CULTURE- BUZZBOX- Weirder and weirder: 'Surround Sound' covers the fringe

If digging our way out from beneath a mountain of press releases and promotional packets every week has taught us anything, it's that many musicians pride themselves on their uniqueness.

But phrases like "hard to define" and especially "defying genre boundaries" embody a certain cosmic absurdity when coming from most punk-rock bands or folky singer-songwriters. That said, for "Surround Sound," the third installment of the C-Fest concert series, festival curator and beloved weirdo Lance Brenner has rounded up the local musicians most likely to fit those non-descriptions: ironically enough, the overarching theme connecting them is the fact that they typically don't have much in common with anybody.

For example, Jason Judy's electronic project, Centric, has been fairly quiet since a rash of Starr Hill shows last year for which he recruited a new band.

"That was a much more rock-oriented setup," he says. "It had an electronic element, but it had a more singer-songwriter vibe." Shortly thereafter, though, he changed direction again and stopped focusing on playing live with the group: "I've been busy ever since those shows, recording the new material," he says.  

That's not necessarily what we're going to get to taste at C-Fest, though. "It's going to be me trying to manhandle a rack of synthesizers," he laughs. With a laptop providing the glue and synchronizing all his toys, Judy plans to play a solo set.

Stuart Watson and Graboids, his instrumental rock quartet, have also been laying pretty low– but in this case, it's because Watson was in London while the rest of the band has been holed up in the Outer Banks.  

"It'll be a year to the day since we last played in Charlottesville," he says. He's been back only about a month, but he's looking forward to C-Fest because the band is planning to move back to Charlottesville in May. Their guitar-driven instrumental rock relies heavily on effects pedals and the evolving textures they create to keep things interesting over the course of the eight- and nine-minute epics.

Most elusive of all is probably UVA professor Judith Shatin, who has prepared several pieces based on synthesis and sampling for duo performance with saxophone player Susan Fancher. "Penelope's Song," for example, pairs sax with a prepared DVD of field recordings and synchronized companion visuals to tell the story of Penelope, the crafty wife of Ulysses who staved off scores of suitors in his absence.  

Elsewhere, Shatin designs the sound-generating devices herself using specialized software. "Dealing with electronic sound is always very hands-on– or ears-on," she says. "It's not like composing for an instrument that you know well– it's more like creating the instrument and what the instrument is going to do."

"Darkness Upon The Face of the Deep," for example, draws its title from a passage in the Hebrew Bible where the world is created from void– and Shatin took the theme to heart aurally as well. "It's a piece about creating a whole world," she says with a laugh.

As Judy points out, the only venue that's typically home to that level of abstraction is the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, but even there you'd be hard pressed to find so many fruits in the same salad. Twice already, Brenner has seen the result of different corners of the local music scene converging– "I feel like I've covered almost all the bases with these four Fests," he says. Given that he's tapping so many fringe musicians here, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Surround Sound meanders off the beaten path starting starting from the Satellite Ballroom at 8pm Saturday, February 16. $10 for all the strange music you can stomach.

Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees: If Sarah White is the reigning local queen of alt-country, Jim Waive is the up-and-coming prince. How fitting, then, that the two worked together on Waive's latest album, Strike A Match. Joining White on background vocals was fellow Acorn Sister Sian Richards, and the rest of Waive's usual matrimonially impaired quartet rounded out the lineup. Waive says the new album's ten new songs follow in the path set by his debut, Trouble's You, but significantly raise the production value. "This one has some more depth to it," he says. "It's kind of like the FM version– the other one was more AM. There's more definition and distinction between the instruments.

"I wanted it to sound bigger," he continues. "When we play live, it's kind of big and bouncy– there's some low-end that wasn't there on the first record. The frequency spectrum is much bigger on this one. My band does great stuff behind me, so it's great to have it all there to be heard." Naturally, there's no more appropriate occasion upon which to pick up a copy than at a CD release party. 

The Acorn Sisters and Barling and Collins open at Satellite Ballroom. $8-$10, 8pm.