Armed with a ’70s Buchla synthesizer resembling a vintage phone-operator’s console, the Krells (named after a fictitious alien civilization) are poised to invade Victoria.
This is electronic music, folks. And it’s pretty darned wild.
A visit to the Krells’ website (thekrells.com) gives a hint of the electronica stew on offer Friday night at Open Space. Music samples include Vudu, beginning with ominous drum-like sounds and bubbling over into chime-like sparkles and shimmers. Or how about Zepeda, suggestive of an old manual typewriter being operated in a bleeping, blipping parallel universe? Then there’s Block Thelonius, which sounds like piano strings being strummed while spaceships ping-pong through an echoing concert hall.
The Krells, whose official debut show is at Open Space, are John Celona (operating TimbreSpace electronica software), Kirk McNally (Max/MSP audio processing and spatialization) and Daniel Godlovitch (manning the Buchla synth).
The Victoria trio is a diverse musical collective. Celona, a long-time University of Victoria music professor, is renowned in electronic-music circles (he won first prize in the 1985 Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition). The 65-year-old actually knew Don Buchla, inventor of the Buchla synthesizer (“an absolute genius”) when Celona was studied music at San Francisco State University in the 1960s. As a young saxophonist playing clubs in San Francisco, Celona gigged with the likes of Carlos Santana and Sun Ra.
McNally is a UVic faculty member and recording engineer who’s worked with Bryan Adams and R.E.M. And Godlovitch is a research associate with UVic’s music technology lab who also performs dance music in such clubs as Lucky and Hush under the moniker Okpk.
What’s on the menu Friday night is a first set, titled Marconi Calling, followed by a second set dubbed In the Afternoon Restless (the latter is taken from a line in Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur).
The audience will be seated, but Celona and company hope people relax and have fun. Getting up to buy a beer mid-song is A-OK. The Krells insist this is not an evening of cerebral, academic art music.
“It doesn’t have to be sitting in your chair and scratching your chin,” Godlovitch said. Added Celona: “We do some very hard-driving, pulsing pieces within this.”
Here’s how the aliens fit into the picture. When he was a kid, Celona was blown away by the 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet. In particular, he loved the crazy soundtrack by electronic-music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron.
In Forbidden Planet, “the Krell” is an extinct alien race that was so advanced, they built a machine that could transform fantasies into real life. It was his idea to give the Krells their name.
The Krells play music that combines improvisation with structured elements. McNally says Celona’s contributions sometimes have a cinematic feel (Celona is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker). In performance, McNally will make real-time loops and samples of what his band-mates are laying down — a technique common in dance clubs.
The music’s esthetic is closer to jazz than classical or serious new music. And, like jazzmen, the Krells are after those elusive but rewarding moments when everything falls together, as though prompted by some unseen hand.
Or even an extinct race of aliens.
Where: Open Space gallery, 510 Fort St.
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15, $10, door, cash only or advance at krellsatos.brownpapertickets.com