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Night Flight @ Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace

June 17, 2012

Jun. 18, 2012
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A perfectly talented solo artist in her own right, Milwaukee's Stacian (aka Dania Luck) has been expanding as of late. You can still periodically find her on stage, coaxing serenely strange sounds from a battery of synths and drum machines, but she's also stepped into her own as a presenter and programmer. In addition to being a newly minted WMSE DJ, she's been curating the monthly Night Flight series, spilling the spotlight on some of the best like-minded electronic acts from around the country. She obviously knows her stuff, and while anything having to do with electronic music is, almost by definition, a somewhat niche affair (there's a reason critics and theorists throw around the word "tribal" as often as they do), the Night Flight series is alluringly eclectic, comprising synth-wave, industrial, ambient and more, smartly splitting the difference between heady experimentalism and the demands of the dance floor. In short, you can be assured of quality, but there's also a lot of room for surprise.

First up Sunday night was the Chicago duo Ariisk, who have a classic look and sound reminiscent of post-punk pioneers like Cabaret Voltaire and their proto-industrial peers—all slinky, hooky synth lines piercing through dense clouds of dystopian atmospherics. Like many bands of their ilk, Ariisk embraces the marriage of the aural and the visual, but their video backdrop is remarkably well crafted and evocative, a subtle rose-tinted complement to what they're doing musically. They are at their best on longer selections, when the patterns they create have more of a chance to play off of each other and unfold in their own time, but here some songs seemed to be kept short as they contended with the unfortunate distraction of a bad cable (it's curious: I go to a lot of shows and it's rarely anything major that malfunctions; it's almost always those fickle little cables that muck things up).

Another twosome from the Windy City, Casual Encounter plays in front of projected footage that seems to be culled from sexually explicit webcam feeds, and while I'm sure there's some connection between the quasi-pornographic imagery and the band's abstracted washes of warmly inviting noise, sometimes it's preferable just to ditch analysis and enjoy the improbable juxtapositions (but if you just can't get enough jargon, let's say it's a Ballardian dissection of desire in a dehumanized technological landscape). I found them pleasingly hypnotic, though I'm also self-aware enough to realize that what I would call "pleasingly hypnotic" might strike another as "incredibly boring." But as long as you're not categorically put off by ambient music, there're a lot of impressive melodies and rhythms floating around in this particular ether.

Beyond booking interesting acts that would probably go unseen here in Milwaukee—shout out to the MELT events for similarly striving to showcase obscure and under-heard electronic music—Night Flight displays a level of care that you wouldn't get were Stacian, and all involved, not legitimately enthused about what they're doing. From the bands to the tracks played between sets, supplied by Stacian herself and fellow WMSE spinner Erik Void, to the films playing in the background (in this case the 1977 techno-horror picture Demon Seed), everything has thought behind it, and the freewheeling Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace, whose approach to booking shows seems to be to find creative local people and then get the hell out of their way, is the perfect place to bring it all to life. Assuming Stacian can keep this up, you may want to mark your calendars for the foreseeable future.


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