David Foedel on LEAF 2018: Pattern Language



The latest edition of LEAF (or Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival) happens this weekend on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 in Lafayette, CO. LEAF is a showcase for the synthesis of technology and art and each iteration of the festival has featured some of the most innovative creative people in the field. The Spring 2018 event will include performances from ART391A2, John Gunther/John Drumheller, Trace Reddell, Jason and Debora Bernagozzi and Phillip Sterns with demonstration from Branger_Briz. On Friday night, after the performances, DJ Crix Madine will generate repetitive beats and abstract patterns in conjunction with live video from one of Denver experimental music’s go-to video artists, orchidz3ro. What makes the festival so worthwhile is that it humanizes the art and the technology and makes it accessible in an intimate setting.

Things kick off on Friday at 7 p.m. with the music/performative shows at the Colorado Music Festival Center For Musical Arts building at 200 East Baseline.. On Saturday the festivities continue 9:30 Saturday morning at The Collective Gallery at 201 North Public Road with the “Data Safari” demonstration showcasing the pervasiveness of data flowing through the air and the manner in which it does so from our devices and public and private broadcasting devices. Saturday evening beginning at 5 p.m. there will be a short film festival at Grimes Hall room of the 200 East Baseline location mentioned prior. For more information, please visit the LEAF website.

Crix Madine, photo courtesy LEAF

We recently ran some questions by festival curator David Fodel about the current edition of LEAF.

Queen City Sounds And Art: Why did the theme/concept of Pattern Language suggest itself to you for this edition of LEAF?

David Fodel: There is a well-known book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander that describes and catalogs various successful patterns in architecture, urban planning, and generally community building, which has also been quite influential in the software development world too. I find this idea of hybridity and cross-pollination, of “synthesis” rather than specialization to be an important quality in art, music, design and engineering and wanted to give the festival a theme that was far-reaching, while at the same time could simply relate to repetitive beats or sequencer music, which I also love.

You have a number of artists who combine their art with computer programming and heavy technical skills. That’s not unique to this iteration of LEAF but why do you think your attention was drawn to artists who combine those skill sets at this time?

Well really all artists have specialized technical skills, and the most interesting art for me is when people explore emerging technologies, and get playful with it, seeing what happens when they combine things in ways that should not be done, not necessarily on purpose even, but because they may just not know any better. Discoveries happen sometimes, and sometimes it’s terrible, but it’s that iterative process, what’s called ‘design thinking’ that can lead to interesting new forms and refinements. A lot of the work in this year’s LEAF has deep roots in historical artistic and musical experiments and explorations, but have been refined to push those forms forward. Some of the artists have been doing this type of work for decades, and some of them are super fresh to the whole notion of making art with technology.

Phillip Stearns, photo courtesy LEAF

The Data Safari part of the festival seems especially relevant and interesting for people’s everyday lives in a way they may not be aware of. Can you tell us about how you came to be aware of Branger_Briz and that sort of, for lack of a better word, performance or demonstration? Why do you think that sort of thing is important for people to know about and what kind of awareness and change do you think having that knowledge might engender?

I have known Nick Briz for a number of years now, and have presented his work in the past here in Denver at a show called “The Emperor’s New Aesthetic.” It straddles art, activism and design and as you mentioned, it is especially relevant now due to the data breaches at Facebook. Branger_Briz is a design collective based in Chicago and Nick has deep roots in that whole kinda Midwest Glitch scene along with Jon Satrom and John Cates. They all teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which has a long history of embracing new media art forms well in advance of other institutions. I got to know those guys when I was at a Live Cinema Summit in Chicago back in 2008 or 2009. They embrace the notion of technology as a potential disruptive force for change, and potential source of authoritarian control, depending on how we guide it and the social structures that enable its dissemination.

The Data Safari is yet again one of those playful ways of using technology to draw attention to bigger issues like privacy and who controls our data. The underlying artwork, called “ProbeKit” is on display at The Collective, a new gallery in Lafayette as part of the first LEAF visual art exhibition called “Machine Language.” Branger_Briz is joined by a handful of other artists that each explore the notion of the “machine” in art and I would really encourage you to check that out. The show runs through May 5th.

It’s often been said that art leads culture and society. Do you feel that to be the case? 

I think it’s more accurate to say that art is part of a complex of entangled forces and expressions that manifest emergent forms, systems and behaviors.

