How To Oscillate Wildly
Return of the Oscillation Festival
The aughts were a particularly febrile time in the region's rock history, especially as regards electronic music. The growing ubiquity of the interwebz in that seemingly faraway time entwined electronic musicians, bands and the community through sites like Burque.info, a grand repository for all things esoteric and electronic happening in the area. Burque.info built a community from the ethereal wires, spacey sounds and unconstrained commitment of a group of musicians and fans who believed in the future—and our state's place in it.
One of the most telling outcomes of this outré vision was a yearly music festival called Oscillation. Hosted by electro-wizards Kenneth Cornell and Brian Botkiller—the Santa Fe born founder of electro-popsters Vertigo Venus—the festival defined the best in avant-garde experimentalism, purely profound pop and deliriously dangerous sonic stylings in the area for many years. Then, like the shifting sine waves that carried the message to the masses, it was gone. An ephemeral thing, Oscillation disappeared from the scope after 2008.
But like all things that come from the Land of Enchantment, the ideas and personalities behind the festival were resilient. This fortitude resulted in a present-time scenario that will see the re-visioning, rebirth and second ascent of a music festival that embodied and gave added vibrance to the local scene.
“When I see people performing on stage, really going for it, I'm excited. Some people may think, “Electronic music is boring … it's just a guy up there with a keyboard and computer,” but that's not really the case; there's a fascinating sort of energy up there on stage that's hard to imagine unless you witness it firsthand.”
Oscillation 2016 happens Oct. 14 and 15 at its old haunt, The Cell Theatre (700 First Street NW) with a lineup of some of the region's most proudly polyhedral, perplexingly powerful players, including The Echoing Green, Blackcell and Leiahdorus.
Weekly Alibi had a sit down with Oscillation prime movers Cornell and Botkiller the weekend before the big show. It went something like this.
Weekly Alibi: So what's up with re-birthing Oscillation? Why now?
Kenneth Cornell: I think for me, besides Brian [Botkiller] saying “Hey, hey, hey, what about Oscillation,” I feel like the scene needs it. All those years ago, there seemed to be a lot more activity in the community … not that there is no activity now, but among the newer, younger electronic acts [in Albuquerque] there are a lot of house shows, that's where all the great music in town is happening, so we thought this would be a prime opportunity to get those audiences interested in electronica.
How has the scene changed in that time between iterations of Oscillation?
Brian Botkiller: Well it's been 10 years. It's weird. Kenny and I have been active in the community for 20 years apiece at this point. We've both seen it loop around, and although it hasn't changed that much, there is a commercialization aspect that we decry pretty heavily—like when you see a band that you love and they used to be raw or hardcore or whatever and now they're making music that causes you to ponder, “Yo, dude, why are you doing that?”—because EDM has become incredibly popular and commercialized in the past few years. We've known the term EDM forever. It means 'electronic dance music,' but at some point in the past 10 years it’s come to mean electronic music performed in large venues with an accompanying huge light show and one DJ controlling the whole thing. I feel like, especially here [in Burque], it meant something different, there was more to live electronic music than just the DJ thing. There were folks like Kenny and myself going out into the world and performing our compositions live, in all their complexity. I don't mean to say the DJ thing is bad but what we're doing, what the bands in this year's festival are doing isn't DJ-centered.
So, there's a thing called “electronic music,” and it's more than just a DJ, some cool projections and a few fog machines?
Brian Botkiller: People are surprised now when a DJ picks up the mic and says, “How you all feeling tonight?” They're like, “Oh, my god, he speaks!”
Kenneth Cornell: I think a good idea of how things have changed, popularity-wise, is the success of the Die Antwoord show here in town a couple of weeks ago. They were backed by DJs, if I'm not mistaken.
There're no musicians, per se, on stage, right? Die Antwoord used to be a conceptual art project that morphed into something musical because the members are adept postmodernists who appropriate all they come across … including music.
Kenneth Cornell: To me, they're a good example of how things have shifted. It's a double-edged sword. It truly is electronic music but without the players there. The other factor that's changed things considerably involves the rise of hip-hop. It's huge, and it's electronic music. It has a lot in common with house music, with the electronica of 10-15 years ago. Somebody is programming all of that music.
Brian Botkiller: Daft Punk provided a basis for the type of electronica that we are proponents of. They were doing shows the way we do things … both in our various live performances and at Oscillation. In an early performance I viewed, they're playing without masks, on a bunch of machines on tables … and making cool noises, surrounded by people who are loving the live performance aspect! That's really why I wanted to bring Oscillation back; I love DJs and they're incredibly important to electronic music, but I dig the energy of live performances and seasoned players; listeners deserve that opportunity too.
Given those shifts and predilections, what's important to you now in your electronic music-making?
Brian Botkiller: When I see people performing on stage, really going for it, I'm excited. Some people may think, “Electronic music is boring … it's just a guy up there with a keyboard and computer,” but that's not really the case; there's a fascinating sort of energy up there on stage that's hard to imagine unless you witness it firsthand.
Why should Alibi readers—why should people in this town—take on such an experience through Oscillation?
Kenneth Cornell: We've got 14 artists and projects scheduled to perform. They are all amazing. One of the most exciting things we've got going this year is a set by The Strand, a band that rarely performs live. This will be their last show. Blackcell is going to be there, as well The Echoing Green and Leiahdorus, two very important synthpop/electronica outfits in the region.
Brian Botkiller: One of our big things is to remind people of how awesome the scene still is in Burque. Folks are apt to say, “Fucking Albuquerque, it's got nothing, it's disappointing.” It's like always, always this … and I just don't buy it. I get tired of hearing all the complaints because there is so much talent around here. All you have to do is pay attention … and go to this year's Oscillation Festival.