Wednesday, October 14, 2009

show review: nadja @ vacation vinyl/ nadja @ synchronicity space

nadja @ vacation vinyl
Monday's in-store appearance from Nadja took place at Vacation Vinyl, which is only a half-hour's walk from where I live. The weather recently had taken a turn for the gray, so I grabbed an umbrella, stopped for some coffee, and trekked to Hollywood and Vermont. Upon arriving, I was immediately greeted with bad news- Skeletonwitch had played an in-store the day prior! FUCK!! I have the worst luck with that band. They played a "secret show" in the bar I worked in, and NO ONE TOLD ME, and I missed it!! I didn't have time to dwell on my misfortune, though, because Nadja started their set just as I arrived. The store seemed pretty cool, although small - about the same size as Aquarius Records. I took a spot right up front, next to one of the speakers, and although Aidan Baker was given permission to turn the volume up from the store clerk (owner?), it still wasn't loud enough to necessitate ear plugs. Over the course of half an hour, Nadja played three songs (I think), without breaking for applause. I recognized only one, though I'm not sure which release it was from. While it wasn't as loud as I would have liked, and although Nadja is not a particularly "theatrical" band, it was still a great performance, and perfectly suited for the overcast twilight outside the store.

synchronicity space
The following night, Tuesday, was the official show. It turned out that my friends who were planning on coming were otherwise occupied, so I ended up going to the show by myself. I didn't mind though- I think that small avant-garde art gallery shows are pretty ideal for solo attendance. I showed up at the official start time, but the show was a little late in starting. The gallery owner/curator was playing Oval side-project So over the speakers, which is a great album. I was glad for that. Outside, rain came and went intermittently.

aiden baker

Aiden Baker did his solo ambient set first, and everyone took seats cross-legged in front of the stage. Much like the show at Vacation Vinyl, the volume was just loud enough for me to try putting in my ear plugs, but not so loud that I felt I needed them. The music was beautiful, melodically droney, and reminded me of Cliff Martinez's score for Solaris.

pedestrian deposit

The next band was Pedestrian Deposit, who set up their equipment on the ground in front of the stage. I hadn't heard of them before the show, but ended up enjoying their set. The object you can see placed on the white stool was pretty interesting- it was something like the head of a broom made out of iron, or a miniaturized Stonehenge set in tall metal reeds. There was some sort of receiver placed on the underside, and the girl playing it plucked the rods, tapped the mini-obelisks and even used a bow to play it. The sounds it made were interesting, and created a feeling of cavernous disquiet over the thick background ambience. Equally compelling as the music were the extremely loaded glances that the members of Pedestrian Deposit exchanged throughout the duration of their set. The non-verbal interplay between the two seemed important, although I couldn't guess what it was they were communicating to each other.

infinite body
I had run out to my car to check on something, and missed the beginning of Infinite Body's set (although I think not by much). His set-up was as unique and interesting as Pedestrian Deposit's had been- it seemed that most or all of the sounds he was generating were through a microphone, and heavily tweaked and modified. He would forcefully exhale or sing into the mic, and the results sounded almost like a bizarre melodica. His table was surrounded by colored lights that were set up to pulse and fade with the music, leaving the stage in darkness before exploding into illumination with the swelling drones. Infinite Body played two long songs, but declined to play a third- I was grateful, since my feet were asleep and I needed to go to the bathroom.


Finally, Nadja took the stage, set against a visual backdrop that showed Aurora Borealis-esque lights, vibrantly colored stalactites, psychedelic rapid-fire Rorschach tests, and cryptic runes. The result was mesmerizing, and I found myself spacing out for long, long stretches of song. Unlike the Vacation Vinyl store, there was no mic for vocals, and the volume was much louder. One again there were no breaks in between songs, and the heavy, body-vibrating drones seem to exist timelessly. By the time the show ended and the lights came on, I felt dazed, and staggered back out into the rain.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

tim hecker - an imaginary country (2009)

