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SF WEEKLY newspaper for July 29, 1992 copyrighted 513w

BCO's Sound Affects --Mike Rowell

Big City Orchestra is one of the most prolific of the Bay Area's experimental noise purveyors. During the last 12 years, the group has released about 60 full-length works and appeared on more than 300 compilations. Although membership varies from project to project, the focal point of the group is dAS, the orchestra's conductor. Practically every experimental artist in the city has been involved with BCO at some point. "We've got all these different people to choose from," explains dAS. "It's a guest star sort of thing."

BCO projects are approached with an often whimsical sense of humor. The group recently released Our Life in the Bush of Kate, a collection of BCO "covers" of Kate Bush songs. An album comprised of re-worked Beatles song snippets, called Beatlerape, is due out soon. "So much of the 'industrial' music is angst-y and nihilistic," says the affable dAS. "Sure, we all feel angst, we all feel sorrow, we all feel pain -- but we like to make sure the sense of humor's there as well."

Like many experimental artists emerging from the cassette culture, BCO recently released its first CD, The Four Cassettes of the Apocalypse. Sonically, it ranges from haunting, starkly beautiful symphonic movements to sounds akin to giant Terminator robots eating chunks of metal in a post-apocalyptic windstorm. At the end of the CD is a collection of goofy BCO sound effects, like "Floating Kennedy Plate," for your sampling pleasure.

During the recording session for one of the CD's tracks, "Saint Plunder," the musicians attempted to aurally illustrate the human race's tendency toward paving the planet by constructing a simulated environment in the studio, then destroying it. They re-created this during a live performance at the Kennel Club by building a rain forest in front of the band, then having workmen tear it down with blowtorches and chainsaws.

In an earlier series of performances entitled "We Like Noise," 7-inch singles were distribute throughout the audience, who were instructed to manipulate the discs however they saw fit. The records were subjected to lipstick, paint, scratches and untold other humiliations, then collected and played on several turntables by the BCO musicians. The result was a surprisingly listenable, hypnotic melange of sounds, tapes of which are available for purchase, along with copies of the mutilated singles. "We try to play with the audience's perception of what noise is," dAS says of BCO's performances.

This unhinged inventiveness is a recurring theme running throughout much of dAS's work. In a collaboration he did with AMK, another local experimentalist, flexi-discs were cut up and re-assembled, then played and mixed together. Once, on KZSC in Santa Cruz, dAS and his cohorts in the Haters ground up a slew of old records with a meat-rending machine, live on the air. And many of BCO's weirdly packaged tapes have a Dadaist flair. Says dAS of his creative methodology: "It's just pushing yourself to do something new with the things that are around you." --Mike Rowell

Typed by Cheryl Vega 6-14-95


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