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precious community

Spooky on the Net

Listening to Sonic Net's "Cybercast" of the Soundlab Anchorage party from
earlier this month, I'm developing great sympathy for Astronauts. This
must be what it's like to listen to music aboard the space shuttle
Columbia.

I've gone to Soundlab's parties since Christmas, when they were thrown in
a tiny walk-up in China Town ("The House of Ouch"). The small parties were
always so intimate – a space to chill out to music which was truly
emerging. Sit on a bean bag, space out to an often amorphous, always
eclectic sound-scape, and look around at the funky, almost equally engaging
live visual projections. The atmosphere reminded me of early raves, where
most of the people came from different "scenes" and no trendy homogeneity
had set in yet. It was always so exciting to *see* who else, beside
yourself, was into such eclectic electronic music.

I was deeply skeptical about the mega Anchorage party, feeling that the
small, precious community of Soundlab would be fatally invaded by
commercialism and pop-culture. But, even after such *huge* exposure
(articles in nearly every major publication in the City), I can honestly
say it was one of the best "events" I've ever been to. It was a completely
immersive, candy store for experimental/ambient/jungle/dub freaks. The
space was heavenly, and seemed to breathe music. You would roam from
cavern to cavern, different music playing in each. As you roamed through
the intermediate spaces, the sounds would blend together, and this mixing
was integral to the experience. One of the most interesting aspects was
seeing the live performances; it seemed that as much as half of the music
was generated live. Live Jungle! Wow! And the visual installations were
superbly sharp and engaging (Table-top, German-language "Asteroids" video
game; a huge white, cloth embryonic creature hanging between giant sheets
of running water; an orgy of video-mixing)

Sonic Net's Real Audio stream is merely a document of the event. A cheaply
*xeroxed* document at that. Most importantly, there is only music to be
found. And Soundlab is so much more than music! Yes there is a "virtual
community" listening to Sonic Net, but this community is invisible. There
is no sense of space, there is really no sense of community, there are no
smells (no incense, ganja, wet stone…), no visuals, and no control over
what you hear (no roaming from room to room). Still, when you hit a
segment with bass, the Real Audio stream sounds surprisingly good.
Overall, the audio stream is pretty damn interesting, but there is no way
it can capture the nearly religious experience of the original.

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