Instal 07 takes place at the Arches in Glasgow between November 30th and December 2nd this year. There has been no announcement yet as to who is playing, but it will no doubt be a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In 2006 I attended all three days. There was some baffling stuff including miked-up electric fans, dry ice being ‘played’ on heated tables, a forty foot long stringed instrument, and a pair of mad professor like toffs with an array of bizarre household objects on a table making seemingly random sounds. There was also hell-noise from Jazkamer, and things of a more musical nature from Keiji Haino and Tony Conrad and Kuwamaya / Kijima. The highlight was the, frankly scary, psycho-electronics of Maryanne Amacher. The frequencies she produced seemed impossibly loud, and yet you could have normal volume conversations with people at the same time. The music seemed to emanate from inside your own head in a series of catchy, insistent little loops – like a disco remix of The Manchurian Candidate. There were people dancing, people lying comatose on the floor looking lobotomized and people milling around aimlessly with very odd expressions on their faces. I was utterly disorientated for at least 24 hours afterwards.
Instal 05 featured an audience splitting performance by the lamented Sun City Girls. Some, like Wire editor Chris Bohn, hated it – others thought they were great, if a little odd. I admit to being in the latter camp. Other highlights that year included the punishing metal-drones of Birchville Cat Motel and the delightful guitar interplay between Alan Licht and Loren Mazzacane Connors. Octogenarian Henri Chopin was probably the worst thing I’d ever seen: an old bloke gurning and playing a tape recorder – like Krapp’s Last Tape sans jokes, bananas or purpose.
I only attended one day in 2004. The only thing I clearly remember were Vajra, a power trio who included guitarists Kan Mikami and Keiji Haino. They were a bit special. 2003 was good. The Boredoms doing their drum circle thing, the Vibracathedral Orchestra, veteran improvisers AMM and a Ryoji Ikeda string set being particular highlights. It was also the year that it was deemed appropriate to have those immature misogynists Whitehouse on the bill. They were utter shite, as you’d expect.
My first Instal was 2002. It is also the one that I most fondly remember, primarily for two masterful electronic performances by Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto), both accompanied by some pretty nifty big-screen computer graphics. It was the most audio-visual of all the festivals, with Phill Niblock chipping in with some interesting drone film soundtracks too.
Instal 06 saw a move into more performance-art areas which, for me, is less interesting than the musical element. Improvised music gets more than its fair share of exposure, too. It can be thrilling, but all too often it’s awful – no chemistry and no direction and dull rather than radical. Still, I’ll be there this year to be astounded and affronted in equal measure, no doubt. As long as it’s not boring.