Big Ears Day 2 Recap: Bill Morrison, Jozef Van Wissem, Tanya Tagaq, and Holly Herndon

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Day 2 begins at the Knoxville Museum of Art for Bill Morrison‘s impressionistic Frankenstein riff Spark of Being, which is beautiful but strains patience in a way I’m confident the more history-centric films will overcome. Then off to wait in the cold for SQÜRL’s Man Ray live score—cheers to the organizers for being communicative on the delayed start, and for being on point in general—which was novel but couldn’t live up to the positively satanic experience of Demdike Stare‘s Häxan late the previous night, which is the best thing I’ve seen so far this weekend.

Jozef Van Wissem was a lovely fit for the Square Room. (More propers: The venue/artist curation is unassailable.) But what I saw of his solo lute performance was heavy on affecting composition and light on the virtuoso fireworks this festival conditions one to, so on to exactly that at Tanya Tagaq, whose Inuit throat singing is an otherworldly mix of extreme metal growl, incongruous pop flashes, and a weird sensuality, set to improv noise rock and was viscerally unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Still, the highlight of the afternoon was Holly Herndon, whose glitchy assault on a packed Standard gave me everything I felt I was missing out on with last year’s head-scratcher from Oneohtrix Point Never. Herndon is obviously working in a more party-friendly (or at least not-party-unfriendly) mode here than Daniel Lopatin, but there’s also just more humanity here, which makes the sonic fracture more engaging. May just be me. But no one was scratching their head.

Now: Criswell Collective kicking off the second night of Hello City. Later: tUnE-yArDs, Grouper, and Omar Souleyman.


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Nick Huinker
Contributing Writer |

Nick Huinker is fortunate to have spent the past 15 years living and covering Knoxville’s near-constant DIY music renaissance. Once a year he does his best to return the cultural favor as producer of the Knoxville Horror Film Fest; most of the rest of the time he’s of limited use.

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