Tenorless Presents Hypnotic Theatre: An Audiovisual Odyssey in The Heart of The Blue Ridge Mountains (Event Review)

Tenorless Presents Hypnotic Theatre: An Audiovisual Odyssey in The Heart of The Blue Ridge Mountains (Event Review)

tenorless hypnotic theatre

You’ve all heard the old adage: Never miss a Sunday show. This saying couldn’t ring more true than for those who attended the sold-out Hypnotic Theatre on Sunday, March 10th,  at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts in Asheville, NC.

tenorless hypnotic theatre

Perhaps the first of its kind, this event was curated by visual artist and pioneer Tenorless to feature eight diverse artists, four producers and four VJs, in a one-of-a-kind collaborative cinematic downtempo audiovisual experience that explored the full range of the genre.

The lineup included producers Maxfield, Entangled Mind, Dillard, and Somatoast, each recognized for their cutting-edge contributions to the downtempo arena over the last decade, paired respectively with acclaimed visual artists Papa Bear, The Void, Oneirogen, and Tenorless himself.

Nestled in the heart of Downtown Asheville, The Wortham Center is a 500-person theater known for hosting dances, modern and classical, as well as orchestral performances, musical theater, and comedy shows. This was the first event of its kind in the space, and the result could not have been more magical.

First Impressions

Billed as a formal cinematic affair, the doors to the lobby opened at 6 pm for a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and a gallery show for fans to gather and mingle with friends and strangers alike before the theater opened for the fully seated event. There was an instant air of camaraderie. Before the show, those walking the streets of Asheville had already begun to recognize each other by the eclectic getups each had dug out of their closet for the event.

hypnotic theatre

First thing through the door, the energy was palpable and joyous, high and full of anticipation. Laughter, familiar hugs, bottles of wine, a sea of silk and scarves and sequins, dresses, smoking jackets, shined shoes, fur. One fan peered around the room in a gown with jeweled opera glasses on a beaded chain that hung from her neck. Another fan in a straw hat, pearls, French striped shirt (reminiscent of a Godard film), and a bright cherry blazer with polka-dotted elbow pads, walked around the venue with a large bucket of yellow roses, handing out flowers to anyone who wished to accent their attire with something fresh and alive.

Waiting in line for merchandise, which, among other items, featured a limited gold-foil event poster with images reflecting the history of motion graphics and a Tenorless tee designed as an ode to hypnotics, attendees could observe paintings on display by artists Mark Harmon, Kelcey Loomer, Annie Bennett, Justin Struble, and Daniel McClendon.

Back in the lobby, a red carpet lay across the floor where fans could take photographs in front of an elegant backdrop. Playbills were handed out with set times, names of “cast” members, a statement from Tenorless about his vision for the show, and facts about the history of hypnosis and motion pictures.

It was a proper affair, and almost everyone turned out in the spirit of the event.

The Pendulum Swings

The doors to the theater opened at 6:30. Attendees lined up respectfully to check their tickets with the ushers, find their seats in the orchestra or balcony sections, and patiently await the start of the show. The theater staff, accustomed to a different kind of crowd, welcomed the eccentricities and playfulness of the newcomers with warm smiles, and both were treated with the atmosphere of a ballet or a Broadway play.

hypnotic theatre

Just before 7:30, the lights were lowered. Excited murmurs passed around the theater. Maxfield, wearing a gunsmoke suit and silver squash blossom necklace, entered the orchestra pit. First notes emerged, visuals from Papa Bear formed on the screen, and just like that the room hushed. The show had begun.

Anyone who experienced Maxfield’s set at Tipper and Friends last year, an intricate Sunday set to cradle the wonkiness of a full weekend in the swamp, later released as Imaginary Landscapes Vol. 2, knew the night was about to start from a special place.

It began with water bells and eerie keys. Echoic trickles. An air of suspense. Currents of static morphed the screen. A starry void gave way to organic greens of ethereal paper crisped burnt and alive.

In an original mix of unreleased music stitched together for this event, Maxfield’s set ran from ambient space to crunchy neuro replete with electronic bird sounds and tribal drum patterns, mellifluous squibbles, jazzy pickups, piano riffs, squinchy liquid contortions, vocal collaborations, and deep resonant bass. One part even resembled a film score by the likes of Hans Zimmer before breaking into complex industrial sounds that made me feel like a robot in search of identity.


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In a social media post before the show, Papa Bear announced “over 45 new patches” created for his collaboration with Maxfield, and his work did not go unnoticed. At one point, a latticework of luminescent danglers, like those of an anglerfish, tumbled through an abyss. Slick labyrinths of deep purple brought me back to an ice cavern in an Alaskan glacier. At another point, I felt like I was passing through seagrass, a fish in motion. Termite tunnels were carved into oleaginous neon, and silky metallic greens morphed into a helixed braid of energy that broke into Egyptian portals gilded with gold and blue.