It seems as though all the artists you have for every edition of LEAF has brought a creative use of technology to make creative work that synthesizes science and art. Why do you think showcasing that kind of art is important beyond it just being interesting to you personally?

Science is a powerful methodology and technology is a powerful tool. It’s important that we don’t leave those things in the hands of people with no sense of humor or love of nature and humanity.

Trace Reddell, photo courtesy LEAF

Trace Reddell is a science fiction author/creator. The idea behind much of science fiction is that it’s commentary on today even when it’s projecting into the future. What do you think Trace’s contribution as a commenter on current culture and civilization is especially interesting?

Well Trace has a very unique angle on science fiction and sci-fi cinema. His work really explores how sound and language form this hybrid kind of matrix that can structurally change our brains. His work for LEAF is a performance lecture format where he will be mixing and mashing up cinema, spoken word, psychedelic music and literature to not only communicate a message, but to induce consciousness changes directly.

Best Shows in Denver 8/25 – 8/31


EVP performs 8.26 at Hooked on Colfax, photo by Tom Murphy

If, like many of us, you aren’t super flush with money and couldn’t sell enough blood plasma this past year to afford half the ticket price of the Depeche Mode show tonight at Pepsi Center, you have plenty of options should the live music experience be what you’re seeking. Not just the Titwrench festival at the Mercury Café starting tonight August 25, continuing tomorrow, August 26, but plenty of others including the following.

Who: Itchy-O and SPELLS 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Itchy-O, the cult/sprawling experimental band/spectacle including over thirty members, has toured America, played in Tasmania and is arguably the most well-known weirdo band from Denver. Now the group is finally releasing its sophomore record, From the Overflowing, the follow up to 2014’s Burn the Navigator. Both albums have a home at Jello Biafra’s long-running indie label Alternative Tentacles but you can buy one in person this night and experience Itchy-O’s ever evolving live show. You can also catch openers, SPELLS, fronted by comedian Ben Roy who, with any luck, will do and say something memorably ridiculous.

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Quantum Creep and Stasis of Seasons 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Why: Sliver and Television generation play together often but that’s no bad thing because both groups have managed to basically reinvent grunge for the Rocky Mountain West. 20 years ago, maybe you would roll your eyes at such a throwback impulse in sound. But both bands are energetic and seem to be coming from a sincere and pure place that bypasses notions of misguided nostalgia. TG even worked with grunge scene engineer par excellence Jack Endino on its 2015 Digital Static EP. Quantum Creep is a noise pop band that is comprised of veteran members of Denver area indie rock and indie pop bands. Rather than just basically retreading prior efforts, the members of Quantum Creep challenged themselves to focus not just on solid songwriting but in expanding what indie rock can and should sound like. Also, kudos for the nerdly science reference, people!

Who: Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble w/Heather Trost and Pattern Language 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Laetitia Sadier was once the charismatic frontwoman of Stereolab, a band that combined Krautrock, avant-garde electronic music, bossa nova, punk and pop for an otherworldly listening experience with every record. Since that group split up nearly a decade ago, Sadier has forged her own music path with songs creatively worthy of Stereolab but more a reflection of her nuanced, further exploration of a cross-cultural blend of sounds and thoughtful commentary on life and the modern political landscape. Heather Trost, whom some may know for being in A Hawk and a Hacksaw, perfectly compliments Sadier’s own blend of diverse influences. The what one might call electronica exotica of Boulder, Colorado’s Pattern Language, as one can find on the 2017 EP Total Squaresville, is a great introduction to the whole evening.

Who: Kevin Morby and Shannon Lay
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Before ever joining experimental folk band Woods on bass in 2009, Kevin Morby was writing his own music from a very young age. After leaving Woods in 2013 to forge his own way, Morby has proven himself to be a gifted crafter of introspective pop songs with a rare full use of low end in his compositions. Currently on tour in support of 2017’s City Music, Morby is finally writing and performing with the confidence that comes from not making music in the shadow of his previous musical projects.

