Thursday March 10.
Spec.drum is a monthly night of electronic music run by a group of students and djs who gravitate around the University of Limerick’s music technology course.
Upstairs in this theatre, experimental sounds live side by side with DJ performances as the crowd mingles and swings. The entry charge is small, the show goes on till about 2 and all are welcome.
This was the second Spec.drum featuring Ennis composer and DJ ‘My Name is John’ as the headliner. John was here to perform tracks from his debut EP and did so in style mixing his own work into an uncompromising DJ set that spoke to the head as well as the hips.
Under a video-projected feed of staged performance, the hosts, who included DJs ‘Deviant’ and ‘Mickey Fingers’, organised the night’s noise. Wires, cables, laptops, cameras, projectors and decks spilled from the stage creating a virtual assault course for Deviant as he introduced the participants, including one impressive young performer from Athlone who hovered over a laptop generating Aphex Twin-type sounds as I got there after midnight. The other participants on stage were Dal Kas, Rumbus Merrylegs and Tweek.
Visually, the stagecraft projects a link between the Spec.drum collective and occasions where friends are given the opportunity to hear the latest experiments and related musical selections.
With Laptops instead of, say, guitars on stage the audience cannot help but feel a visual link here with their own undoubted daily internet music sourcing and sharing. The night also acts as a monthly trade fair where the audience swap tech info with the organisers. The hosts also diligently extended the night as a podcast.
My Name is John is aware that though the night is tech and contemplative this is still a gig. He reminds the crowd that it’s ok to dance. Just because the tools of the trade may have changed the practice and appreciation of dj-ing, the professional responsibility in composing a varied and creative set is now more than essential in representing the current scene as well as the past.
John’s background and skill as a hiphop DJ and producer made tonight’s sculpting of noise appear a lot simpler than it was. The genial banter and body language of the Ennis man also drew deserved cheers as his own tracks filled the Loft with offbeat bass and textured stabs. A knowing cheeky move was a couple of seconds of pretend ‘equipment malfunction’ at the start. In the usual jungle of wires and leads, glitches and power loss are par for the course in this scene.
Many followers of the performers tonight are familiar with the possibility of tweaking sounds and software. The structure of a ‘song’ is up for grabs then manipulated by laptop and phone and rapidly offered to their peers. Artists like John use the breakdown of these barriers to push boundaries even further during a performance.
Quickly, the dancers agreed with the barrage of multi-genred fractured loops that were expertly cut and pasted and they embarked on a wonky journey. What did it sound like? Imagine a series of progressive radio stations pumping out everything from heavy-riffed rock and twisted hiphop to old-school jungle and folk music then spending an hour rapidly spinning the dial between them while dancing on a sampler. It was something as funky as that.
The attuned crowd here will have considered the format of a song not as a finished commodity to be consumed at a record company’s discretion but as a sequence of open-sourced noise reconfigured for their own purpose. Its the punk legacy of the composer Luigi Russolo who said ‘’Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound’’. And he said this in 1913.
What is evident with the sound promoted by Spec.drum in Limerick is that the traditional timelag between the profile and appreciation of contemporary sounds and the showcasing of them has disappeared. Facebook and the above techno anarchy bring the production and presentation of music and noise into the hands of those who see the gap between performer and audience as insignificant.
My Name Is John’s free download is at http://stressdebtchestpains.bandcamp.com/
And the other performers can be found at