The dome of electronic phenomena: New Forms Festival 2014


by Irene Lo | photo by Greg Forsberg

New Forms Festival, an interdisciplinary arts and music festival that bills itself as promoting collaborations between national and international artists within the context of media and technology, didn’t do a shabby job hosting this year’s event at Science World, one of Vancouver’s most well-known landmarks. This year was also the last year NFF founder, Malcolm Levy, reigned as festival director, a spot he’s been holding since its inception back in 2001. The thought can’t be helped that Levy pulled out all the stops getting this location, and it makes sense – putting the audio-visual performances where the late night sets will be, all together under one geodesic dome was practical and very convenient. Not to mention it was a magical place when it was filled up with drunks in dark clothing, girls in beanies, and boys with interesting moustache choices.

Thursday was the night that Otis Jackson Jr. AKA Madlib AKA Quasimoto AKA the headliner was forced to cancel due to unexpected issues of a personal nature. It was a shame that the versatile, innovative, hip-hop producer had to cancel since it was a highly anticipated show, but the promise of a TBA make-up performance at a later date, as well as Stones Throw providing another one of their artists, DaM-FunK, in Madlib’s stead, made Thursday a win for lovers of groove. DaM-FunK spun smooth, cool beats that simmered with a fine heat, a steady constant that never intensified or burned itself out. DaM-FunK would regularly take the mic to talk about the racial use of the N word, which added a provocative, spoken element to the soulful drums and funky guitar riffs. Before Dam-FunK took the floor, Young Braised was on, a local rapper that had his back towards the audience the entire time. Thanks to Soledad Muñoz, twin stacks of televisions framed Jaymes Bowman as they shone out a live feed of him rapping about Haruki Murakami among other things. Braised and Muñoz explored authenticity and separation in life through screens, with Braised’s face turned to the wall and Muñoz manipulating his image to look straight at us.

Sandwiched between an American and a European, Young Braised was a burst of local flavour. Positioning local artists within a global context is what makes NFF stand out as a festival, and it was the same on Friday with Jesse Bru and Cloudface taking the stage early. Bru, the Montreal transplant from BC, was on the first floor, where the stage was set up in a cozy space created by the winding staircase that led up to the second floor. In comparison to the upstairs stage that carried a dense and heavy atmosphere conducive to the dark techno that would be a familiar sound heard through the night, the stage on the first floor was positively brightened by upbeat house.

While German producer, Jacob Korn, delivered an hour of fun house, irresistible to move to, another German, Helena Hauff, would be working on a bad ass set that took its dancers for an absolute pounding. Like Alina Astrova, who performed Thursday under the moniker Inga Copeland, Hauff dropped a combative set that was intensely demanding, and delightfully troubling.

Projection-based video art like Wallpapers by a collective of artists (Nicolas Sassoon, Sylvain Sailly, Krist Wood, Laura Brothers, Brenna Murphy, Rollin Leonard, Lorna Mills, Rick Silva, and Sara Ludy) was displayed upstairs where psychedelic prints, gif loops, and vegetative patterns rotated at intervals. Tucked around the corner, hidden just behind fabric curtains, was Light Bar, an installation bar created by Instant Coffee to explore light therapy by mixing tiny mojitos for the depressed.

On the final night, the space on the second floor was repurposed into one big room that remained impenetrably black. British DJs, Visionist and Wen, made use of it with Visionist’s hard, thundering bass vibrating the ribcage, and Wen playing dirty with twisted, strong beats.

While NFF wrapped up at Science World officially on Saturday, free outdoor performances as well as after-afterparties made it hard to tell when it actually ended. DJs Sotofett and Fett Burger, Norwegian brothers that started up the techno label Sex Tags Mania, scored the afternoon away with sounds like reggae, R&B, and garage, to name a few, to a chilled-out crowd on an unnaturally sunny day.

It was a dreamy send-off for a popular and challenging arts and music festival. It’ll be a worthwhile wait to see NFF top themselves again next year.

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