What we have in the On Land Festival, presented annually by Root Strata, is four days’ worth of darts aimed in whatever direction and occasionally, surprisingly, hitting the bullseye. That the acts generally have “Noise / Drone / Experimental” anointing their begrudgingly active MySpace profiles implies that their aesthetic has no true trajectory, but of course there must be some involved intent. I knew what to broadly expect, and I was not disappointed, aside from having to miss two of the four days and arriving late even so.
Pete Swanson appeared entirely consumed by his music, his eyes and mouth especially. When his white noise began, people walked out. Thing about Pete’s music is that your ears tune out the white noise and these wonderful submerged melodies reveal themselves. I placed my head against the wall and stared into the back of his wooden reel-to-reel. He sang a little. It was intense. Then it was over after, like, 15 minutes. Way to leave people wanting more.
White Rainbow looped some staggering beat that didn’t make sense as he started to build it but cohered over time and you’re like, oh, of course. I knew nothing of him before Friday night and he won me over fully. Certain noises would affect him like a stab in the ribs; he’d double over in pain and return for more. Had people in stitches over his iPad animal noises. Seems like a fun-loving guy. Maybe he can tell me what happened to Watery Graves.
Oneohtrix Point Never delivered solid programming on the same frequency as his latest, Returnal, which I recommend. Hypnosis among the crowd. It was packed in there. Cafe du Nord isn’t comfortable when it’s full, but OPN essentially spread a blanket over everyone and sang some comforting lullabies. Time-space synth noise lullabies, but lullabies nonetheless. During a quiet interlude, someone, no doubt accustomed to jumpy rock bands, yelled, “Do something!” This seemed as pointless as yelling at Aubrey Huff to hit the ball when he’s out playing left field.
Dan Higgs, at Sunday’s show upstairs in the wonderful wooden Swedish American Hall, was good old Daniel (Arcus Incus Ululat) Higgs Interdimensional Song-Seamstress and Corpse-Dancer of the Mystic Crags. He stomped on a box. He played the banjo. He laughed heartily for a very very long time, or what seemed to be a very very long time for laughing in the middle of a song, but the song was also long, and unique, and definitely improvised on the spot.
Tags: Cafe du Nord, Dan Higgs, Grouper, Liz Harris, On Land, On Land Festival, Oneohtrix Point Never, Pete Swanson, Review, San Francisco, video, White Rainbow