San Francisco Electronic Music Festival
Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012
Better than: Front 242.
The last night of the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival featured two openers sourced from the Mills College electronic music department, Chuck Johnson and James Fei, before main attraction Negativwobblyland (that's a portmanteau of local electronics tweaker Wobbly and tape music legends Negativland). The academic association was an appropriate one, as Sunday's sets were an unlikely but welcome admixture of the educational and the entertaining: Educational for the completely unique sound generation and tools employed, and entertaining for the happily organic and humane way it was all presented.
Chuck Johnson's set began with unassuming drones generated by a bank of modular synthesizers hooked up to a lap steel guitar. By the time he reached a crescendo of cascading tones all over the sonic spectrum — sounds that seemed ricochet throughout the gorgeous interior of the Brava Theater — it was hard to remember how he got there. The lush forest of audio bloom subsided back into the simplicity with which it began, and somehow even more elegantly than how it expanded. It was a beautiful swell of a set, with a deceptively coherent arc that set the bar very high for the evening.