No Age’s Randy Randall on how the California freeways shaped his latest project
Like most Southern California natives, Randy Randall’s childhood memories are inextricable from the freeways that circumscribed it. He can still see his electrician father rising before dawn, tool belt and coffee in hand, to commute from the sun-bleached landscapes of the Inland Empire to West L.A.
There were mornings spent daydreaming out the car window, lulled by the rhythm of traffic and his parents’ mixtapes, as Interstate 10 carried them past terracotta suburbia, through industrial congestion, and, finally, to the beach.
For the record:
12:45 PM, Mar. 27, 2019An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed admission at 1700 Naud as costing between $39-$350. The show is free.
Later, freeways would lead a teenage Randall to North Hollywood, downtown, and the do-it-yourself community of all-ages club the Smell, where he and pal Dean Spunt would help spotlight the scene’s new wave as experimental punk duo No Age.
“The freeway really is like a river,” Randall said by phone this week from his home in Sunland. “There’s the commerce, and there’s this beauty to the mundane, eyesoreness of it. I thought, what a unique experience that I’m so intimately familiar with, in this unconscious level of the daydream of Southern California.”
Lately, the freeway has led Randall to his debut solo LP, “Sound Field Volume One,” due Friday via Dangerbird Records. The collection of ambient pieces is part of an immersive multimedia installation by Randall and visual artist Aaron Farley, and presented by L.A. experimental art collective Arthur King as part of its ongoing album release series in partnership with Dangerbird.
The project combines music and manipulated imagery inspired by California’s I-10, from the desert sunrise in Palm Springs through downtown Los Angeles congestion to sunset at the Santa Monica Pier. Throughout, Randall’s pedal-processed guitar work and layered drone washes underscore the tension and beauty of still expanses and the forces that interrupt them.
An opening reception and live performance of the work by Randall and Farley take place Saturday evening at Chinatown’s 1700 Naud Gallery. The installation will remain on view through April 7.
“Growing up here, you sort of have this unconscious relationship to the space that people don’t think of as that special or interesting until you have to explain it to someone else,” said Randall.
“Sound Field Volume One” attempts the answer, a spiritual thoroughfare that captures the plurality of the Angeleno experience through the dynamism and intimacy of the commute. The music is less of a score or soundtrack to the visuals than an ongoing conversation between the two, composed, recorded and constantly tweaked over the year Farley spent capturing and manipulating the imagery.
The result is equal parts surreal and enchanting, with desert wind farms and beachside carnival rides transforming and fracturing over Randall’s fluid soundscapes and the economic sprawl of east to west.
“You internalize if you grew up here, but people outside of that don’t know or understand that it’s just as foundational to L.A. culture as Hollywood, or whatever,” Randall said. “One road connects all these different areas, races and communities with our own rich fabrics of culture.”
Randall embraced the opportunity to expand the experimental practice he developed through No Age — who have collaborated on soundtracks and installations with the likes of Doug Aitken, Chloe Sevigny, Hedi Slimane and Aaron Rose — as well as his own composing and multimedia work.
“I’ve kind of always looked at my solo work as just something I work on for myself. So it was fun to dig in and make something that uniquely I could have thought about,” Randall said. “It was like, well, what do I know more than anything else?”
With L.A. on the books, he hopes to take future “Sound Field” volumes on the road, exploring the canals and bike lanes of Amsterdam, the gridlock of New York, and the spiraling corridors of Paris.
“I love the idea that getting around is how you really experience the city — not the ‘where you’re going,’ but the ‘how you get there,’ ” Randall said. “This project is really documenting or attempting to bottle that feeling, to take that emotional snapshot of what it is to get around a place.”
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When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: 1700 Naud, 1700 Naud St., Los Angeles
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