Crasis: A Bold Fusion of Local Music, Art & Technology

Houston's experimental scene doesn't always get a lot of media attention, but the city is home to a number of artists who regularly both expand and violate the boundaries of what is usually considered popular music. Many if not most of them employ some form of technology as one of their primary tools, whether it comes in the form of several surveillance cameras looped into a live video mixer or a church-style organ built out of PVC pipe.

This Saturday anyone who may have always been curious about this scene will have an excellent opportunity to learn a little bit more about it at the Brandon, the gallery on Westheimer that took over the space of DOMY, the beloved Montrose bookstore and bohemian gathering spot next door to Brasil.

Entitled "Crasis" after the word meaning the fusion of two vowels to make one word (from the Greek word meaning "to blend"), the show brings together artists from various artistic disciplines for -- according to the press release -- "an event that will be equal parts live music, visual art and tech carnival, and all spectacle."

Eric Todd, a member of Houston collective {exurb} and the organizer of Crasis, says that while the components of the show - which is laid out Brandon's three rooms within the Brandon - may be vastly different, all of them are designed to be interactive. Those who have attended Free Press Summer Fest in the past couple of years might recall {exurb} projects like the waterwall or "theremin doorways."

"I sort of have two groups of people I can invite to things," he says. "I know art folks probably aren't going to be interested in sitting in a dirty club, who I can't necessarily invite out to Mango's for a show. Conversely, we have a lot of shows in these art galleries that a lot of the music folks find maybe kind of stuffy with the white walls and whatnot, and find that to be something that's not their scene.

"I wanted something that would get me excited, and also engage people in a way that they hadn't been engaged, to sort of cross-pollinate some of those audiences a little bit," Todd adds.

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Saturday's performers include James Templeton, who has written original compositions for the aforementioned PVC organ and a sequencer fashioned from a ceiling fan; Todd himself, who mixes guitar and self-sampling looping; Stephen Farris, who released the acclaimed 2011 album Cosmic Sounds on VHS tape; Austin's Roger Sellers, who Todd says is another looper who uses drums instead of guitar; and FLCON FCKER, Houston's builder of homemade synths who, for example, can use a laptop to project infrared images of his audience.

Add to that a site-specific scuplture by Patrick Renner (known for the 180-foot "Funnel Tunnel" in Montrose) and visuals Bryan Traylor and former HPMA nominee Jonathan Jindra, who here will rig the Brandon with those surveillance cameras and broadcast various performances onto the back patio. As radically different as the elements of Crasis are, all of them speak to how much technology has infiltrated the art world in what Todd estimates is the past 50 years.

"It's awesome and problematic at the same time," he says. "To me it's such an integral part of how the world has changed and how we as humans just go about our daily lives, that ignoring it is almost as big a statement as engaging it."

Similarly, Todd says he considers Saturday's musical performers not just songwriters but "people who have an interesting take on how they create their music."

"I think there's this big rift in a way, in what live music is, [to where] it has to be somebody physically playing a guitar," he offers. "I'm sure the same thing happened when the electric guitar was introduced, but to me personally, I get excited about new ways to express creativity.

"We have all this new technology for music creation, which to me creates new sounds that have never been heard before," continues Todd. "Which is infinitely exciting, and more exciting to - to me at least - than a demand on how this artist or that artist should fit into this traditional role."


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