Dave Phillips

25.08.2016    Tukikohta, Oulu, Finland.

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Thursday, 25.8.2016, Tukikohta, Oulu: Keränen, Tyhjä Pää, Dave Phillips.

Desensitization is a survival mechanism. We, the adults of the western society, grow layers of desensitization around us, for our personal protection. We need to protect ourselves from ideas – the “bad” ideas that we cannot help but notice as we continue to participate in the functioning of our society. We come up with these ideas all by ourselves, yet at the same time they are force-fed to us by our culture itself. For every “good” idea concerning our world, there’s the other side of the coin – the effects and consequences of our “good” intentions. Democracy becomes oligarchy. Medical science becomes overpopulation. We’re arguably eating the best, most nutrient-rich, cleanest/safest food in the history of mankind, and we’re able to produce it in abundance – but it becomes fat (and overpopulation). Our bodies live longer and more healthier than ever, yet simultaneously our minds get sick. There’s no hope without at least the possibility of despair.

We desensitize ourselves from the bad, and that’s OK. Life is not required to be lived unhappy. Happiness is great, but you cannot hold on to it if you’re constantly aware of its true cost. We give ourselves an explanation here, a justification there, for whatever it is that makes us feel bad, and soon we can feel good again. We can continue participating. Perhaps that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be, I don’t know.

Sometimes it’s good – even necessary, in my opinion – to re-sensitize ourselves, and that’s what thursday’s event turned out to be about, personally, for me.

I wasn’t really expecting everything to unfold quite the way it did; I thought I was there primarily to witness my old friend doing his thing, and to enjoy some noise. Noise, the musical genre – although I don’t think it should be called music, just to avoid certain misconceptions – noise, at least for me, is only understandable and enjoyable in a live situation. It needs to be loud, to the point of getting physical, and I’ve yet to find a way to reproduce it properly in a home environment. The presence of the performer is oddly important as well – oddly, because I’m realizing it’s more important in noise than in normal music. At least that’s how I see it after thursday. But then again, this analysis is useless, I don’t think noise – the music – can be explained, not really. It needs to be experienced. Your mileage may vary.

Let’s start with the “good” side of the re-sensitization, and that’s easy because it’s also how the evening started. Mr Keränen gets onstage and draws chuckles from the audience with some softly spoken commentary while booting his equipment. Over the amplifier hum, I’m still sort of trying to outguess what’s to come, but my cerebration is way too slow, because suddenly the room is full of sound. It’s like a rocket launch, a nuclear explosion, a punch in the face. An INCONCEIVEABLE wall of thunder hits me. There’s nothing spared, nothing at all saved for later, he goes to eleven from the very first microsecond. The wall of sound is thick and brutal, complex and immaculate. I’m in awe, and shocked.

Not more than 10 seconds can have passed by, and I’m having a hard time processing. I’m trying to find the key elements from amidst it, but there are none. And yet everything I’m hearing is the key. Several unrelentless drones just squeezing you down to the ground, and just as many chaotic chirps, blips and boops decorating the surface. I reach for my camera to record just a little bit for posterity, but I notice my hands are shaking. In fact, I realize that I’m feeling horrified. A primal fear has been triggered, and I’m sure I could do nothing to make it go away before the show is over – in fact, the fear lasts for several minutes after the sound has ended. I suppose that’s because the rush of hormones needs to dilute and break down. Not that I wanted the fear to go away – once I had a name for the feeling, I was surprised and happy to find it within me.

In a few moments, along with the fear, comes exhilaration. This is fantastic, marvellous, amazing! I’m feeling the sound with my body, and that alone feels so good; I mean the physicality of it feels good, it’s much like a massage. All of my expectations and reminiscing about the past noise gigs I’ve gone to have been unnecessary. All of my preparations, if you will, have failed, and I’m completely surprised. Stunned. Shocked. In awe. And physically frightened – even as it’s hard to notice through the sound trembling the body, I’m sure my heartrate is up, and I need to concentrate to breath instead of gasping. And it just feels so good to be awaken like that.

I don’t think any of the music I normally listen to can evoke any of these feelings – not anymore at least, and certainly not when I call for it. It’s become too familiar, and it’s always been sort of over-produced, over-analyzed from its inception. “My own” music cannot touch me like this crazy, chaotic thunder. I feel proud for my friend. I fight a couple of sobs of joy (why do I fight), and go through all of these thoughts, and many others in my mind for the duration of the performance. Less so towards the end though, for as it progresses, the effect also becomes increasingly meditative for me.

