Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Quaquaversal

JUNE 1, 1998: 

Quaquaversal

Quaquaversal is unique in the Austin electronic scene, owing more to experimental music than to the club or rave cultures that occupy the bulk of the electronic music landscape. Their self-titled debut, released last year on Whirling Pool, is an ambient sonic soundscape that lends itself more readily to spacing out than throwing down. The 15-track assemblage ranges from ambient tonal backdrops to blips, beats, and beeps to 4/4 stripped-down techno à la Kraftwerk. Live, it's more challenging and quaquaversal's live set relies more on sonic atmospherics than their stage antics, which aside from video as a visual enhancement, are decidedly non-existent.

"It's strange to see minimalism in a club setting," points out Robert Mace, who programs the material. "We played a show at Bates Motel where we did a song that was five minutes of holding down a 'C' note."

"Yeah... it was a kind of sadism," interjects Dixon Coulbourn, who masterminds the visuals and more recently, guitar.

"But that was one of our favorite shows, because people were falling asleep," says Mace, who believes that this is a compliment to an ambient act. "The crowd would nod off, then they'd wake back up and start drinking their beers again as soon as they heard a beat."

Half-joking, half-serious, Coulbourn notes, "I think that what we do is kind of hard for a club setting. I can see it more at Zilker Hillside Theatre than in a club."

Live performances are relatively new for quaquaversal (which also includes Stephen Thurman on sound), who have been making music since 1994, but didn't start to venture out as a live entity until May 1997. Not really a part of the rave/dance club scene or the live music scene, quaquaversal is trying to eke out an audience for their shows. Thus far, they've aligned themselves with other local electronic acts like Kitty, OMD 20/20, and believe it or not, the Prima Donnas, who perceptively pointed out to the band one evening, "Hey... you play keyboards, we play keyboards."

Taking it live has made quaquaversal work a bit harder at making their performances more interesting for the audience. Bringing in Coulbourn to add visual elements was one result. The music also went through some changes.

"We started out playing record stores and art galleries and the videos were the real forefront," says Mace. "The early stuff was more ambient. Then we started playing clubs and the beats came in. The next CD will have some big, strapping beats!"

Look for quaquaversal's big strapping beat manifesto, "....", sometime at the end of August on the band's own Whirling Pool. - Leah Selvidge


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