ANDREW ZEALLEY with ISABELLE NOEL , EDDIE PEEL and DONT RHINE at the Beaver Café (1192 Queen West), Friday (August 11), 9 pm. www.andrewzealley.com. Rating: NNNNN
The 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto provides an occasion for L.A.-based sound artists Ultra-red to mount a large-scale event at the AGO on Monday (August 14) bringing together seven laptop artists as part of a piece called Silence|Listen.
Many of the artists involved also contributed work to A Silence Broken, a free Internet-distributed compilation that Ultra-red released earlier this year, so it was also a great excuse to throw an album release party featuring some of the acts playing live and DJing.
Toronto-based sound artist Andrew Zealley is represented on the album by How To Explain Silence To A Dead Hare, a quirky glitch-driven experimental house track recorded under the pseudonym PSBeuys (a reference to performance artist Joseph Beuys and the Pet Shop Boys).
"I would call Ultra-red audio activists. All their work is very grounded in their politics. At the core of this project is an audio recording of crowds at an AIDS protest in L.A. chanting, 'Silence equals death' that forms the basis for each artist's piece.
Among the talents on board are Matmos offshoot Soft Pink Truth, Lesbians on Ecstasy, Terre Thaemlitz and, of course, Ultra-red themselves.
Despite the subject matter and the conceptual art approach, lots of the results are surprisingly danceable while still retaining some of the politics of the original idea.
"The struggle is a physical one, so it makes sense to bring it to the dance floor. The essence of conceptual art is that you start with the idea; the end result is still important, but the content comes from that original idea."
Much of Zealley's own work has been released in ultra-limited runs, with an emphasis on the whole physical package. Ultra-red approach the art-music question in a completely different way, using the Internet to disseminate their projects free of charge. Anyone can download the files, burn a CD and even print the cover.
"It's a strange time to be a musician. I myself have a collector's spirit - I like making objects and collecting them. But I like the spirit of Ultra-red's work, making it free, which allows anyone to access the information."
Zealley himself does have some old-fashioned physical objects in the works as well, including a remix of queer-punk hiphop band Kids on TV that unearths a latent soul undercurrent that you'd never guess was there.
While all of this seems very serious and academic, the music itself is good, so don't let the content scare you off.