The leaves haven’t even started turning colors in New York’s Hudson Valley, but already the locals are anticipating autumn’s sublime landscapes and peak cultural offerings. Speaking of which: two weeks until Basilica Soundscape! This Sound It Out correspondent has attended the celebrated “anti-festival” of independent music, spoken word, and art in Hudson, NY for all of its five years (and reviewed the last two here and here). What should you know about this year’s event?
The key to understanding Soundscape is recognizing that the real star of the event is its setting: Basilica Hudson, a majestic, abandoned 19th-century foundry set down a stone’s throw from the majestic Hudson River. Owners Melissa Auf der Maur (who once played bass in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins) and Tony Stone have renovated the building just enough so that the ceiling windows won’t come crashing down.
Basilica Hudson: day and night.
Along with Soundscape co-organizers Brandon Stosuy and Brian DeRan, Auf der Maur and Stone have developed a booking formula that best exploits the site’s texture and architectural intricacy. Indie-folk, post-rock, extreme metal, avant-noise, and hypnotic instrumentals: ranging the spectrum from silent to deafening, these styles all lend themselves to sustaining a powerful sense of place amid the industrial desolation. Nothing resembling a catchy tune will be heard at Basilica Soundscape, nor will viral videos be forthcoming (unless one of the performers injures themselves with a microphoned power tool), but audience members can reasonably expect an unique, site-specific experience.
And that’s just the music programming! Basilica Soundscape also offers spoken word performances (including one from Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV founder Genesis Breyer P-Orridge), visual art, film screenings, pop-up stores, and the inevitable meander along the riverfront and up into the small-town Soho that is Hudson’s Warren Street. But let’s look at this year’s performers…
Friday, September 16th: Wolves in the Throne Room • Angel Olsen • Cobalt • Deantoni Parks • The Utter Nots • Youth Code • Xylouris White • Mary Lattimore
Angel Olsen is the “it girl” of Soundscape 2016, with a critically acclaimed new album poised to break her out of the indie folk circuit. But the real catch this year may be Wolves in the Throne Room, the Washington-based black metal group whose off-the-grid Gaian occult philosophy makes them rare performers. In fact, I’m pleased to see Soundscape raise the heavy metal quotient for this year’s line-up — see also Cobalt and (on Saturday) Bell Witch and Uniform — since the “metal bands” it draws tend to be innovative sculptors of jaw-dropping sonic atmosphere. Another thing Soundscape does surprisingly well is present diverse styles of percussion virtuosity, represented on Friday by Deantoni Parks and Xylouris White. The latter group (which Sound It Out wrote about here) also features the transporting sounds of the Cretan lute, which will be preceded by the delicate, treated harps of Mary Lattimore.
Saturday, September 17th: Explosions in the Sky • Genesis Breyer P-Orridge & Edley O’Dowd (Thee Majesty) • Bell Witch • Deradoorian • Uniform • Hank Wood & The Hammerheads • Saviour Self • Amber Tamblyn
Little wonder that Explosions in the Sky nabbed the headlining spot on Saturday; the Austin-based post-rock group specializes lengthy instrumental landscapes that are highly suited for Basilica Hudson. (Earlier in the day Saviour Self, a local Hudson group, will preview that vibe.) I’m particularly eager to check out Angel Deradoorian, a highly gifted vocalist/musician previously featured in Sound It Out who creates enchanting eastern-style melodies and rhythmic trances (and who recently relocated from Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley). Just in case too much “art music” sounds like a snoozefest, the old-school NYC hardcore of Hank Wood & The Hammerheads and (on Friday night) the agit-electronics of Youth Code promise a pleasing punch to the jaw.
For more information on this year’s performers and artists, as well as the low-down on tickets, travel, and lodging, head over to the Basilica Soundscape website.
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.