Kara-Lis Coverdale

At the intersection of art, sound + community: a guide to Montréal’s MUTEK Festival, Aug 22 – 27

21 August 2017

The 18th Edition of MUTEK is on at various locations across Montreal, running August 22 to 27.

Known as Canada’s “preeminent hub of electronic music and digital creativity” — with festivals also taking place in London, Mexico City, Barcelona and Berlin — the five-day event brings together music, art and technology, dedicated to “discovery, revelation and community.”

MUTEK splits itself into three categories, Performances, Conferences, Workshops, Exhibitions, and the Satosphère Series, with our recommendations below: 


-‘INTER_CONNECT London: This Wheel’s on Fire,’ including Sensate Focus, at Society for Arts and Technology, Aug 23

-‘EXPÉRIENCE London,’ including Bambooman at Esplanade de la Place des Arts, Aug 23

-‘INTER_CONNECT México: NAAFI Presenta Noche De Ritmos Periféricos,’ including Mexican Jihad, Aug 24

-‘EXPÉRIENCE México,’ including Ouri, at Esplanade de la Place des Arts, Aug 24

-‘Red Bull Music Academy presents NOCTURNE 3: Drone Activity in Progress,’ including Sarah Davachi and FIS, at Métropolis, Aug 24

-‘Red Bull Music Academy presents NOCTURNE 4: Widescreen Macheen Dreems,’ including Aurora Halal, at Métropolis, Aug 25

– ‘Don’t Assume: NTS Radio on Stage 1,’ including Space Afrika and Beatrice Dillon, at Édifice WILDER Espace danse, Aug 25 + 26

-‘EXPÉRIENCE Berlin: CTM Festival presents Berlin Current,’ including Dis Fig and Loticat Esplanade de la Place des Arts, Aug 26

-‘INTER_CONNECT Berlin: Eine kleine elektronische Nachtmusik,’ including rRoxymore, at Society for Arts and Technology, Aug 26

-‘NOCTURNE 6: Other Hemispheres,’ including Kara-Lis Coverdale, at Society for Arts and Technology, Aug 27

Conferences, Workshops, Exhibitions

Subversions of Reality exhibition, including Jasmine Johnson and LaTurbo Avedon, at Place des arts – Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme, Aug 22 – 27

-‘Mark Fell Q+A with Oliver Harding‘ at Monument-National, Aug 25

-Panel discussion ‘Berlin Imaginaries,’ moderated by Taïca Replansky of CTM Festival with Hans Reuschl (Africaine 808), Chris Vargas (Pelada), Hermione Frank (rRoxymore) and Mike Shannon at Monument-National, Aug 26

Visit the MUTEK website for details.**

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Montreal-based producer Kara-Lis Coverdale brings her tessellating motifs + diffuse semi-linear movements to Cafe Oto, Aug 2

31 July 2017

Kara-Lis Coverdale is playing at London’s Cafe Oto on August 2. 

The Montreal-based producer is a classically-trained pianist and has played the organ in church for a day job from 13-years-old. Coverdale creates dense electronic arrangements and “catchy melodies [that] learn to live with and against their own auto-regurgitating churn,” as noted by AQNB writer, Alexander Iadarola in his review of Coverdale’s most recent EP Grafts, released via Boomkat on April 27.

Flora Yin-Wong will also be performing. The artist works with “roughly-sampled field recordings, dissonant melodies, and influences from contemporary club culture,” and recently released Lugere via Berlin-based label PAN. Yin-Wong is also a DJ and writer, contributing to DIS Magazine, Dummy, Somesuch Stories and more with a focus on “mythology, perspective, and belief.”

Visit the Cafe Oto website for details.**

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Opaque, polysemous, folding into itself: ‘Realness’ as an ideological construct in Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Grafts

9 June 2017

Although it would seem strange, the question of audio fidelity comes with ethical baggage. The word wasn’t used to describe truthful-seeming sound reproduction until 1878, and to this day it homophonically evokes ideological duty, whether to a monogamous relationship (boring!), nation state, or job. Canadian composer Kara-Lis Coverdale has consistently disavowed the traditional demands of audio fidelity — the ‘reality’ her sounds would be faithful to always remains an unstable reference point. Those listeners looking to her new record Grafts, released via Boomkat on April 27, for evidence of the Latin fidelitatem (nominative fidelitas), meaning “faithfulness, adherence, trustiness” will not find it.

