Janek Schaeffer, Vote Robot | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Janek Schaeffer, Vote Robot

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Janek Schaefer, Vote Robot

You can tell by the pops, clicks, and whirs that Janek Schaefer is manipulating a vinyl record on his 1999 CD Out (K-raa-K), but good luck trying to figure out what record, or even what kind of record, it might be. The English experimentalist made the disc using the Tri-Phonic, a turntable of his own design with three tone arms that, depending on how they're placed on the record, can pick up the signal forward or backward or both. The source recording is pretty much irrelevant anyway: for Schaefer everything is raw material waiting to be transformed into something new. In the case of the first piece on Out, "Construction Eight," the end result is a spacey, slightly unsettling ambient drift, delivered from New Age nothingness by an unstable undercurrent of sonic details--sudden high frequency swoops, richocheting pings, blasts of white noise. The second and only other piece, "Construction Five," is considerably noisier and more active, marbled with viscous swooshes and house-of-mirrors clicks. On his more recent Above Buildings (Fat Cat), the freaky record player takes a backseat: the album is primarily a studio creation whose building blocks are field recordings Schaefer made in Canada, France, England, and the U.S. Despite the shift in technology, the soundscapes don't sound much different--though they're shorter and it could be argued that they're less dense. Also on the program, which is part of the fourth annual Transmissions festival (see Post No Bills), is Vote Robot, aka Scott August and Kevin Rivard of Kelowna, British Columbia. Their recent album, In Meorm NA (Scratch), sounds like kin to the digital-glitch constructions of Germany's Oval, but it's not: these guys embroider warm, undulating tones with chopped-up electronic ripples and snags using nothing but tape, turntables, mixers, and analog synthesizers. It's nothing you haven't heard before, but it might be slightly more interesting to hear someone do it without staring at a computer. Randall Jones will also perform; Kevin Drumm (see separate Critic's Choice) and Pita will DJ. Thursday, August 9, 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North; 773-278-6600.

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