by Kevin Vaughn
Last Friday the line at Cocoliche wrapped around the corner of Av. Rivadavia, climbing its way down Suipacha and disrupting the normally quiet Downtown night. It’s one of the largest turnouts that the popular electro boliche has had in recent memory. And everyone had come out to dance with Kate Simko, the Chicago-based producer, who was in town wrapping up the final weekend of her yearly Buenos Aires visit.
It felt good for the Chicago native, who has traveled the world with her music but has fallen hard for our South American metropolis. The first taste was just a simple trip from Santiago, Chile where she spent much of 2002 recording her debut LP “Shapes of the Summer” with Andres Bucci – the Chilean born, Berlin based music producer.
“I got here, and almost immediately I thought to myself, ‘What was I doing in Santiago? I should’ve been here all along.’”
Kate Simko y Andres Bucci
And so for the last 8 years, Simko has been faithfully returning to her surrogate city for a month or so at a time, quietly renting an apartment, exploring the streets, playing gigs at venues like Cocoliche, and drawing inspiration from all that the city encompasses.
“I like the personality, people here are kind, charismatic. You go to a ferretería once to buy something, and every time you pass by it afterwards they say hello. People aren’t like that in Chicago. This is a big city, and I like the anonymity that it allows me, but it is also a pretty warm place.”
Those inspirations came full circle with her forthcoming album “Lights Out”, scheduled for an April release and followed by a European tour. Recorded in Buenos Aires in early 2009/2010 “Lights Out” allowed Simko to really explore the city, breathing in and interpreting everything from the city’s physical enormity to the rhythms of tango. The creative process, she noted, was aided by the openness of the local art crowd.
“There are a lot of incredibly talented people here. And they work really hard, it’s not like in the states, nothing is handed to them here,” Simko noted, “And I always feel like I’m working amongst my peers. I never feel like I’m being treated like the ‘extranjera’. That definitely helped my process.”
The outcome is an album whose sound and structure differ significantly from her previous LP. The original idea was to present it as an installation piece in a San Francisco gallery. Those plans fell through, but the idea of approaching the album as an art project stuck. Rather than creating songs that functioned solo, Simko produced a ten piece album that constructs a longer story, that when listened to all together forms its “own unique being".
collaboration between Kate Simko (live music) & Jeffrey Weeter (live visuals) at Sonotheque in Chicago
It also gave birth to Simko’s most exciting project, an HD video display that Kate hopes to welcome more interactive shows to her upcoming European tour.
“The challenge of being a solo musician, especially a dj, is that you have to entertain the crowd alone. When people go to a concert they go to see a show. They go to watch someone strum their guitar, to see the sweat dripping off the drummers forehead. Sometimes I finish shows and people ask me if I was up there checking my e-mail.”
Simko’s plan, a project she has named “Lustre – A Live Cinema Event”, is intended to mix the excitement of live music to a cinematic experience. To do this Simko has teamed up with intermedia artist Jeffrey Weeter, who has created a computer program that will allow Simko to remix video footage alongside her live dj sets.
Simko and Weeter are asking anyone with an HD camera to submit videos. On their website, Lustrelive, the two artists have suggested directorial cues to accompany each song – which can be interpreted literally, for example with the song “Flight into BA” with a video of someone landing into Buenos Aires, or more openly, for example with “Mind on You”, Kate suggests “fleeting moments”. Being heavily influenced by the images and spaces within Buenos Aires, Simko hopes to receive a varied collection of footage from the city.
Later on the footage will be edited down and plugged into the computer program. Each show will become not only a concert, but a live cinematic experience, with Simko mixing video in real-time guaranteeing that no two audiences will experience the same show.
Anyone can submit video up until March 7th, direction cues can be found here for Mind on You and Flight into BA.