Wabi Crew Thrive on High Concepts

WABI with live performances by PAN-AMERICAN, RADIAN and SIGNER at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Sunday (October 20). $10 advance.

WABI with live performances by PAN-AMERICAN, RADIAN and SIGNER at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Sunday (October 20). $10 advance tickets at Rotate This, Soundscapes and CD Replay. www.wabi.org

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Given how party scenes change and promotion companies pop up and then disappear after a few events, the fact that Wabi is now approaching its fourth successful year of unique events is very impressive — all the more so considering that it caters to a fairly small niche scene of adventurous, often experimental electronic music.

Wabi comprises six individuals — Alex Martin, Justin Fong, Alan Webb, Jin Kim, Sean Wainsteim, Tom Kuo — who as a collective put together conceptually driven events that emphasize space design as much as music.

“At the time we started throwing parties,” Webb reminisces, “we were dissatisfied with what was happening in the city and thought we could do something different.”

“It was a transition time for underground music,” Kim adds. “The big rave scenes were getting smaller and people were getting older.

“A couple of parties for people who were sick of raves were happening in some clubs on a weekly basis, but they were the same each week. We hung out at these places all the time and complained, so we thought we should try to start our own.”

All the Wabi members have art, design or architecture backgrounds and bring that knowledge to their event planning. They use video and slide projections in conjunction with various spatial interventions to create a mood, and the flyer designs as well as the music reflect their approach.

“The idea was to create a whole cohesive party environment,” Wainsteim explains, “where the music and visuals and spatial arrangements all contribute to the design. We would think of a theme for the night, whether driven by the music or by a visual idea, and go with that to create a unified experience.”

Since those early days, their knack for visuals has been noted, and Wabi’s become more of a general multimedia company, contracting out services as designers for print, interiors, Web sites, video and sculpture installations as well as DJing talents. Their musical mandate has also expanded beyond the minimal techno on which they initially concentrated to include almost anything too adventurous for more mainstream party organizers.

While it’s rare for special events to happen outside of a few clubs these days, Wabi continues to make an effort to discover and transform unusual locations. Some have been in non-club environments, but many of their favourites have been in out-of-the-way bars that would normally have nothing to do with this music or crowd.

“I don’t think we planned it that way,” Webb admits, “but it’s ended up adding to the experience and animating the city.”

“Early on we decided that it was nice moving to different spaces,” Martin confirms. “Usually, in a location that’s not a club or a bar, we can get in a few days ahead and really work on the space.”

The Wabi members are currently working on collecting material from their past live acts for a commemorative compilation CD, which they hope to release independently in time for their four-year anniversary in February.

“The events come and go,” Martin explains, “and when they’re done there’s not much left. Maybe some photographs or recordings…”

” and a big collection of flyers,” Kim finishes.

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