REVIEW: Circuit and Sinew: Laugh Tracks at Revolution Records

By J.J. Pearse

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this performance while sipping a cocktail at Chances Social this past Saturday. The weather was about to get nasty, as was George Clinton, who was performing right next door to Revolution Records, and I was excited to get into some unfamiliar sounds. 

Curated by Jason Zeh, the evening began with Moe A. Barria performing an endearing comedy routine, initially apologizing and walking out the door (due to ‘nerves’) to let out a scream. Their brutal honesty and dark humor provided some excellent and probing moments, ending with the psychiatric alphabet—ADD, ADHD, Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2… Y… why… WHY?!  It was an unexpected and wholly welcome set, and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of their work.

Furs, comprised of Kris Schmolze and Jen Maxted, followed with a mellow set of improvised drum-set and synthesizer, accompanied by the sounds of recorded rainfall. It was a chill bridge to the rest of the evening, although I couldn’t help but think that Furs could have broken up some of the sets later to come. Schmolze mentioned that this track was recorded just the day before in KC, and I couldn’t help but feel this acted as a great precursor to the storm we’d receive later on that evening. 

Visiting artist Christopher Burns next presented his work Interferometry, in what proved to be the most personally compelling performance of the evening. Brief bits of text about the Michelson-Morley experiment  framed visual and electronic elements, and the performance left me with two questions which lit my brain on fire about what I had just witnessed: 

What invisible structures surround us?

What new evidence would change your beliefs?

The bits of text, the way that darkness, shadow, light, and sound all related to each other in this performance, left me recounting and analyzing every little bit of what I had just experienced. Although not necessary to enjoy the performance, Chris offered a zine he had compiled about the creative process of Interferometry. It proved to be incredibly personal and revealing, addressing topics of how white people handle race in this country, his own sexual identity, and how he strives to create art true to his own voice and relevant to his surroundings. Photographs of notes and transcriptions of a journal offered a small window into the enormous amount of thought and process that went into this work. I highly recommend several listenings (and viewings) of the video linked above. 

Peter J. Woods, also on tour with Chris, provided us with a foray into performance art and harsh noise music, which ended up being simultaneously gripping and overwhelming for me. If anyone attending this performance dealt with misophonia, it was hidden well while he began masticating a lemon—rind and all—into a microphone. Peter would eventually spit it out onto an amplified pane of glass at the audience, repeating the process a number of times. Live processing of these sounds would eventually shape what we heard next, in addition to the ringing of a dinner bell. As the thunder and lightning began creeping in, visual elements of a hand squeezing various cuts of citrus had me worried about the potential lime-sized hail which was purported to fall. It was necessary for me to plug my ears for the unholy, nearly two-minute wall of sound that ended the piece as Peter walked off the stage, which left me kicking myself for not bringing earplugs. Again, I was so intrigued by the technical elements of this work. There was clearly structure––three clear segments of “eat the citrus as the video of a hand squeezing citrus plays simultaneously, then ring a bell, then spit”––and a great deal of technical prowess behind the sounds he created. However, I am honestly not sure if I could discern which live-recorded sounds went where in this piece. The modification of what Woods would do after chowing down on a lemon was so saturated, it was overloaded from the onset. I could not help but feel my own background in acoustic performance may have detracted from this experience, as other folks in attendance seemed to be faring far better than I. 

As attendees of the George Clinton performance wandered in to dry off for a moment, they were just as soon out the door as Patrick Hopewell and Jason Zeh dove into their final set of the evening. Already in a state of audio-overload, I ended up hiding in the back bookstacks while impressive concoctions of electronic wizardry penetrated the space. I was conceptually drawn to everything presented by Peter, Patrick, and Jason, but I can’t help but wonder if a noise warning would have helped or hindered attendance for the evening. I know to prepare with ear plugs for next time, and am incredibly excited to see and hear what Jason has in store next for Circuit and Sinew.