When: Thu., Feb. 16, 8 p.m. 2017
Though most music fans might not know it, a quiet, opinionated war played itself out on Twitter, Facebook posts, and message boards late last year. Turner Broadcasting's programming block Adult Swim, which has utilized music as a cultural virtue signaler for the better part of a decade through partnerships with labels like Stones Throw and with its eclectic Adult Swim Singles program, opted to put out a compilation of noise music. It featured recognizable icons like Merzbow, Wolf Eyes, and Prurient, and was released for free on the Adult Swim website, presumably financed by Scion and General Mills and other Cartoon Network advertisers you see wrenched between Family Guy reruns.
The blowback from scene veterans was immediate. Accusations of "press release noise" were bandied about, and a fierce debate raged about whether this decidedly anti-commercial music, presumably created in defiance of things like basic cable, should be run through the same gears as pop music. Can experimental music be co-opted to sell sugar water and movie tickets?
That might be a loaded question, but as cultural cachet becomes an increasingly large part of people's identity, and casual listeners get more and more attuned to music scenes that were once restricted to the shadows, these debates keep springing up. Perhaps a delineating factor, then, is the difference between curated taste and real-life participation. One of the crucial aspects of experimental music is the community, and this can never be reduced to a simple matter of sitting at your computer and deciding what artists best benefit your personal portfolio. Often, some of the finest noise projects, including the ones on that Adult Swim compilation, only got off the ground because of community—because of venues that are willing to book the stuff, because of supportive people who show up to said shows. It's a scene that is self-perpetuating, and it's been reassuring to see local venues like Kings sharpen its bookings in this vein recently.
This second edition of Kings' Electronic Summit series looks to keep the fire going with a strong international-meets-local lineup. Carrboro's Secret Boyfriend headlines a bill of players that also includes Strict Nurse and Staplerfahrer, both hailing from the Netherlands. There's also Gardener and Nagual, from Virginia, plus Durham's Oceanette. It's an accessible opportunity to participate in an active regional scene—come, lest you be a walking Adult Swim compilation. —David Ford Smith