The chatter inside my head starts winding down, and I’m left with mostly just the primal fear, which still FEELS good. Fear+meditation, what a strange cocktail, by the way.

All of this takes about ten minutes. Then, just as suddenly as it started, it’s gone. I have a hard time believing that it’s over, that that was that; in fact, there’s a fleeting sensation of disappointment. Tommi smiles, steps down from the stage, and I’m forced to accept that more is not coming.

While I start to come down, I quickly realize that more is not needed, not from Tommi. He’s already done all that was needed, and in a way the abrupt silence serves as the perfect counterpoint for what just happened. Everything. And nothing. The show’s been opened, and so have I.

Next up – more noise! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even know there were active noise artists in Oulu, but I’m glad to find out!

Tyhjä Pää doesn’t come on quite as brutally as Keränen, but all of the noisical necessities and sensibilities are there from the beginning: the wall of sound, the chaotic structure of the decorations, and of course some unconventional instruments. This is a great continuation from where Keränen ended, and quickly heals any wounds left by the shortness of the preceding set. There’s some structure (buildup, climax, that sort of thing) in his piece, or at least I believe there is. The meditative mood is re-kindled within me, and successfully built on; 20 or so minutes pass by when I alternate between cerebrating noise – the concept of it, the meaning, the reasons, comparisons to music –, and appreciating the details of how Tyhjä Pää is creating the sounds.

I wasn’t FEELING as much during Tyhjä Pää as I was with Keränen & Phillips, but that’s no fault of the performance, and more to do with Keränen so completely emptying my cup, if you’ll allow a figure of speech. Tyhjä Pää got it re-filled just fine, for …

Dave Phillips. Go see his show. I should really just end this review right there. No description can make justice for what Dave’s thing is about.

But I’ll try. The introduction of this writeup is really attempting to be an introduction for Dave Phillips. His piece is an audiovisual one, with a very, very, very powerful message, with actual “lyrics” shown on a screen, and sometimes spoken into the noise as well. Noise with lyrics … never thought about that before.

The message … it’s nothing special, one could say. I thought about that once, one could say. Been there, done that. Look at my shiny shields.

It was also the most concise treatment on the issues of (dis-)honesty I’ve ever witnessed. I say this as life-long Nomeansno-fan – a band that has never been shy on talking about lies etc. The “lyrics” are interspersed with some powerful imagery with the general theme of “cruelty towards animals”, but to me at least, the specific visual subject matter was insignificant with respect to how the “lyrics” enforced the admission of my own, and everyone’s, (dis-)honesty. I’m trying to say: the visual stuff could be replaced with another theme (something “bad”, or dishonest, about our world), and the result would be just as effective.

Within minutes, I was silently shedding tears. I wasn’t really feeling bad, just a little sad, as the dishonesty of both myself and mankind was written, literally, on the wall. The text had been translated to finnish (by Keränen), and very skillfully so. And the delivery in the native language was, I believe, a most significant thing.

Some of the ideas I saw were said better, more succintly, than ever before. Some were new (to me), but none needed to be, for this was an awakening from a familiar dream. We all know the things Dave wanted to say, we’ve all thought about it before, I’m sure. But we’re also dishonest with ourselves, and we know we are, and we cannot help it, and perhaps in some perverted way we’re not even supposed to, because we need our protective layers …

But we also need works like Dave’s. This was True Art at its rawest, barest, … HONEST way I’ve ever seen. Completely sincerely, and somewhat strongly, I believe every person on this planet should go witness Dave’s piece, and I believe the world would become a better place if everybody did. At the same time, I know I’m not a better person today for having experienced it. But still, something moved within me, and I claim it impossible that nothing moves within you, if you decide to go and see … Something moved … it’s already becoming dream-like for me now, like these things, these flashes, always do. I actually cannot summon a decent memory of the actual NOISE that was there, other than that it fit perfectly. It wasn’t quite the common noise, but had more traditionally musical elements in it (like recognizable sounds of breathing/gasping), and a comparatively clear structure, which of course was also necessitated by the message.

It wasn’t very long, maybe 15 minutes, and I silently cried through it, allowing Dave to reveal my lies for me, to deconstruct me, because I also immediately knew all this would be for my own benefit, and that I wouldn’t be hurt. I have my protections, after all, as I should. So do you, and so you should. I don’t know what to say anymore, except that please, go see this wherever (and, probably, whenever) you can. It’s available in Joensuu today (26.8), Lappeenranta (27.8) and Helsinki (28.8). That, and thanks, Dave. It was beautiful.

(Jussi Kantola, www.facebook.com/jussi.kantola1/posts/10210161922307712)