Recombinant 1998

Recombinant 1998

Science Friction [Bass’d in Miami]

Terminal 12, Port of Miami • 3.7.98

2:45 PM • Neck deep in tall, obstinate cabbage palms and squat, repellent palmettos on 75 South, I’ve forgotten what a standard palm tree looks like. It’s disorienting, and the palmettos are ugly. I stick it out in anticipation of the lush sea of flowers and mangoes that Miami was, last time I was there in the spring.

4:32 PM • Lost in Miami. Much later, we settle into luxx accommodations (someone else’s) and watch the sun set on South Beach.

9:27 PM • Sated by mediocre food, we roll to the Port of Miami for Asphodel Records’ Recombinant Music Lounge. After a ridiculous and long circumnambulatory security and entrance procedure, it becomes clear we have failed to enter through the press line, so we step to the people with the clipboards for some more attitude.

11:31 PM • Tipsy is amazing, and more fun than you can beat with a stick. Original Tipsy member David Gardner is present (and very entertaining), mixing, patching, and looking like the world’s most satisfied Radio Shack customer. In front of him stands an apparent patchbay, and he has a cleverly concealed turntable. He is mired in wires. Joining him are two guests, on keyboards and sequencers (I was told Tipsy’s other founding member “doesn’t travel,” whatever the hell that means). Tipsy seems to utilize a little bit of everything — literally, samples from Chinese opera, Gamelan orchestra, house stylings, some metal shredding. I absolutely could go on forever. It’s as if someone set them to task making a musique concrete encyclopedia. Mixmaster Mike of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz joined for most of the set, and whenever he stepped off, Tipsy spun into a serious Towa Tei aesthetic. Very fucking fun.

12:22 AM • The beautiful DJ Spooky does his thing, seamless and delicious as ever. But the big ships out back in the water are more entertaining to watch.

1:30 AM • The event we’ve all been waiting for: the Turntablist Exhibition. First up is Miami’s DJ Craze, who represents Miami at world DJ battles. Playing single notes off the records like a musical instrument, his short set whipped the very indigenous (and very young) crowd into a terrible frenzy. Next up is A-trak, the 15-year-old DMC world champion from Canada, no joke. He’s damn good, for 15 years old, but a wee tad out of his league with the gods on the platform. Apparently, he’s been made an honorary Skratch Pikl. Beat Junkies Melo-D and Babu followed. Mixmaster Mike and Shortkut of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz were next up on the solo en masse show.

Last but the most: the X-men, the Harlem Globetrotters of the turntables, took individual turns delivering bewilderment — and then performed their signature choreographed routine. Scratching under the knee, over both shoulders while mixing with one’s shoulder blades, scratching with the shoulder blades themselves, there’s no limit to the acrobatics these master turntablists are capable of.

2:48 PM • Granular Synthesis, “multimedia terrorists” from Austria, either terrified or bored everyone (concomitant with their age and/or attention span) in the place with their installation, Motion Control / Modell 5. Comprised of 4 massive, juxtaposed rear-projection screens, on which four separate video sequences were projected, and using (my estimate) no more than 15 or 20 total seconds of footage, GranSynth utilizes only a few frames at a time, jerking back and forth between them at a lightning pace, simultaneously taking full advantage of the minutely linked quadraphonic sound system to assault the viewer with very synthetic, acidic, stark digital beats, and some sampled signifiers such as a locomotive in passing and some metallic terror a la Ein Neü. The images themselves were of a Japanese woman (performance artist Akemi Takeya) breathing, sneezing (very isolated moments of a sneeze, deconstructed as such to seem spastic and tortured), blinking, screaming, and simply moving her head. The frames are scrubbed so rapidly that the images seem to morph together, and the resultant impression is horrific and grotesque. Ghosted images of eye sockets seem to sink into the side of a dehumanized shape resembling a forehead, at the same time the face is looking down and to the side. This experiment in terror lasted an astounding 30 minutes, which is most likely why the younger half of the crowd left before the end of the piece. I lost track of time, entirely entranced by the display.

Much that has been said about this piece is media-specific, and speaks only of the technology and formal aspects, but the work is heavily coded with meaning. It explores our feelings about race and gender, about technology and the digitization of communication, and the terror that will follow. We are slowly programmed to feel at ease with low resolution, bad color video, and digital sound with a sampling rate so low that the quality is greatly inferior to its analog predecessors (here I’m not referring to CDs, but answering machine, web-delivered sound, etc… routine applications). A face with Western features, or certainly that of a Western Male, would have been far less effective. Motion Control / Modell 5 is loaded with meaning, and offers itself to a profusion of interpretations. An older viewer would certainly draw more meaning form the fact that the subject is Japanese. Younger viewers might tend toward making comparisons between the formal aspects of the piece and the forced integration of digital technologies into our daily lives.

4:33 AM • Hit 95 North for the long road home.

• •

Visit for Recombinant info, and a lengthy RealAudio feed of Recombinant 96. If there is a god, they will do the same with R98.

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