Eleven50, Feb. 21 -- Entering Thursday's Flashbang 4 event at eleven50, it would be understandable to assume you'd accidentally crashed a tradeshow -- or at least an Apple support forum. Across the stage at the Midtown entertainment gallery, illuminated by a live video collage, six or seven gleaming, glistening Apple laptops huddled in little networks between mixing boards and bundles of cables. Even more iMacs filled the rear art parlor, revealing an interface showcasing Flashbang's digital animation contributors. Meanwhile, DJs Eve and Motomasa mixed everything from DJ Shadow to down-tempo dub.
A little after 11 p.m., the chairs and couches previously used for viewing the worldwide submissions to the fourth Flashbang exhibition were pushed to the outskirts of the dance floor, and those who remained after a large exodus mingled and danced comically to the evening's first discombobulator, local Oliver Dodd. His melodies playfully bounced over steadily pouncing beats -- in the vein of Nobukazu Takemura/Child's View, though with a more forceful but staid danceable rhythm -- Dodd crouched behind his laptop (the first of many to do so) dressed in a mechanic's work shirt and loose tie befitting the highly casual evening. The electroclash invasion of Atlanta had begun.
The musical component of the event, sponsored by Atlanta's ambient explorers, lifeform.project, also served as a stop on the Schematic Records tour. Though a Miami label, Schematic is co-run by Atlanta-based metallic beat manipulator Richard Devine, one of the evening's performers.
After a short DJ interlude, Otto Von Schirach was the first from the Schematic camp to make an appearance. As short films hiccupped to the beat, Otto hobbled up to the stage on crutches, taking a digitally garbled mic check as he slid on rubber gloves. In his hat and medallion, Otto struck the kind of pose fans of Kid 606 and the Tigerbeat6 crew are familiar with, but his range of sounds -- from drill 'n' bass to merely shrill 'n' bassy -- also has roots in Caustic Window and Germany's Digital Hardcore. Sounds tangoed and tangled, sometimes devolving into what seemed like a white noise test for speaker optimization. Cellular enlargements flashed overhead as Otto mutated and polluted the audio stream. Air currents quickly circulated, propelled by the battered bassbins. The crowd got freq nasty.
Next up was Schematic's Phoenecia, the duo of Josh Kay and Romulo Del Castillo, the remaining members of the label's ownership triumvirate. Lean on melody, concentrating instead on configuring complex percussive structures to interact impressively, Phoenecia drew little attention to itself, resulting in the less flashy, less abrasive presence.
Taking to the stage as malformed photocopied faces panned and scanned across the screen, Richard Devine bridged the gap between the freeform spastic and the well-planned spatial. Hunching over an array of modules, Devine -- an artist often mentioned in the same sentence as Aphex Twin and Autechre -- opened his set with a swoosh, like sitting dead center in a state-of-the-art THX environment. Ricocheting beats drilled pinpoints in speaker cones as what was left of the crowd reacted to the fractured figures. Devine donned a black cowboy hat and Otto's medallion, climbing on the table and throwing up some metal before detonating the most pounding breakbeat of the evening. Everyone cheered in one of the evening's few unified moments as the screen flashed, "FUCK SHIT UP!"
Speaking of fucking shit up, lifeform.project's figure 1.1 began its set with an introductory video in the tradition of EBM, featuring George Bush video clips edited to elicit maximum loathing. Figure 1.1 then proceeded to complement less vitriolic images with pulsating washes of gently shaped texture, expounding on its mantra of visually interpreting sound.
So while Flashbang 4's evening event may not have amounted to an actual tradeshow, it was a display of some of the top operating systems for those ready to upgrade their musical horizons.
For further info on Flashbang, visit www.flashbangonline.com. For upcoming lifeform.project sponsored events, visit www.lifeformproject.com.