Saturday, January 18, Robinia Courtyard, 10 p.m. Info
The year’s first installment of Robinia Coutyard’s Jams series features one of the monthly dance night’s most intriguing headliners yet. Flower Food is the DJ and performance moniker of Emma Danch, whose work has ranged from compelling, danceable mixes to experimental sound art. Jams is all about getting people to dance, so Danch will be spinning a DJ set here, but there should be plenty evidence of her adventurous ear among the grooves. Take a recent episode of Mixed Prints, Danch’s show on WNUR, Northwestern University’s radio station. Over the course of two hours and change, the set incorporates more than enough rhythm to nudge people into motion, some of it decidedly rooted in techno and some of it a little more experimental. But throughout, Danch also lets the listener/dancer bask in an incredibly rich range of spaces and textures.
A series of site-specific electroacoustic pieces Danch calls “Talking Spaces” combines abstraction with an almost playful musicality. These pieces draw on everyday sounds, from the soggy thrum of a dishwasher (take that, Matmos!) to the ambient noises of beaches and parking lots. Danch gathers sound samples in real time and manipulates them with software. These pieces are very true to the idea that improvisation isn’t merely a free-for-all, but a practice of spontaneous composition. As the clicks and hums and snippets of voice accrete, Danch quickly finds rhythms and harmonies to play with, reminding us in a very literal fashion that music can be a powerful response to our environments. And I’m sure it’s not lost on Danch that a good DJ set is also a response to the mood of the venue and audience.
Perhaps the most impressive “Talking Spaces” piece that I’ve been able to hear (without actually seeing it in action) comes from Danch’s performance at an experimental-music festival in Serbia in 2016. Danch starts with barely-audible echoes and voices, and over the course of 40 minutes, builds them into whirring collages and undulating, blasted-out dissonance. Let’s hope she gets back to Madison to showcase this side of her work, after spinning what promises to be a very good set here. DJ Zip Disk, DJ Umi, and Jolokia round out this installment of one of Madison’s most ambitious dance parties.
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