Trans-Sonic Memories

I’ve got about six large boxes full of cassettes, which of course, I never go near anymore. But a few requests prompted me to go through them this weekend. Chuck Van Zyl, the host of Star’s End in Philadelphia on WXPN wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trans-Sonic Music Festival. This was a concert that Kimberly Haas & I produced in 1986, a two-day festival in Philadelphia with Steve Roach, The Nightcrawlers, Darren Kearns & Dave Lunt, and Mikel Rouse’s Broken Consort. My recollections were that it was a great musical success, a modest financial and popular success and a nerve-wracking event to produce. In fact, we haven’t produced a concert since on our own. I managed to dig up Steve Roach’s set and most of Kearns’. I’m sure the others are around somewhere, but aren’t making themselves known.
Dubbing off the cassettes to digital media was an interesting process. I did the Kearns & Lunt set first and was surprised at how well it held up. Nothing innovative mind you, but Darren was a very gifted guitarist and had the glissando thing down cold and Dave Lunt, who also played in the Nightcrawlers, created some wonderful textures and grooves around him. What happened to Darren? His album, Optimal Beings still sounds good 20 years later.
But Steve Roach’s set was the most shocking. I’ve always said that Steve’s prolific output made it difficult to see the big strides his music was taking because we saw every micro-step along the way.
Well, this session, recorded the same year as he released Empetus, would be unrecognizable to most people who heard Steve in the post Dreamtime Return era which came only two years later.
Dreamtime Return
This was a Roach of melody, bombast, and drama that hasn’t been heard since, and it sounds surprisingly dated. Still good music, and I remember the exhilaration of hearing this set live in 1986. Tracks like “Merge,” with its interlocking sequencer patterns spinning in contrapuntal cycles and the sequencer opus, “Levels,” still hold up, but “Towards the West” and “TBC” are clearly of a time. It only illuminates the wisdom of the less-obvious artistic directions Roach has taken in the ensuing years, leaving his influences behind.
Sadly, my other recollection of this concert is standing at the side of the stage, trying to get an enraptured Roach’s attention to wind it down because we’d already run way over time.
You can hear some of these performances this Saturday night/Sunday morning, June 3/4, on Stars End on 88.5, WXPN FM. They stream their signal so if you’re up between 1-6AM eastern time, tune in.
I Found an interesting ancient links in researching some of this:
Article on Philalectric Sound, a live series Kim & I produced in the early 1980s with Kearns, the Nightcrawlers and The Ghostwriters. (Warning-Some very annoying and persistent pop-ups here).
An article on the Nightcrawlers

  3 comments for “Trans-Sonic Memories

  1. Hello, I was also at that particular Darren Kearns/Nightcrawlers show. I have been searching for Darren Kearns for years but could not find any contact info for him. Incidentally, what DID happen to Darren Kearns???

    I have Optimal Being and recently transferred it to disc.

    However, my main reason for wanting to contact Darren is to procure another copy of his Crystallization tape.

    My favorite piece of music from Darren is the first track off of that tape – he played it live at the show.

    It really highlights his playing.

    I played my copy so much that I killed it.

    I desperately want another copy of that tape or a transfer of it if anyone has already performed a transfer.

    Can you help me with this or can you point me in a direction where I might have success in finding another source of that great music?

    Thank you.


    • Join the club Lou. I know a lot of people who knew Darren and he has gone completely off the grid. We have no idea where he is or what he is doing. He did make some great music back then, maybe even a little ahead of the curve. If you find him, let us know. If we find him, you’ll hear about it.

  2. Darren,
    There are some of us out there(maybe many)who have had a transformative experience through your music.However you composed it may be irrelevant ,the outcome is incontrovertible,transcendent and important.I hope you are well brother,I shall always honor you for your contribution.

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