By Joyell Nevins
Take art and sound, combine them together, and remove any musical formats or trappings: that’s noise music.
Also called experimental, avant-garde, or free music, it is a soundscape of exploration. And Sam Lopez and the Stay Strange collective are welcoming explorers in sound and spirit through “Hand of God: Conceptualizing Spirituality through Experimental Music.” The noise-music and spoken-word event occurs 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at the North Chapel in Liberty Station.
Lopez started the collective, which he runs out of Mission Valley, in 2012 as a way to bring noise musicians together for both collaboration and bookings in San Diego. He used the social media forum MySpace to “pick up that noise flag” and say anyone who is into noise music, you are welcome here! Stay Strange now hosts a monthly music series and has a core of four different noise musicians.
Lopez compares appreciating noise music to “liking dark chocolate.” It’s a specific taste, but those who love it really love it.
“It produces a loud, emotional, chaotic, sometimes serene and calm, reaction,” Lopez said.
Producing emotion is part of what drives noise music. Lopez used to be a more traditional guitar player with melodies and harmonies and hooks; the first time he played noise music at a show he booked, the club owner got so furious he was almost spitting.
“When I was done, he came up and started unplugging my equipment and said ‘no more!’” Lopez recalled. “I thought, ‘Yes! This is awesome.’”
What was awesome was not that Lopez lost the gig, but that the noise music caused such a strong reaction.
The reactions hoped to elicit from the Hand of God show will be both emotional and spiritual. Lopez has desired to explore conceptual spirituality through noise music for several years now. The opportunity finally arrived when he was asked to be a panelist on the “Vanishing Art Spaces and Venues” discussion, hosted by Radio Axiom in November.
He happened to be sitting next to another panelist, ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station Executive Director Alan Ziter. One of the points raised was converging missions and forces to save some of these venues. Lopez leaned over to Ziter and, half hoping, half serious, said “Let me get one of those old abandoned buildings.” Rather than giving a noncommittal brush-off, Ziter responded affirmatively – and within a month, the Hand of God event was on the books.
“The idea of doing something spiritual in the chapel? Perfect! The mood, atmosphere, sound – it’s perfect,” Lopez declared.
This perfect event is about breaking down walls, illusions, and barriers. Severing ties with expectation and disappointment. Several noise musicians will be participating and bringing a wide variety of sounds with them. The no know (sound band) is coming with an accordion, violin and percussion instruments. Japanese sound artist and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani is bringing his adapted gong and handcrafted Koko bow. Monochromacy and Bill Orcutt do their musical improvisation on the electric guitar. Each musician is meant to bring out different emotions and feelings.
“With Monochromacy, you feel the darkness creep inside you, and by the time it’s out, it’s turned into light,” Lopez said.
In between musical acts, look up to the chapel’s loft. Progressive tubist Jonathon Piper will be playing as Codex Confiteor. According to Lopez, Confiteor has been described as ‘medieval organum meets doom metal.’ While he plays, soprano Meghann Walsh will sing out written sins submitted by patrons of the event.
In the sanctuary of the chapel, Lopez’s wife, Fatima Courroux, will be offering tarot readings. The readings are free with donations kindly accepted.
The whole event comes without cost thanks to the Naval Training Center (NTC) Foundation and ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station.
“Over the past 10 years, [NTC] has worked to revitalize the former base and its historic venues into a destination that features arts, culture and unique experiences,” Ziter said. “Our goal in sponsoring events like this meets a community need by providing space for San Diego’s most innovative arts groups to engage, perform and connect.”
The North Chapel is located at 2881 Roosevelt in Liberty Station. For more information, visit staystrange.com or like Stay Strange San Diego on Facebook.
More about the performers …
Bill Orcutt is a veteran of the noise-rock scene. He happily destroyed eardrums with the influential improvisational trio Harry Pussy, creating dangerous waves of jagged notes with his electric guitar. After a decade-long hiatus, Bill returned with a battered acoustic guitar and a vengeance to create music that is powerful in presentation yet delicate and nuanced.
Tatsuya Nakatani is a master percussionist from Osaka, Japan. He uses drums, gongs, cymbals and mixed metal objects to create dynamic symphonies that evoke energies both dark and light. Tatsuya’s performances begin calm and serene. But like a human tornado, his sets become chaotic, frenzied and dangerous. Metal bells clang like the gates of hell, bowed bells ring high slicing the air like knives. Timbres cross with perplexity and confusion.
Monochromacy is the guitar-drone project of Esteban Flores. Flores’ specially tuned guitar is run through a dizzying array of effect pedals which then produce sounds that begin ghostly, casually metamorphosing into bleak shades of din. Volume is part of the performance. Not only can you see the colors of the dying light but you can feel them creep into your body.
No know (sound band) are a duo consisting of Sean Conway, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, shaman and Andrew Bracken, percussionist. no know (sound band) play avant-garde church music. Sean will reach angelic heights utilizing his voice as an instrument. Wordless, guttural and transcending while scraping his violin, accordion or harmonium. Andrew creates rhythm, sometimes to the beat, other times against it.