Who: Speakeasy Series: EVP and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Saturday, 8.26, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Nighttimeschoolbus is not too well known in Denver, much less elsewhere, but if quality of music is ever an indicator of success in that realm it should be. However, the duo comprised of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks has few widely available recordings. They play few shows and don’t seem to have a shred of the careerist ambitions that bands trying to “make it” in any way seem to need to go beyond being asked by friends to play small shows. Walker, one of Colorado’s most talented musicians and vocalists, released solo albums in the past and with her indie pop band Cougarpants. Hendricks has several releases under his solo hip-hop moniker Otem Rellik. And together it’s an amalgamation of that underground hip-hop beatmaking and Walker’s avant-garde pop sensibilities. Also on this bill is EVP, another duo, but in this case, the band has elements of industrial music, witch house and post-punk. Amanda Baker’s vocals are reminiscent of Gitane Demone and the music has an 80s death rock vibe informed by a modern dance music production sensibillity.

Who: Reggae on the Rocks featuring Sublime With Rome, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, Inner Circle, Landon McNamara and Judge Roughneck
When: Sunday, 8.27, 2 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: In an annual tradition going back several years, Reggae on the Rocks will get started early Sunday afternoon. Whether the musical form is your thing, or whether or not all of these bands appeal to you, there’s not likely to be another chance to see punk/reggae legends Fishbone, much less a worthy band they influenced like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on the same bill. Maybe some people will even figure out that Inner Circle has excellent songs beyond “Bad Boys.” The band, after all, has roots in the earliest days of reggae and had a whole career before 1986 when its most famous song was released. Local reggae powerhouse Judge Roughneck is also on the bill. While much local reggae is deservedly the butt of scorn and disdain, Judge Roughneck has garnered respect for its own music which never seems like a misguided appropriation.

Who: Bleached w/Springtime Carnivores and The Corner Girls 
When: Sunday, 8.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jennifer and Jessica Clavin were once members of the great art punk band Mika Miko. When they formed Bleached in the wake of the dissolution of the latter, they embraced a kind of songwriting style that reflected the myth of Southern California—bright and easy melodies—while never trying to pretend there isn’t a darker side to California or a more gritty aspect of everyday living. The group’s latest album, 2016’s Welcome the Worms, is a heavy album that manages not to weigh you down. Denver’s The Corner Girls also take a sort of punk and surf rock aesthetic and make it a vehicle for commenting on serious issues in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat anything but also doesn’t unproductively wallow in despair.

Who: Silver Face w/Mugen Hoso and Palo Santo
When: Monday, 8.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Silver Spur Saloon
Why: Tokyo’s Mugen Hoso could be a punk band or a rockabilly band but in fine Japanese tradition, distinct categories don’t matter and the art statement of kind of cutting loose in a culture that frowns on such emotive gestures is plenty rebellious on its own. Silver Face, the Denver psychedelic rock band, is also on the bill. By not trying to be a psych band in the same mold as so many bands have in the last 10 years when more people discovered that music by listening to the Black Angels and realizing that The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a great band and not just a living caricature of a band in the excellent 2004 documentary Dig!, Silver Face is writing valid songs with real roots in an earlier era of rock and roll.

Who: The Cutthroat Drifters (final show) w/The Patient Zeros and To Be Astronauts
When: Wednesday, 8.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Since around 2003 way too many bands have mined the “classic rock” sound and attitude. Like Civil War recreation societies for rock and roll. The results have been mixed. The guys in Cutthroat Drifters, though, never seemed to forget that it’s not enough to play music inspired by that era of great songwriting or to just live an irresponsible lifestyle. These Drifters wrote many a worthy rock and roll song of their own and the live show was surprisingly forceful with a talented vocalist and frontman in Nicolas Kjolhede who danced with an unaffected yet theatrical flair as his equally skilled bandmates provided the context for that performance to work. After nearly a decade of rocking and sweating on multiple Denver stages, this is their last show. We hardly knew ye, Drifters.

Who: Wovenhand with Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle
When: Thursday, 8.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Wovenhand has evolved into a more noisy, haunted, post-punk band from its more Gothic Americana beginnings a decade and a half ago. Live, the band’s music is a journey through harrowing emotional landscapes guided by singer David Eugene Edwards’ dark vision aiming toward spiritual catharsis. Sharing the bill are Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle. The two songwriters had a collaborative album earlier this year but separately, Rundle has a ghostly purity at the heart of her dark, moody songs that evokes Julee Cruise while sounding more like Marissa Nadler. As a member of Red Sparrowes with roots in folk music, Rundle masterfully navigates a broad and deep vista of emotional expression. Evan Patterson, Jay Jayle, is no stranger to heavy music himself as a member of Young Widows and Breather Resist, and his burnished blues folk is the stuff of Jodorowsky soundtracks.