Live Report: M. Geddes Gengras @ Rare Air (4.12.2016)
On any given night, patrons at Seattle’s Q Nightclub might expect to hear bumping house music in a setting that’s 50% ultra lounge, 50% dance club, and 100% meat market. The club’s specs boast a state-of-the-art sound system, which is accurate, but the vibe is not one that particularly caters to experimental music heads.
Except, that is, when the floor is lined with pillows and yoga mats and the club is transformed into something wholly other; an audiovisual utopia — awash with psychedelic visuals generated by I Want You Studio‘s Christian Petersen — where entranced ambient fans sit and listen closely to subtle, gentle music.
Rare Air bills itself as Seattle’s premiere club night devoted to ambient and new age music, but in the two years since its founding, it has grown into something of a movement: a flagship event for the Pacific Northwest’s burgeoning kosmische scene which has hosted live performances by acts like Panabrite, Visible Cloaks, and saxophone improviser Kate Olson.
Perhaps the most unexpected thing about Rare Air is that it’s always free. (The night achieves a modest budget through bar sales and event producer DJ Explorateur has been known to pay bands out of her pocket.)
Rare Air’s most recent installment featured DJ sets by up-and-comers AOS and Archivist alongside resident DJ Explorateur, plus a live set by prolific Los Angeles performer M. Geddes Gengras. Gengras’s set started out gently, with inquisitive modular synth burbles finding their way into a powerful river of textured drone. About halfway through, the drone opened like clouds parting, making way for a joyful, major keyboard melody to emerge from a Moog Little Phatty. Rhythmic elements gradually crept in, and for a moment, we were given an offering of gentle, broken dance music that finally gave way to an ecstatic, Riley-esque fluttering of fingers.
There’s no shortage of modular gear-heads making electronic music these days, but Gengras stands head and shoulders above the crowd for his inventiveness and melodic lyricism. It isn’t easy to make synthesizer music sound beautiful, unexpected, and even uplifting all at once, and Gengras’s ability to do just that sets him apart as a giant in the field.
[All photos by Valerie Calano, aka DJ Explorateur, except the second photo below of DJ Explorateur by Emily Pothast.]