Media, a local production shop and networking service that fights "infotainment" by supporting noncommercial media; Orthlorng Musork, a local label that's released albums by Gold Chains, Kit Clayton, and Sutekh; and the Drum Machine Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and archiving every drum machine ever made. "Synth" celebrates its one-year anniversary on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Great American Music Hall with DJs Anon and Jeffrodeeziac opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.50; call 885-0750.

I have been tricked and teased and left wanting by the three-song preview of Loquat's forthcoming full-length debut. I languish on my sofa with a faint tickling in my ear and a hollow feeling in my chest, looking for relief that only comes as I push repeat on the CD player. Loquat's brand of trip hop is a little like good poppy-seed tea, something soft and delicate that drapes your senses in feathery down and rocks your mind into graceful, doleful stillness. Kylee Swenson's voice drifts over the discreet guitar lines of Earl Otsuka, floating like the dandelion seeds mentioned in "Swingset Chain," above the whispers of Ben Kasman's pearly synthesizer and understated piano notes, and through the hypnotic cadence of former Damsels rhythm section Chris Lautz and Anthony Gordon. Swenson's lyrical imagery -- consisting of childhood playgrounds and paranoid delusions -- matches an elfin voice replete with breathy melancholy and sultry languor. But Swenson's vocals alone would be a diaphanous placebo: It is the combination of the superb musicians and their significant restraint that make Loquat so habit-forming. Loquat supports Dora Flood on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Cafe Du Nord with Patsy opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 861-5016.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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