Masaki Batoh's performance last night was part experimental concert, part technology demonstration. The leader of the long-running psychedelic outfit from Japan known as Ghost, Batoh cooked up a device known as a Brain Pulse Music Machine. According to the description on the Drag City website (where you can pick up your own BPMM for $700), it was designed as "an instrument to assist in the understanding and correction of central nervous system abnormalities...the BPM machine kicks out sheets of sound based on brain waves—so the wilder the brain, the wilder the waves!"
The BPMM itself looks like a strange piece of headgear for someone recovering from a spinal injury, but when put into practice on stage, it is augmented by a pair of goggles with LED lights inside of it, getting brighter and changing colors as the user sits there. The effect is akin to something a steampunk aviator might sport.
At the Star Theater last night, one brave and lucky lady took the stage and strapped in and, after a few adjustment, started pealing out staccato tones into the air while a bit of radio static and hum burbled underneath. Spine-tingling enough on its own, Batoh only amplified matters by looping the high-pitched ping of Tibetan chimes, a strange wind instrument and the sound of his own voice over it all. Then, just when it was reaching cacophonous heights, the lanky musician turned a knob and a thunderstorm of low rumbles took over the room.
But what of the woman onstage? For the 30-40 minutes of the performance, she sat completely still, eyes closed, hands folded neatly in her lap. I would have loved to have talked to her after the show to see what she had on her mind the whole time, and how much of the noise pouring out around her was affecting her thinking. But I also would have enjoyed to see if movement or the introduction of some other element to her person would have affected the pattern of sound that the BPMM was generating. As it was, the meditative quality she put forth was only upended by Batoh's sure hands and his delight in ravaging the aural landscape.