NOISE: Skating along the Bleeding Edge

You ran into the most intriguing pairings – and people – at the Bleeding Edge Festival Sunday, Aug. 13: what other event would find SF duo Matmos and a handful of other familiar SF rock folk down amid the leafy, upper-crusty environs of Saratoga (inspiring the question: just how many McMansions and outright mansions can one small town include?). I can’t help but compare the event to last year’s ArthurFest in LA – it was a similar wide-ranging if somewhat smaller gathering of intriguing artists in an unlikely, grassy, very non-clubby space. And as with Yoko Ono at that 2005 event, you could catch one-time events like this collabo between Matmos and Zeena Parkins below.

Zeena Parkins beats long-stemmed red roses and Matmos takes a stab at the duo’s recent “Roses and Teeth Ludwig Wittgenstein.” All images by Kimberly Chun.

But unlike ArthurFest, the selections seemed a wee bit random: I still don’t quite get the connection between the fine but not quite as experimental Yo La Tengo and, say, sound artist William Basinski, who impressed many in the Carriage House theater and also installed a site-specific tape loop piece, in collaboration with James Elaine, in the Main Hall.

Considering the long haul from other parts of the Bay Area to the site (the location makes it superconvenient for San Jose fans and Zero One attendees but necessitated carpools for Oaklanders), I’d say that if the organizers wanted to make draw listeners to this event they should have charged $10 or $15 for the fest rather than $50. The prohibitive ticket price didn’t help the shockingly sparse audience in the Garden amphitheater for lesser-known bands like Flying.

Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan hunkers down with a cozy, lengthy jam on “Autumn Sweater.”

Also admirable, with mixed results, was the juried competition winner showcase. Pardon my igornace but when did this competition occur? Who was invited to compete? Questions, questions – the mind is a-whirl. In any case, the best of the bunch was Canned Corpus Callosum, here shown below, cranking out the rickety-rock Tom-Waits-and-Dresden Dolls-like sounds.

Canned Corpus Callosum peel open their roots-industrial-noise-classical songbook.

In the end however despite power problems for Black Dice, who played for three seconds then blew out for about an hour (heard they were incredible, if reminiscent of their last Great American Music Hall show), the event was a pleasure – set in startlingly beautiful environs. You could take a nature walk and check out Jeff Cain’s Dead Air sound installation along a hill trail that had recently boasted mountain lion sightings. Toothy! Essentially for your average experimental music-noise connoisseur who wanted to spend a Sunday with mom amid pink lilies and sound art – this was the place to be.