Kara-Lis Coverdale. Courtesy the artist.

In her 2010 Masters thesis, ‘Sound, Rhetoric, and the Fallacy of Fidelity in Recorded Popular Music,’ Coverdale problematizes the idea of ‘realism’ connoted by recorded music, arguing that sonic ‘realness’ is an ideologically — and inorganically — constructed notion. Proceeding from this conclusion, Grafts is an object lesson in the way timbre as a communicative apparatus rhetoric can be strategically manipulated. As the composer explained in a since-deleted note accompanying the piece on SoundCloud, it is the result of an interlocking set of translations across mediums and file formats, of texts within texts. The production process began with a technique initially developed on Coverdale’s 2010 album A 480, whereby digitized sounds of the human voice were “disembodied, disfigured, and displaced” from any resemblance to their source. From there, each hacked tone was “split up to four ways, then re-pitched and re-woven through a back-and-forth grafting procedure of layering and securing on a four-channel processor.” Next, “interdependent layers of shelved frequencies (rather than equal tempered pitches) [were stacked] to produce frequentially-terraced composites.”

Even without all this technical background information, there’s something about the approach to arrangement on Coverdale’s new album that asks to be diagrammed, more so than anything she’s produced to date. This is in part due to the 22-minute work’s geometrical nature: tessellating motifs gather momentum, sustain, and diffuse in three semi-linear movements held together by a continuous flow. Atomized sounds come together in strange affinities — an exhausted organ pad washes over glitched expressivity here, tones disjointedly echo one another in receded pockets of the mix there. Along with its addition-and-subtraction melodic progression, Grafts’ mathematical structure resembles the repetitive, slowly-modulating compositional approach developed by the New York minimalist school. Although Grafts is definitely more reminiscent of Steve Reich than it is Philip Glass, Sol Lewitt’s cover artwork for the latter’s 1976 album Music In Twelve Parts – Parts 1 & 2 offers a productive point of departure for situating Coverdale’s work in diagrammatic terms.

Phillip Glass, Music in Twelve Parts (1974). Cover art by Sol Lewitt. Courtesy Caroline.

Lewitt and Glass’ work in this instance is hand-drawn in clear lines, suggestive of a distinctly Fordist mode of production — human, but learning to hybridize with automated technological processes. When effective, the New York school’s works — such as Reich’s Drumming — ease the listener into a state of transcendence, composed as if to draw forth a resonant, ‘pure’ idea or feeling, elaborated with crystalline clarity. We can still see evidence of a traditional approach to audio fidelity there. In marked contrast, the emotional tenor of Grafts is opaque, polysemous, and folded into itself. The experience of listening is like being subcutaneously sucked into an alien swarm. Grafts’ emotional narrative is cohesive on the macro level, but on the micro level harmony and dissonance are harder to locate, enacted as they are in superimposed, interjecting stacks. Their arrangement is the product of innumerable contingent functions taking place behind the scenes.

Is there a clearer diagram than what Coverdale offers with the title — a multiplicity of grafts, winding, twisting, and “frequentially terranced?” Although the production process has created a concrete, finished work, Grafts still seems to be in limbo, on the verge of falling apart due to so much calculated chaos. Catchy melodies learn to live with and against their own auto-regurgitating churn. “Destabilization is inevitable and facilitation of brave reconfiguration spawns a seed,” writes the composer in the Grafts program notes. “Who is your seed maker? I only know I have more limbs than I can count and I am far beyond the edges of myself.” Grafting is the surgical process involving the transplantation of skin from what part of the body to another. Skin here can mean many things, it seems — epidermis is just the start. There’s also a horticultural process of grafting, where the vascular tissues of different plants are physically conjoined so that they produce a cumulative hybrid organism with selectively cultivated attributes. The important thing on this LP is that the transplant/suture process has been so intense that it’s impossible to quantitatively enumerate; it’s not possible to contain in any definitive sense. Lightheadedness at the prospect of differentiating root and stem, limb, or flower qualities in turn gets mixed up with subtly aggro key changes and disconsolate melody-cycles. “A gut has its own intelligence,” writes theorist Sara Ahmed in her recent book Living A Feminist Life; the listening gut sounds a certain eerie alarm, with the fidelity-void on the Grafts horizon. It’s not clear who or what presides over the operating table.**

Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Grafts was released via Boomkat on April 27, 2017.

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