"Skye Klad is a mobile multipurpose unit specializing in the avenues of sonic research and experimentation. The main goal is to produce in effect, enough tenth dimensional vortices to open and break down all matter into its pure energy state… By using sonic disturbances that break open this energy field, space travel is made available to the masses in a simple and effective manner."
So says the press manifesto of the band Skye Klad, and, I'll admit it, my skepticism is piqued. Two years in Seattle honed my innate suspicions of both futurist utopianism (a big stupid Space Needle tends to make one wary of such predictions) and mystical pantheism (I hung with a bunch of shady neo-hippies whose standby pick-up line was "Hey, kind Rainbow Sister, I'm a shaman. Let's go back to my place.") So what exactly is the intent of Solarium, " a Festival in Celebration of the Sun" that mixes and matches straight rock musicians, ambient composers, free jazz improvisers, visual artists, and various unclassifiable experimental acts to create a loose, interactive, collaborative effort? And just how seriously do Jason Kesselring, Adam Backstrom, and Matt Zaun, three of the organizers of Solarium, take what Kesselring summarizes as "irrational neoprimitivism?"
"We don't try to go too deep into what it means, because it would only end up sounding cheesy," Kesselring grins apologetically. " We want the experience to feel like a good horror film. Not a gory horror film, but something that has you on the edge of your seat or that gives you a weird feeling, that shifts your consciousness a little bit out of the normal realm of, say, sitting at a computer screen." Or, I add, like staring at a rock band at the Entry? "Exactly, " Kesselring responds. "There's nothing wrong with rock bands, " Zaun adds quickly. Still, the interactive nature of solarium hopes to break down the conventions of a usual rock show - The situation where, as Zaun describes it, "There's a band from this point in time to this point in time and your supposed to watch them. [With Solarium], it's not intended that everyone should sit and intently watch every one that's performing, " he continues. "People should get up and walk around, talk. We try to keep the music going constant so there isn't a point where the soundman throws on any random cds. [Last time] there were basically no breaks in the music. We left all the equipment on the stage and everyone used the same equipment, so we could blend each set into the other. Two or three of the people performing would carry on into the next thing, a couple of other people from the next group would join them."
The organizers were amazed at how smoothly the interactions between musicians went at the first Solarium, held on August 9, and with the surprising, yet welcome, lack of technical glitches and rock star ego. "Usually, when you have a show there's a lot of scuffling around, messing around with the soundchecks, and your pulling stuff down - everyone's getting in everyone's way," Backstrom says. "That night, though, people who didn't even know each other, people who have a sense of competition were helping each other out. Everyone was excited about everything else that everyone else was doing.
Backstrom hopes the event will provide a cross section of local music with a specific identity. "Music critics have been saying, there's some good things happening, but there's not leadership, there's no unity, no one music scene that everyone can relate to and say "This is the Minneapolis sound, " he says. "But there are a lot of musicians in this area who don't get recognized. They're not very accessible. They don't get played on the radio. They don't get lot of people out thee drinking and dancing at their shows. [With Solarium] you have different people from different groups come together - they're not just jamming. They're actually making compositions together. People come in and see the whole thing and they think, well, there's a distinctive sound coming out of this."
In addition to the members of Skye Klad, Solarium II will feature a mix of musicians ranging from the prominent to the underground, including Stuart DeVaan of Savage Aural Hotbed, Peter Anderson of Polara, Erik Wivinus of Salamander, Ari Rosenthal, Paul Horn of Ousia, Fred Teasley of Mindstorm and Di Dolari. The free jazz combo Flybussen will perform between sets to keep the music going, and Optical Alchemy will once again provide the visuals. ("He's basically doing visually what a lot of DJs do sonically," Kesselring suggests, "Mixing images instead of sounds.")
It remains to be seen what permanent repercussions the collective experimentation of Solarium might have on the local scene, but, for now, its organizers and participants are satisfied with the unpredictable musical results and the sense of community the event has already fostered." We want it to be a breeding ground for new ideas," Kesselring concludes. "Already, it's drawn a lot of people out of their basement who were recording at home. They're starting to come out and play. It could be something huge, like Cabaret Voltaire. Or it could be a way to make some new friends, a way to get a few ideas going between musicians."
-Keith Harris Pulse - 9.30.98