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Frith, FURT and Friction highlight 8th annual SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and the Arts

I’m not going to pretend I know most of the acts that will be performing at this year’s SPARK Festival, the now-traditional confab of electronic music wizards enjoying its eighth year of operation on and around the U of M campus. The dynamic nature of the global electronic music scene, with its mixture of technology and DIY aesthetics, makes it a fast-moving target for all but dedicated practitioners and cultish devotees.

But the solid history and institutional support (sponsored by the U of M’s College of Liberal Arts, among others)  attached to the festival has made it a signal event for insiders and a worthy gamble for open-minded neophytes interested in the possibilities of the electronic music genre. As an added bonus, the festival has been moved this year from chilly winter to arguably the best time to reside in Minnesota, the leaf-turning late September and early October.

There are even a couple of acts I recognize, beginning with Fred Frith, a guitarist who has performed with John Zorn, Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, among many others. Refusing to choose between jazz, classical and electronic forms, Frith has taken listeners down many aural labyrinths, with sounds ranging from ear-splitting skronk to waves of echo to crystal “silence.” He’ll speak for 90 minutes Saturday afternoon at the Regis Center for Art and then play that night at “Love Power IV,” the most high-powered of SPARK’s many events.

Scheduled for the “Love Power Church” at the corner of 14th and Washington, Love Power IV will also feature FURT, the London-based duo of Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer,  who have been together now for a quarter-century and record most recently on avant garde jazz artist Evan Parker’s Psi label. The third act will be Klaxon Gueule, a Montreal-based trio that’s been around since the late sixties performing improv music that defies their name, which translates to “horn scream.”

Along with Fred Frith and FURT, the SPARK performers with the most cachet are the Friction Brothers, from Chicago, or more specifically Friction Brother and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, a highly respected former cohort of jazz composer Anthony Braxton. They’ll play Friday night at 1419 Washington, right next to Love Power.

Here is Fred Frith performing solo in Mexico in 2007.

Here is the home page for the Friction Brothers.

And here [PDF] is the schedule of events for SPARK, an absolutely vital resource for the various happenings that began this morning and will continue through Saturday night.

The SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Arts, in and around the U of M’s West Bank campus from Wednesday, Sept. 29, through Saturday, Oct. 2. Events are free. Check the above listings link for times and other schedule info.

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