The second annual Catalytic Sound Festival is a sprawling international affair, spanning 5 different weekends with versions taking place in Amsterdam, Vienna, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and Trondheim. All of these various weekends will feature artists who are a part of the innovative Catalytic Sound co-operative, an initiative formed in 2015 to help create a more sustainable working environment for its pool of experimental and innovative musicians across the globe.

The 2022 festival will include Asheville performances curated by Tashi Dorji with support from Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Static Age Records, Make Noise, Harvest Records, Burial Beer, and PennyCup Coffee. The Asheville festival provides an opportunity to showcase the local music scene and bring touring artists with a focus on creating new spaces for new ideas, disrupting the old with new, and highlighting BIPOC artists.

Chris Ryan Williams is an interdisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, New York and most at home collaborating with improvisers and experimentalists. Williams’ installation work explores the dyad of ancestral trauma and power existing in all Black Americans: I Ain’t Got No Spare (2019) is a modular video and performance piece that explores the rich legacy of Black music and film in Los Angeles; House of Peace (2021) is a video installation and soundscape blending fabricated and ‘real’ memories across generations; Of Yours (2020) is a free jazz setting for imagined exchanges between Black leaders. Williams’ recent release ‘Live’ was described as “tuneful passages and dissonant abstraction, cutting-and-pasting…with a keen sense of scale and variation” (The Quietus). Williams uses a mix of trumpet, electronics, and text to create lush sonic tapestries in his performances with a wide range of artists including Pink Siifu, Luke Stewart, Nicole Mitchell, Bennie Maupin, and Patrick Shiroishi.

Patrick Shiroishi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Los Angeles who is perhaps best known for his extensive and incredibly intense work with the saxophone.  Over the last decade he has established himself as one of the premier improvising musicians in Los Angeles, playing solo and in numerous collaborative projects.  Shiroishi may well be considered a foundational player in the city’s vast musical expanse.

Lynn Fister is a Vietnamese-American  experimental musician, writer and visual artist residing in Asheville, NC. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and West Papua. A self-taught musician, she has been exploring synthesis with ambient layered vocals for over a decade.  Initially recording and performing under the guise of Aloonaluna, Farewell Phoenix is their current project.

Their works have been imprinted with labels Hooker Vision, Digitalis Ltd., Constellation Tatsu, Sacred Phrases and Scioto Records.  She also has recorded material on her now-defunct micro label Watery Starve Press, which includes the critically acclaimed four-way split entitled Taxidermy of Unicorns.  This release landed NPR’s 10 Favorite Cassettes of 2013 calling it “a testament to some of the most outward-moving experimental music made not just by women, but by anyone right now.” NPR has also cited her music being “full of angelic sounds and beautiful fuzzy soundscapes,” and Tiny Mix Tapes has called her “imagination and wherewithal too cunning for but one splotch of blocked critique.”

She now concentrates on choral landscapes manipulated by and integrated with modular synthesizers and is particularly interested in how installations and environment inform music-making.

Tashi Dorji is a guitarist improviser based in Asheville NC. Tashi was born and raised in Bhutan. Tashi has released music both as a soloist and as a collaborator, notably with Mette Rasmussen, Aaron Turner (Sumac, Mamiffer), Che Chen (75 Dollar Bill), Aki Onda, Michael Zerang, John Deiterich (Deerhoof), C Spencer Yeh, Dave Rempis, Tyler Damon, Patrick Shiroishi, KUZU ( w/ Dave Rempis & Tyler Damon), MANAS (w/ Thom Nguyen) on labels like Moone Records, Gilgonko Records, Bathetic Records, Trost, Cabin Floor Esoterica, Blue Tapes, Marmara Records, Feeding Tubes, UNROCK, VDSQ, MIE, Ultra Violet Light, Aerophonic Records, Medium Sound, Family Vineyard, Astral Spirits and Drag City.

Few artists have done more to both honor and reinvent the 2000-year history of the pipa than soloist, vocalist and composer Min Xiao-Fen. Classically trained in her native China, Min was an in-demand interpreter of traditional music before relocating to the United States and forging a new path for her instrument alongside many of the leading lights in modern jazz, free improvisation, experimental and contemporary classical music. NPR Weekend Edition lauded Ms. Min as “one of the world’s greatest virtuosos” and The New York Times raved that her singular work “has traversed a sweeping musical odyssey.”

