DAE's music is strange and otherworldly

Immediacy captures emotion. Snapshots procure truth. That's a part of the philosophy behind Buddhism and a concept key to understanding the Cincinnati-based improvisational group, Dark Audio Ense

Mar 2, 2000 at 2:06 pm

Immediacy captures emotion. Snapshots procure truth. That's a part of the philosophy behind Buddhism and a concept key to understanding the Cincinnati-based improvisational group, Dark Audio Ensemble (DAE). "When we play we don't have any set composition," explains percussionist Aaron Butler. "Every time we play, it's a new experience."

Butler is a core member of DAE's rotating cast of eclectic bards. Others who sit at the project's table include trumpeter Mark Miller and keyboardist Steve Zieverink. They draw their techniques from the inner reaches of Metal and from highbrow Classical work and Jazz to produce a unique sound and interlace music with visual mediums to reach deeply into their audience's minds.

"Three of us in the ensemble are visual artists," said Butler, "I would call what we do Avant-Garde with elements of Acid Jazz, Hip Hop and Industrial. Our music is symphonic.

It's soundtrack music."

Butler says DAE's sound renders the same sort of atmosphere that a film does, creating an abstract slide show for listeners, involving them in the process of directing the action in their minds. He describes DAE's only album, Dark Audio Project, that way.

"It's music for a non-visual film," said Butler, "Essentially the album came from our improv sessions. The tracks don't have names. Each track is a scene."

Vocals in live shows or on the disc are infused with some of the same sort of randomness. Heavy sampling and the use of non-traditional instruments add to the id- driven instrumentals.

"There's no singing, but I use my voice," Butler acknowledges, "I use a lot of toys, things like sheet metal for other sounds. There's also spoken word sometimes. It could be a chant and also a lot of screaming. It's more voice as an instrument."

Butler attributes inspiration for the lyrics to surrealistic novels and other modern literary sources.

"The main thrust of what we're doing is playing rather than composing," Butler says. "We're searching for possibilities, and we're letting the music lead us. At the same time it's not a free-for-all sort of thing. It sounds like it is composed. We're composing through performance."

Butler said that his Dadaist stylings often find receptive ears among gallery hoppers attending art show openings. DAE has been the musical accompaniment for shows at the Contemporary Arts Center, Embryo Gallery and other local paint spaces. "It's really all about the art," believes Butler.

"We definitely don't have a message," he says, "It's more of a reflection of our inner vision. It's very much like a drawing, more than a painting. For me, with a drawing, it's more about being just there at that moment."

The intonations, lacking set boundaries, serve the band as a fluid medium, adjusting to the performers' impressions at any given moment.

"It's working with these things as an ever-changing organism," says Butler. "We put it down and then follow it where it leads us." The multimedia motif can seem a little schizophrenic at times, but it does the job. Anarchic tunes cut through the self-aggrandizement that too often perforates the muse and gives listeners a raw, cards-on-the-table vista into the mind of an artist.

"We recorded that entire CD while not under the influence of any mind-altering substances," Butler assured, "With something that is that psyched, whacked and hallucinatory, no one believes us. I think it's funny."

DAE's music is strange and otherworldly and, when you get down to it, just plain weird, like a lot of modern art that's either perceived as truth or snake oil by the masses. But that mystery is part of why you go to shows, right? The promise of some morsel of cosmic truth versus the risk of being had is the game you come to see. Either way, DAE is entertaining, and that role is at least as important in an outing as is the backdrop they provide for interludes with the opposite sex.

DARK AUDIO PROJECT is available at Shake It, Joseph Beth Booksellers and at other retailers. More information can be had by writing to [email protected]