“Light is Like Water”

Voicehandler at The Roost

It's Sunday night. You're savoring those precious pre-work week hours. Maybe you're nursing a hangover. You want to do something— feel something—but have no desire to devote several hours or get all dressed up for some hypothetical adventure. If you like creative, innovative music, I have a solution for the next month of Sundays.

A friend and I motored over to The Roost Creative Music Series concert on Sunday night. We arrived at Outpost Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. and the lights dimmed soon after. Head Roost-er Mark Weaver set the stage with a brief, informative talk about the history of the series. Local poet Lisa Gill read four intriguing poems inspired by sound—her grandmother's remembrances of old favorite tunes, that Victrola sound, chanting and so on. Then, Weaver introduced the evening's main attraction, Voicehandler, a San Francisco-based electroacoustic duo composed of Jacob Felix Heule and Danishta Rivero.

Rivero and Heule are relatively young and unassuming but exude the sort of confidence that comes from having a vision and fearlessly enacting it. Rivero's Hydrophonium was the big draw for me. I read about it in Mel Minter's recent Alibi article and did a little research. Rivero originally created the Hydrophonium as a sound installation. Her inspiration for the instrument—hydrophones submerged in tuned jars of water, patched out and further manipulated—was “La luz es como el agua,” a story by Jorge Luis Borges.

Voicehandler's performance was powerful and emotive. If I hadn't been (unsuccessfully) attempting to capture decent photos and video, I could easily have succumbed to a meditative trance. Rivero coaxed sound from the Hydrophonium in myriad ways: she banged on it with mallets, she blew into it, she sang into it and she caressed it. Her relationship with the instrument is a love affair. Heule enacts percussion in an intriguing way. He played his microphone-laden drum, turned on its side, with the entirety of a cymbal, dragging and scraping. Even when Heule used drumsticks, it was unconventional. After the performance, Rivero told me the compositions were based on her favorite Borges stories and William S. Burroughs' “Naked Lunch.”

It was an hour and five bucks well spent. I highly recommend checking out this year's last four Roost concerts. On Sept. 2, piano and percussion duo Fufaka perform. On Sept. 9, free jazz improvization quartet Slumgum plays. On Sept. 16, electronics and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink duo GoGoSnapRadio put on a show. On Sept. 23, compositional improv group Rich Halley 4 explore new approaches to performance. Consider taking an hour out of your Sunday to experience emerging music.