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If the live album is a dead format, then Portland based synth excursionist Veronica 'Vern' Avola is having a wild time boogying on its grave. While many of her electronic contemporaries labour over increasingly refined, studio crafted creations, Avola's compositions prefer to shake themselves out on the dark stages of DIY venues across the western US. In 2019, she began releasing unedited recordings of her frequent live performances on Bandcamp as a diaristic series, When It Reigns, It Poors.
Vol 7, the first of the series' three most recent instalments, begins, fittingly with a wry and twisted parody of stage banter. "Thank you for being here", intones a prerecorded voice, slipping pitch like a melting candle. "Please make yourselves comfortable". This sample is repeated in different registers, from high, goofy chirps to deep and monstrous roars, until the layers congeal into a sludgy mass of sound. A searing saw-like buzz blazes through the mix, plunging the set into a mind-erasing bout of power electronics before blossoming into a churning plume of grey, faceted smoke.Just before the seven minute mark the beat finally drops and the track lurches into its subdivided, angular rhythmic framework. A high synth note hovers for a moment before diving into a familiar melody. This is "Dark Path" from Avola's 2019 album Consensual Abduction (reviewed in The Wire 429) - a triumphant jammer with an infectiously memorable hook. In the music video for the album version of this song, a squad of green cartoon aliens dance in geometric formation while a pair of robot hands play a keyboard. In the live version, the melody quickly disintegrates into a swirling stew of sparkling bloops and twinkling shards, until we find ourselves in a deserted dancehall filled with high-powered lasers. Here, there are whiffs of Pete Swanson's industrial noise-disco, alongside spectres of the stonerific climaxes of vintage Sun Araw. But everything Avola touches is coated in a distinctive layer of murky analogue weirdness and holographic grime that, once encountered, feel like her unmistakeable signature. Even her peals are covered in thick patches of hand coloured duct tape, giving something as pedestrian as a Boss DD-7 the appearance of a prop from a post-apocalyptic B-movie.
When It Reigns, It Poors Vol 8, recorded at Portland's S1 venue and synth library, drops the listener into a party already in motion. Wiggly noise gives way to speedy, skittering techno, while synth sweeps that zip heavenward like slot machines hitting the jackpot echo across disorienting patches of spacetime. The beat gets headier and progressively more subdivided as the long track wears on conspiring to yank the body of the listener into jittering, convulsive moments. Vol 9 meanwhile is the most experimental offering of the latest batch, a sprawling dustbin of cosmic oddities shot through with shuddering blasts and shuffling full spectrum noise. This last set is a collaboration with fellow Portland musician Vo, who runs the queer feminist noise label An Out Recordings, and all proceeds from its download are to be donated to the charitable advocacy group Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women USA.
There is an affinity between Avola's gritty, communal aesthetic and the DIY ethos of Ratskin Records who recently put on a show for her (along with her duo project Elrond) in Oakland (I'm patiently waiting for this show to surface as an instalment in her live series). Avola's recordings would also not be out of place in the Hausu Mountain catalogue, filed alongside the psychedelic power techno of Davey Harms. Taken as a whole When It Reigns, It Poors provides an intimate, ongoing portrait of an artist in an ever evolving dialogue with the spontaneous combustibility of live performance. But the discipline that such intensive self-documentation demands is offset by Avola's playful logic at every turn. Life's too short and strange not to shake your booty to it.
Emily Pothast, The Wire Magazine Issue 432, March 2020
released September 26, 2019
Composed Performed Recorded Mixed and Mastered by Veronica Avola
Veronica “Vern” Avola is a composer, multimedia artist, instructor and community organizer born in Rapallo, Italy and based
in Portland, Oregon. She founded EMS Records.
Avola has released several albums on Sige Recordings, An Out Recordings, Accident Prone Records, Gravity Records and Nadine Records. Avola has other collaborative works with Daniel Menche (Bear Spray), Elrond, Vo Vo and Dead....more