INsulator brought back the awkwardness of art school parties

INSULATOR with members of YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN, HOLY.


INSULATOR with members of YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN, HOLY FUCK, JOOJ, LIDO PIMIENTA and others at Artscape Sandbox, Wednesday, April 13. Rating: NNN


All-ages music and art series Long Winter is all about ambitious, inventive programming set in unique spaces – see Long Winter Galleria – and its two-night INsulator event at Artscape Sandbox was no exception.

A co-production with the multi-disciplinary arts collecive Heretical Objects Cooperative, the “giant audio-visual maze installation” inside the new 6000-square-foot venue at Adelaide and Widmer turned out to be a little lacklustre in the visuals department – attendees walked down a fairly short path surrounded by white sheets with looping minimal projections on them – but the accompanying live soundtrack was attention-grabbing.

A who’s who of Toronto’s experimental-minded music scene performed behind the sheets, including Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Fucked Up, Soupcans, Holy Fuck, Lido Pimienta, Doomsquad, JOOJ, Egyptrixx, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jennifer Castle, Sandro Perri and Not the Wind Not the Flag. It’s a strange thing to be able to hear a band but not see them, and it was difficult to tell who was playing when. Everyone sounded like a louder, more free jazz version of their regular selves.

Because you could walk through the maze in about three minutes, many attendees sat on the floor afterwards, or on the pillows provided in the maze’s centre room, to take in the skronky auditory offerings. Without a stage to focus on, we stared at the looping projections and then at the floor and then at our phones and anywhere but at each other, and some of us wondered whether the man selling wine behind a table in the centre room was actually a conceptual art piece, and the night took on the awkwardness of an art school party. 

Best were the moments of overlap that happened as one act finished and another took over. As Yamantaka//Sonic Titan ended its thunderous cycle in the event’s first half, slowly a looped and vibrating voice began to soar above their cymbal crashes, feedback and squiggly electric guitar lines. Eventually it became clear that the voice belonged to Pimienta, positioned with a band (I think) behind a sheet on the opposite side of the room, and whose arresting vocals grew into thick looping layers as funky, danceable rhythms joined in. 

We rose from the pillows and wandered over to that side. And when two of the bolder among us peeked beneath the curtain and then climbed under, it was seriously hard not to join them.

carlag@nowtoronto.com | @carlagillis

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