Monday, September 08, 2014

Hopscotch 2014 Night 1: Body Games, New Music Raleigh, IIII

All photos by Chris Powers
As the rain continued to pour down, drenched fans made their way to the Duke Energy performing arts complex to take in an interesting trio of acts that lived up to Hopscotch’s reputation for experimental music, but were outside of the typical ambient and drone genres the festival is famous for.

Chapel Hill’s Body Games lit up the Kennedy Theater with psychedelic projects of Johah Hill and various romantic scenes from Disney films (I spotted The Lion King and Robin Hood). Like moths to a flame, this attracted the glow stick crowd that has become an annual tradition at Hopscotch and a dance party began.

Body Games kaleidoscoped between upbeat grooves, intricate mixes, and beautiful, chilled out meditations. The projected visuals were often silly, but for people of a certain age, there was a strange poignance to seeing cartoon love scenes (especially those that may have been the first depictions of romance we were exposed to) illustrate the shifting colors of the songs.

Over in the Fletcher Opera Theater, New Music Raleigh presented three pieces. The first was a violin solo and the second included the full string quartet. The feature of the night was the premiere of “Future Shock” from Brooklyn composer William Britelle.

By combining electronics with strings to create impossible-sounding rhythms, “Future Shock” was surprising and full of life. Neither the electronic elements nor the strings dominated one another. The composition and the execution of it made the combination sound organic. Like The Necks in the same room in 2011, this was one of those performances that obscured time and place and makes me hope for even more modern classical music in Hopscotch’s future.

IIII (Four) was almost as entrancing as New Music Raleigh. The drum collective was a sight to behold with over 15 drum sets on stage pounding in unison. This wasn’t a gimmicky Stomp-style performance of cute layering. IIII was a force of nature with nearly all of the performers drumming in union. The repetition and volume created a mantric effect and it felt like my own body’s rhythm was being shifted.

The one element that held IIII’s compositions back was the electronic element. Unlike New Music Raleigh, the electronic noises here felt tacked on. The power of the drums was enough by themselves and it was undercut by unnecessary squeals and rumbles.

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