Complicated history: Sound sorceress Jackie Stewart, known as Oblivia in the Portland noise improv group Smegma, invadeth the region where Smegma was formed back in the ‘70s, when the microscopic yet now world-renowned Los Angeles Free Music Society was nascent. Oblivia didn’t join Smegma till ’83; still, it was natural that while here she would team with LAFMS eminence Tom Recchion and Smegman/husband Ju Suk Reet Meate. So she did.
Stewart launched her set solo with crunching synth tones, adding sampled crickets that humorously drowned out the indigenous ones in the garden concert space behind the historic concrete-and-wood bunker known as the Schindler House (after Rudolf, its ‘20s architect). More recorded critters crept into the soundscape: dogs, coyotes, birds, all battling the goofy sci-fi sounds of Stewart’s vintage synths. After a while, the chemistry-proffish Recchion and the dreadlocked Meate joined the party, and before long the group had dragged out a gong, bells, a trumpet and turntables to complement assorted freak noises and disembodied voices. The ad hoc effort exhibited more quantity than quality, but this is America, where mass counts for something. In media res, the sun went down, and the audience was hard pressed to weigh buzzings of performance against those of mosquitoes.
The opening set of L.A. sound artist Leticia Castaneda was a whole different matter; she sensed what kind of music would suit this quiet, austere setting. Black hair tousled, looking every inch the warehouse composer in customized black denim jacket, she adjusted her electronic generators and the surround-sound speakers with efficient alertness while white wiz David Kendall helped out with the mixing. Her drones and loops made for a meditative physical presence, resonating like breath and heartbeat but ranging through a wide volume span designed to keep listeners awake and stimulated. The tonal spectrum was considerable, too, from solar-plexus thumps to the tiniest glitch scratches, sliding in and out of audibility within a spacious yet sometimes complex rhythmic framework that maintained an inviting regularity -- a dance, almost. The tops of the bamboo grove swayed against the darkening blue sky, where a horizonwide angry cloud face slowly dissipated into peace.