Originally from Kingsport, Tennessee, New York-based Zoh Amba is a notable rising star in the avant-garde music scene. Growing up in the Appalachian mountains, Amba practiced saxophone to the forest that surrounded her home before she later traveled to study with David Murray in New York, and also at the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music & New England Conservatory in Boston. Today, her music is full of folk melodies, mesmerizing refrains, repeated incantations and powerfully executed Free Jazz reminiscent of Albert Ayler. Her sound is courageous and bold, commanding her instrument with a loving force that soars from muted hums to squeaky trebles, producing a confident sound imbued with spirituality.

Born in Haining, China, Otay:onii (Lane Shi) is a troubadour, performing musician, multidisciplinary installation artist, working sound designer and film composer currently residing in NY. She is also the vocalist and keyboardist of the punk spit band Elizabeth Colour Wheel (US). Otay:onii ’s installation performance piece Unwrap! opened its first edition at Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai (2021), as well as a series of improvised sound pieces at Himalayas Museum, FanRong Museum, etc. Electronic, ambient, sound collage or noise, Otay:onii breaks down structures that “chains her neck and feet”, aiming to be free on the ride of acute instincts and establishing a bodily connection through the synchronization of the heart and mind. She believes in echos, and “solving a puzzle with another puzzle that can’t be seen, be touched, but to feel.”

Drum Major Instinct is an experimental music duo from Asheville, North Carolina. Jeff Arnal plays (mostly) percussion and Curt Cloninger plays (mostly) modular synthesizer. The Wire describes Jeff’s drumming as a “highly original concept” having “a balletic sense of time and imaginative deployment of colour;” and Byron Coley says Curt’s modular synthesis “moves like blocks of radioactive adobe being shifted around by architects in space suits.” But, of course, nothing is ever that straightforward. The resultant music is about waves of energy, patterns within patterns (within patterns), sounds from the natural world, and running the voodoo down.

Thom Nguyen is an Asheville, North Carolina-based improviser and drummer of MANAS and more. Producing energetic bursts and invoking a sensitivity to space that one often associates with Free-Jazz and New Music percussion, Nguyen’s approach elegantly bridges works of sonic sculpture with a punk aesthetic of immediacy, aggression, and playfulness.

Lunar Creature is Meghan Mulhearn and David Lynch. Rich, dark mood music combining violin, guitar, bass and synth in unexpected ways.

Che Chen is a multi-instrumentalist based in Queens, NY. Born in 1978 to Taiwanese immigrant parents, he grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC and played bass in bands before studying painting, printmaking and sculpture. Drawn back to the social and collaborative aspects of music making, he has been an energetic presence in New York City’s experimental underground as a band leader, improviser and show organizer since the early 2000s. In 2012 he and percussionist Rick Brown formed 75 Dollar Bill, a community-based, multi-generational, multicultural ensemble that combines free improvisation, rock, minimalism, and African and Asian music traditions. Though primarily a self-taught musician, Chen took a two week crash course in the Moorish modal system with Jeich Ould Chigaly in Nouakchott, Mauritania in 2013, an experience to which his approach to guitar is deeply indebted. Something of a “non-specialist”, he also performs and records on percussion, violin, contrabass, woodwinds and crude electronic devices. He organizes concerts at DIY venues throughout the city, including the monthly concert series Fire Over Heaven at Outpost Artist Resources in Ridgewood.

After retiring his project Dirty Beaches, Alex Zhang Hungtai has been focusing on explorations of improvised music, Free Jazz, film scores and compositions. Zhang predominantly works with saxophone, synthesizers, percussion and piano, furthering his research on ritualistic music of liminality and its correlation with the unconscious mind.

BEAM SPLITTER is a duo for amplified voice, trombone and analog electronics. Utilizing the pure sounds of acoustic and closely amplified sound sources, the duo joins together two individual voices into a distinct dialog that delves beyond the borders of the corporeal elements of extended technique and sound. There is an intimacy and conflict that becomes evident as the two personas intertwine, in moments joining together seamlessly and in the next, being left with the feeling of irrevocable fracture. The two manage between these extremes with a kind of improvised grace that reveals an effort towards a common goal. It is an honest metaphor for a human relationship in process that even in the most serene moments can leave one raw and entirely exposed.