Bhob Rainey - Liminal States

Bhob Rainey – Liminal States

Philadelphia experimental electronic musician Bhob Rainey does Liminal States for Bowerbird.

The live curators of Philadelphia’s Bowerbird have long strived to present usually new, rarely heard “experimental, electronic, acoustic, improvised, composed music” whether it’s from artists across the sea or across the street in Philadelphia. Still working in something of a pandemic mode, most of its presentations are virtual or online from venues close to the artist or, even close to their homes. Take Bhob Rainey.

Bhob Rainey been one of Philly’s premiere diverse improvisational electronic musicians and theater composers (with New Paradise Labs) capable of making aggressive haunting music conjuring specters or blissful sounds conjuring tones of peace and restfulness. 

For Sunday, March 13’s Liminal States, Bowerbird’s ongoing series of late night, live streamed concerts “intended to be listened to as you fall asleep… to center and calm,” Rainey will “lead listeners to that magic space between awake and asleep.”

dosage MAGAZINE caught up to Rainey in the very same home studio where he’ll present his Liminal States. Tickets are free. Registration is required. A donation would be nice.

A.D. Amorosi: After all this time in Philadelphia as an electronic and acoustic music maker, an installation-ist and a soundtrack-er and composer for theater, how would you fully define what you do without confining what you do?
Bhob Rainey:  I’m a holy fool with religious feelings about sound. And I try to spend time with people I like and admire in situations where we can help each other discover something startling and moving and hilarious. I’ve occasionally pondered what it might be like to be a professional, but the efforts to look like one, along with the embarrassingly small stakes for success in this field have reminded me that I’m better suited to be a passionate amateur who behaves, if not professionally, then responsibly when it comes to the goals I share with my collaborators. It’s a little tricky because you generally have to do some of the odious things that aspiring pros do in order to continue to have opportunities to make work, but it allows me to be more fluid in how I approach projects and, in ideal circumstances, to do stuff when things feel right and not do stuff when they don’t.

Bhob Rainey - Liminal States

A.D. Amorosi: Often I have felt as if your work… lashes out…. reaches for the heart and throat of the listener. Why do I think that? Is there something decidedly deliberately visceral about what you do?
Bhob Rainey: When I was a kid, I saw an eye doctor who liked to listen to Dave Grusin and was incredibly mellow. He would totally own the ASMR space today. After a pretty mundane examination, reading charts and naming the least blurry lens configurations, he swung his ophthalmoscope to the side so that we could see each other, paused, and said, “You seem especially… intense. You might want to try to… decrease that a bit.” I was maybe twelve years old. It didn’t seem like urgent advice, and I didn’t follow it, even though he was a great eye doctor. So, yes, I suppose that I prefer things that are visceral and cut to the quick, even if they are subtle on the surface. I also feel that there are plenty of people and recordings covering other bases, so I try to focus as much as I can on the core of whatever it is I’m trying to convey. That said, nothing would be heard outside of my studio if I didn’t at some point strongly feel that it was beautiful. And if it didn’t make me laugh. I typically know when something is close to finished when it suddenly makes me crack up.

A.D. Amorosi: Considering your music’s often mellow-harshing reach, how will you approach the late-night Liminal States jawn? What is the game plan?
Bhob Rainey: I’ve taken the program seriously, but, even without this particular theme… well, have you seen the world lately? Right now, I don’t really want such a demanding and roundabout way to eek out some beauty and joy. At the same time, I’m not the type to devote a whole lot of energy to doing, say, a reasonable take on “ambient” or “drone” music. There are too many mature, intricate examples of that kind of music to add yet another merely passable one. I’d rather make a ragged attempt at something genre-less. And, it seems that we both agree that visceral is the name of the game for me, so I’ve taken an approach of relentless empathy. More continuous flow and less non-linear cutting, with a small set of largely warm, woody timbres doing most of the work. I don’t know how close it will bring people to the edge of sleep, but I don’t think that it will give anyone nightmares unless they have a pronounced fear of bass clarinets.

Bhob Rainey - Liminal States

A.D. Amorosi: What are your most immediate plans for 2022 after Liminal States?
Bhob Rainey: I’m currently working on a score for a dance piece Germaine Ingram is choreographing. It’s part of a series for institutions that people associate with exercises of power. The score is mostly text related to the experiments Dr. Albert Kligman performed on inmates in the 70s, so, not really Liminal States material. The piece premiers on the 25th of this month (venue TBD). And I’ve been working on a collaboration with Ernst Karel for Erstwhile Records over the past five years or so. Some of my personal favorite music is wrapped up in this project and is slowly going from 88% finished to 89%. We’ve apparently promised to get it done by July, and there’s at least a 67% chance that we will.

A.D. Amorosi: What is your favorite thing about living in Philadelphia and existing in a fuller universe-wide, but one of your own devising?
Bhob Rainey: I love living in a big city with a populated downtown where I can walk pretty much anywhere that I need to go and where that walk can be accompanied by cherry blossoms, orange-colored leaves, a foot of snow, or a punishing sun. I love bricks and dense, squat buildings and tall, skinny buildings and small parks and public transportation. I love that I can afford to live in this city and therefore so can other people who aren’t obscenely wealthy. And I’m glad that I was able to devise the fuller universe you mention before I moved back here, so that I didn’t miss the chance to see a decent slice of the world and meet so many great people, because Philly has a gravity to it that kind of makes you want to stay. 

Bhob Rainey - Liminal States

A.D. Amorosi: Anything you want to rant about before I let you go?
Bhob Rainey: I think that it would be pretty cool if there wasn’t another war and a pandemic and a palpable rise in fascism going on right now.


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