Photo: Silver Apples in 1968.
Meaford, Ontario is known by some as the home of Beautiful Joe, the beloved canine narrator of an 1893 novel on animal cruelty. Every Civic Holiday weekend since 2006, Meaford has also played host to Electric Eclectics, a festival of experimental music and sound art. To be more specific, the festivities take place on a farm overlooking Big Head Valley with what its founders describe as “some of the best sunsets you will ever see.” Directors Gordon Monohan (of “Speaker Swinging” fame) and Chris Worden compile some of the country’s most thrilling status quo challenging line-ups, with past acts including Juliana Barwick, Damo Suzuki, Tony Conrad, and countless others. This year’s event from July 31-August 2 features some of their strongest programming to date, so we’ve put together a quick list of standouts.
Formed in the heady New York scene of 1967, Silver Apples have a widely deserved rep as some of the most fascinating and transportive psychedelic survivors. Swirling sounds emerge from the homemade electronic rig of Simeon Oliver Coxe III, including oscillators, sound filters, telegraph keys, radio parts, lab gear, and other whatsits. Propulsive drummer Dan Taylor sadly passed away in 2005, but Simeon has continued to soar to the silver apples of the moon. He will also perform at EE with the “electro-cabaret” duo Amphibian Lark.
Mykki Blanco has been described as a furious fusion of “RuPaul, Marina Abramovic, Marilyn Manson, Kate Moss, and André Breton.” Following a flurry of news earlier this year that was misinterpreted as a retirement from the music biz, the experimental hip-hop artist has bounced back into action. After revealing that he has been HIV positive since 2001, Blanco launched his own Dogfood Music Group label, interviewed Lydia Lunch, and now has a TED Talk slated this fall. Blanco’s appearance at EE is only one of a handful of North American dates.
Nihilist Spasm Band
The term “legendary” is tossed around like a beach ball, but London, ON’s Nihilist Spasm Band legitimately deserve the title. In our feature published back in 2013, we described the improvised bedlam of this storied experimental troupe as “shamanic free jazz, agitprop/absurdist poetry, junkyard concrète, or a live cat being wrung through a meat grinder.” 2015 marks the Spasm Band’s 50th anniversary, celebrated in performances at EE with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto.
The duo of Sweden’s Erika Angell and Martin Öhman zap out an abrasive take on circuit-fried improvisation. Öhman powers through a minefield of mind massaging electronics while Angell processes her vocals into unrecognizable, sputtering shapes. Watch a clip from their previous Electric Eclectics appearance above.
New Chance is the latest guise from Healing Power Records co-vibe-inducer Victoria Cheong. Her shimmering electronic bodied music continues to evolve with each new performance, inspiring you to channel your inner Ewok raver. If her fantastic Ear Rationelle cassette released back in March swept under your radar, make sure to grip the goods while you can.
Following the main stage action, each night of EE is closed out by dance parties that ride until dawn. This year’s guests on the decks include Ice Cream (with their night “Water on Mars”), Glitclit (Lido Pimienta and friends), DJ Garbage Body (Bile Sister and friends), Monogamyth, and Feministry (DJ Siri and Cam Lee).
Music is just one side of Electric Eclectics, with its programming of installation artists offering some of the most immersive and mesmerizing experiences each year. 2015’s standouts include the wig-flipping video edits of Winston Hacking and Andrew Zukerman, Vanessa Rieger’s Night Life Guard patrol (“Providing safety, while facilitating PARTY!”), a mobile robotic contraption from Apetechnology, a video game created onsite by the Digital Forest Collective, A/V throwback trips from the Analog Preservation Network, and hundreds of hanging beeswax sound pods from Leslie Putnam.
Montreal sound/performance artists Lisa Gamble (a.k.a. Gambletron) and Johnny Forever deliver some afternoon fun as the hosts of noise karaoke. We’ll let their description speak for itself:
[quote]“Just like regular karaoke, people select a song from a book, bring forward a selection, and wait to sing. Unlike regular karaoke, the lyrics are only a guide. You must sing your hit song in a new and dynamic way through handfuls of effects, to the electronic dance noise. You do not need to be a good singer, just an extrovert. It’s fucked. It’s fun. Anyone can do it. Together we reinterpret the hits.”[/quote]