At the first elongated pause, the room erupted in unexpected applause. This was the first time I experienced something like this at an electronic show. Typically, fans, dancing, moving around, refrain from clapping until the end of the night, or at least the end of a set. In a seated show, spellbound fans needed to release the energy of attention and awe surging within, and the feeling was incredible. At the first clap, the whole room joined in with communal excitement. Maxfield, visibly moved, faced the crowd with hands clasped before carrying us deeper into the realm of his otherworldly soundscape.

One fan, noticing my notebook, leaned into my ear and whispered a made-up word that sounded like: esplanadic. I turned to find her nodding and smiling with knowing bliss right before a more ambient segment built into patches of buoyant guitar. At the end of the set, she admired out loud the power of “creating an environment that makes people feel the need to whisper.”

I, too, felt this power. It was a tone that set the rest of the night. Both Maxfield and Papa Bear’s use of empty space throughout the set was mesmerizing. It takes seasoned creators to pull this off with complimenting force to the layered intensity of the rest of their work, and both did so with astounding skill.

Maxfield wound down his set to a standing ovation. Once again, he proved himself an innovative producer of dexterous downtempo work.

Get Entangled

Entangled Mind took their place, wearing an embroidered vest and a crowned fedora with a yellow rose in the band. Paired with The Void, their set began with an atmospheric buildup as shadowed circles rippled hypnotically into a bright bleeding palette of watercolor portals on the screen behind.

Combining instruments like tablas, handpans, flutes, and didgeridoos with the human voice and crisp electronic arrangements of organic sound, winding gears, trickles, flutters, and deep sultry bass gives Entangled Mind a signature sound one can recognize from a distance. Their set on this occasion was of profound stylization, a seamless journey from one track to the next. At times, I felt like I was traveling in a jungle of dense foliage and dark pools alive with night creatures and human energy as they played a mix of recognizable gems and unreleased IDs, including collaborations with musicians like Delgira and Amy Naylor.

The Void, building an effect of synaesthesia, created a series of visuals to embody this primitive energy. From symbiotic reefs and sunken cities to natural fragments and floral ephemera under a microscope lens of stained glass, a vitreous collage of concentrated organisms pulsed over a background of Earth. At one point, two figures formed of outlined flowers met and kissed and merged. Everything moved with ceaseless animation. Deities and creatures of disseminating form blended in and out of each other with breath-like continuation. The dance of life epitomized.

Amoebic night larvae in a deep dubby embrace. Bubbles of mandalic disintegration. Tangles of reptilian scales, tessellated ripples, and towards the end liquid drum and bass took us traveling through the thatched insides of a haystack aflame. Viewers grasped for tangible forms or gave themselves over to the flow motion of colorful patterns before them with equal attention and wonder.

Once again, the crowd clapped wildly throughout this set whenever the tone quieted enough to allow it, teeming with veneration and amazement. This pattern continued the rest of the night.

As Entangled Mind brought their set to a close, the crowd stood for another powerful ovation. The producer faced the cheers and whistles with warm eyes, absorbing the moment, and smiled as they left the stage.


Lights were raised to normal levels, and the screen flashed to old film stills announcing a 30-minute intermission. An intermission gave people a chance to breathe and digest the beauty they just experienced. Grab drinks. Goof around. Make new friends. A setbreak not often found at electronic shows.

The courtyard was alive with the usual shenanigans and excited talk. Smoke and laughter filled the air. Inside the lobby, friends seated in different sections caught up with each other to check in and share their delight.

Just before 10:00, the lights flashed. Dillard time. Wandering fans rushed to hug their friends, finish tasks and missions, and get back to their seats for the rest of the show.


The Organic Chemistry of Sound

Dillard kicked off the second half of the night with a mixed set of old favorites and “80 percent unreleased” material, paired with Oneirogen. Internationally recognized for his command of the downtempo genre, Dillard’s sound possesses a unique Rocky Mountain flair that captures the tranquility and breadth of cloud-capped elevation.

With uplifting textures, mind-bending delicacies, and samples ranging from forest sounds and hand drums to Daft Punk and vocal distortions, Dillard augmented the energy in the room with an hour-long oasis of liquid bass and diverse percussive undertones that moved attendees to lurch from their chairs with whoops of release.

Oneirogen’s visuals began with a trans-dimensional compression and rarefaction of particles in the boughs of a tantalizing forest. In tandem with Dillard’s music, onlookers felt serene as they witnessed the air passing between trees before diving into the compound eyes of an insect. The anima of a buck charged through the scene, and people in the theater began to tap each other with excitement, reminded of the forest spirit Shishigami from Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke.

