Concert Review: Sofia at Harold Golen Gallery

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January 19, 2008

Harold Golen Gallery

Better Than:Tiesto's faux "progressive" electronic beats

Nowadays a lot of electronic music has very little to do with the genre’s original theories of sound experimentation. During its initial stages, weird, non-melodic tonalities ruled the day. For instance, Fifties artists such as Louis and Bebe Baron produced beautiful, dreamlike compositions for the 1956 sci-fi classic film Forbidden Planet. Around the same time, legendary composer Les Baxter explored the new possibilities of the now legendary Moog synthesizer.

A few local artists are trying to bring back this spirit of boundary-pushing. And last Saturday night, the temporary Harold Golen Gallery space (the original location is currently being restored after a fire last December) hosted a concert by one of these -- Sofia, an audiovisual ensemble of music both acoustic and robotic.

Short for Sonorities Of Interactive Acoustics, Sofia comprises musicians Juraj Kojs and Spencer Topel, and features the visual multimedia art of VJ Doctor Dark Intersection. Surrounded by colorful paintings and skateboards by the whimsical, retro pop artist Mitch O'Connell, the three members of Sofia played six compositions, blending traditional acoustic instruments with digitally altered sounds. Like a more experimental version of the Scottish group Boards of Canada, Sofia’s improvisations focused on creating hypnotizing sounds with the aid of two Macbook laptops and strategically placed speakers.

The show's highlight was the track “At And Across,” which featured Juraj Kojs ringing a set of traditional Slovak bells while walking in circles in front of changing video images of the Las Vegas strip. As the bells reached a full crescendo, Spencer Topel began to recreate Koj's acoustics using his laptop — the end effect seemed to produce a peaceful, trancelike state among audience members. And while Sofia’s music was, mostly, being crafted on computers, the organic came from the mixing in of live flutes, violins, and bells.

Other songs performed included “Guiding Night” and “Ron Résonne,” and each focused on merging a different live instrument with the laptop artistry. While Sofia’s musical blend is as far as you can get from mainstream pop, it felt stimulating and new, and the full audience was attentive and appreciative. Sofia’s performance proved once more that Miami audiences are ready to accept and enjoy music outside of the usual mainstream flair. -- Jose Davila

Critic's Notebook

Random Detail:VJ Ricardo Agudelo created cool, eerie images with his laptop while Juraj Kojs generated electronics sounds while sitting next to a giant, red lava lamp.

By The Way: ofia’s performance was part of the new monthly series at the gallery called 12 Nights. All will be held at the Harold Golen Gallery at 314 NW 3rd Ave, Miami. Visit www.haroldgolengallery.com.

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