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Eclectic Electronica
This year's X Avant New Music Festival takes synthetic sounds beyond the dancefloor

Chief Boima

The tag/genre/movement “new music” remains as amorphous as ever, but whatever that phrase may describe, you can probably find it at X Avant. The festival devoted to contemporary classical, global sounds, experimental jazz, esoteric pop and the liminal zones between them is marking its seventh anniversary, though it’s a programming debut for David Dacks, who became artistic director of X Avant sponsor the Music Gallery late last year. This time around, the theme is electronic music, taken in directions remote from a 150-BPM dance anthem (not that those aren’t great too). X Avant VII continues until October 21, and you can get a festival pass for $99. Here are four of the most promising events.

Global Bass Avant: Chief Boima, DJ Valeo & Daniel Vila (Friday Oct. 12, at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 10 pm)
A dance party governed by the rhythms of what critic Wayne Marshall has dubbed “nu-whirled music,” such as rap tracks reworked with African dance percussion. The headliner (whose oeuvre features that reworking) is Dutty Artz comrade Chief Boima; the openers include Daniel Vila, who runs Kensington Market’s semi-secret performance space Double Double Land and DJs with Rob Gordon at its flagship monthly Wack Magic – perhaps the only party in Toronto where Bollywood soundtrack cuts fade into Trina.
“The Meaning of Music in the Digital Age” (Saturday Oct. 13, at the Music Gallery, 3 pm, free)
A collaborator of Fred Frith and John Zorn, composer for the Kronos Quartet, and someone who quit the music industry entirely in 1982 before moving to El Salvador for seven years (at the time, the country was caught in a brutal civil war), Bob Ostertag is a flexibly uncompromising figure. In the mid-2000s, he made all of the recordings he controls available as free downloads under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, so this talk’s digital-music preachings have already been put into practice.

A Mind/Body Split Pt. 1 (Shigeto + Nick Storring, Thursday Oct. 18 at the Music Gallery, 8 pm) and Pt. 2 (Pursuit Grooves + Elaquent + Kaytradamus, Thursday Oct. 18 at the Drake Underground, 10:30 pm)
Glitchy bass music pulled along a Cartesian continuum, beginning in the hushed, cerebral environs of the Music Gallery’s ecclesiastical setting and ending with the more physical kind of reverberations on Queen West. The church that hosts the Gallery doesn’t allow alcohol beyond its inner “sanctuary,” but grooves will be present throughout.

Undercurrents Live: Contact & Sandro Perri (Friday Oct. 19, at the Music Gallery, 8 pm)
Sandro Perri is not unfamiliar to this space. For X Avant, however, he’ll be making “a rare live appearance at the mixing desk,” to help realize the Contact ensemble’s interpretation of Undercurrents. That Jordan Nobles piece took immersive inspiration from the avant-garde Greek composer Iannis Xenakis in planting musicians amidst the same audience listening to them; Contact go further still with their live performance of the composition, processing and remixing the mercurial sound through a sound system even as they’re creating it.

Chris Randle is the culture editor at Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter at @randlechris.

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