In a narrative of harmonious execution, Oneirogen’s art touched heavily upon themes of cities and ruins, the natural world and mystical dimensions, the passing of one realm to another, often overlapping in a way that made one feel a part of the world’s creation as much as its demise. At one point, we passed across an extraterrestrial landscape of detail one would find in a high-quality video game before entering a cave that opened into a radiant den of complex golden energy. Cathedrals resonated with interlocking chambers. Pyramidal topographies heaved like pinscreens and prismatic time warps carried viewers into Bangkok jungle neons and sifting sands.

Once again, at the close of the set, attendees stood with thunderous applause and Dillard left the stage beaming.

A Toast to Audiovisual Wonders

At 11:00, Somatoast, dressed in a geometric button-down, took his place to close the night, paired with the show’s curator, Tenorless. This was the first live collaboration of the two revered Asheville artists, and the excitement in the room, building through the night, was palpable beyond description.


Somatoast opened his set with an ambient VIP of “Little Big Bang” and the first visuals from Tenorless, a classic high-resolution hypnotic spiral in black and white, engulfed the screen. As the spiral began to break into unpredictable patterns, I looked away for the first time and my entire field of vision was warped and pulsing. The theater, the whole physical plane, became part of the visuals, and attendees were a living part of the show.

Diving into microcosmic grains of shifting dunes, Tenorless maintained a black-and-white theme as Somatoast launched into “Live Dreaming.”

Then a zoopraxiscopic silhouette of a horse and rider appeared in homage to the dawn of motion graphics before the first color–gold!–overtook the screen, a breathing geometry that morphed into thick oozing honey.

Tenorless has an eye for color unlike any visual artist I’ve seen. His palette produces a world of its own. As Somatoast pulled us deeper into dark and crunchy realms of masterfully textured neuro glitch, the screen evolved into floral tunnels of chartreuse and magenta, vibrant Rorschach blots of pinks, blues, and oranges of no earthly connection, followed by tropical oils, amorphous glop, abalonian plankton, radioactive slime, hypnotic symbols, motion graphics, and nebulous paint strokes of emerald and tangerine, patched together with unmatched elegance.

Throughout this set, a journey if ever there was one, that ran the gamut of not only psychedelic experience but life in full, Somatoast undulated between uplifting psybient dream tracks and brain-melting bangers that induced a large part of the crowd to stand and dance for the first time all night. He played an unreleased VIP of “Creation is Creation,” and the second half was mainly composed of exciting new IDs that had fans wiggling and bouncing in the aisles until the end of the show.

With the final notes, a sea of applause enveloped the theater. Yellow roses rained down on the stage. Somatoast left, the lights turned on, and everyone took a collective breath. The show was complete.

The Future

In his statement in the playbill, Tenorless posed the question: “How do you think the culture of the present will be remembered in the future?” He then went on to say that he hopes that “this niche subculture, where electronic musicians and visual artists collaborate live, will still be talked about in the future. … I don’t want visuals to be recalled as an accessory to the music festival experience, for VJs to be side characters. I want them to be memorialized as another instrument in the band: just as a musician plays the guitar or the drums, the VJ plays the screen.”

It is my opinion that, in crafting this event and seeing it through to its eloquent completion, he has accomplished just that.

What’s Next

Speaking with all four producers, it is clear that each has been hard at work in the studio and are ready to share exciting projects and performances with the world in the near future.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Maxfield’s Kerfuffle EP, released March 15th. It is a thematic extension of December’s Boondoggle, described by the artist as “a sonic representation of dreams and the fickleness of our perceptions.”

Due near the end of April, Entangled Mind is thrilled to release their first full-length album since 2021, including a number of moving instrumental collaborations. You can also find tickets to their album release party on April 27th, in Providence, RI, with Living Light, She-Wolf, and The Paplin.


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Keep your ears peeled for a new album from Dillard as well, set for release at the end of April, with album artwork by Stephen Kruse. Many of the IDs in this performance will be found therein.

Somatoast, who will be opening for Tipper’s twilight set at Texas Eclipse Festival in April, will be releasing an uptempo album later this year, featuring several exciting IDs first heard at this event.

Overall, Hypnotic Theatre was a delectable ride. Unlike anything I’ve experienced. Every artist participating in the show, producer and VJ, had the energy and effect of a headliner. Let us hope this is just the beginning—a memetic impetus to new horizons of audiovisual collaboration. The future is in the hands of the creators.

Featured Photographs: Drew Stevens Photography

Follow Tenorless:

Facebook | Instagram | Website

Follow Somatoast:

Bandcamp | Instagram | SoundCloud

Follow Dillard:

Bandcamp | Instagram | SoundCloud

Follow Entangled Mind:

Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram | SoundCloud

Follow Maxfield:

Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram | SoundCloud

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