I love Tim Hecker. I love that, throughout the course of his career, he's taken "ambient" as a starting point, and used it to craft very enthralling and emotional musical pieces. In some way, past Hecker releases were not ambient in the most absolute sense, because they were far too engrossing and demanded too much of your attention to be truly "ambient". That's not to say that they were loud or bombastic in any way; they were as quiet, fuzzy and delicate as any other ambient music. But they were engaging, musically and emotionally, and rewarded attentive listening. Over the course of a single song, you might have found yourself at first lulled into a sense of quiet peacefulness, then taken by driving, swelling chords to dramatic heights, before again returning to pacific tranquility. Yet on An Imaginary Country, Tim Hecker has smoothed out some of the emotional peaks he would have previously reached for, or perhaps merely hidden them better, presenting them in a more patient and subtle guise. None of the tracks here are as engaging as "I'm Transmitting Tonight" or "Song of the Highwire Shrimper" from Radio Amor, or "Dungeoneering" from Harmony in Ultraviolet. The album is still very moving, especially when compared to other ambient artists, but when viewed against Hecker's back catalogue, the highs are not quite as high, the lows not so low, and certainly never occurring within the same song. What does this mean? Is this meant to represent Tim Hecker refining his craft, trying to add subtlety and nuance over immediacy and intensity? Or has he settled into a comfortable sound, and ceased to push himself in new directions? The result, either way, is a less gripping, though not necessarily less satisfying experience. Taken as a whole, An Imaginary Country is indeed a very moving and emotive work. It seems, though, more content to adhere to a more traditional concept of ambient, rarely calling for too much attention, and more content to reveal itself patiently throughout the course of the album.

Tim Hecker - Sea of Pulses
Tim Hecker - Borderlands

show review: eagle rock music festival, 10/03/09

pocahaunted @ the american legion hall

Saturday was the Eagle Rock Music Festival, a free event that I only learned about last night. Knowing how these free festivals tend to be, I was expecting a lot of shitty lowest-common-denominator local acts to be playing. Surprisingly, there were a few bands I actually wanted to see, so Rob and I decided to check it out. We got there a couple hours after the festival began (it was scheduled to run from 4-11PM).
The first acts we wanted to see were a couple of local dubstep DJs we had seen a few weeks back, opening for Mary Anne Hobbs and Flying Lotus. Gaslamp Killer was first, and I'm kind of bummed I didn't get any pics or video of him, because he's visually one of the most entertaining DJs to watch. Imagine Animal from the Muppets playing air trumpet and doing energetic dance moves, and you'll have the general idea. His set was mostly Eastern European and Middle Eastern music, which wasn't what I had expected. I assume he was tailoring his set to the all ages crowd, and perhaps taking the opportunity to take a break from dubstep.

DJ nobody

Next up was DJ Nobody, who weirdly was playing several blocks away at the other end of the festival. I'm not sure why he and Gaslamp Killer weren't on the same stage. At any rate, he played some pretty cool songs, including one ridiculous Mars Volta remix, but he definitely seemed to be half-assing it when it came to blending songs and, you know, actually DJing. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as the last time I saw him, either.


Robedoor were another band that I had seen in the last month, opening for Ducktails at the L'Keg Gallery. I was pretty impressed the first time I saw them, and was looking forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately it took a little while to find the American Legion Hall in which they were playing- it was the only indoor venue at the festival, and tucked away on a side street past a bunch of food vendors. We got there in time for their two last songs, both noisy, heavy jams. They were pretty great.


We journeyed to the nearest gas station so I could grab an energy drink, and returned to the American Legion Hall to catch Pocahaunted. They shared members with Robedoor, which I think I had heard about but then subsequently forgotten. They played a mixture of dub, funk, noise and rock. It was pretty killer.
"Wow," I thought as the energy drink started to kick in, "this band is really good!"
"Those two singers are really cute!"
"I feel great!"
"...I should drink more of this energy drink!"

no age

Although Pocahaunted ended their set quite a bit later than the schedule had predicted, it was still well before No Age were supposed to go on. We trekked back to the stage DJ Nobody had been on in order to catch Peanut Butter Wolf, but it turned out that stage was even further behind schedule than the Amercan Legion had been. So we returned to the stage No Age were playing on, and waited for the show to start. No Age are yet another band I've seen recently (come to think of it all of these acts play pretty frequently), and I'm not super into them, so I wasn't really dying to see them again or anything. Their set started out terribly- the sound from the speakers was so muddy and indistinguishable that all you could hear was a wash of guitar. But soon enough they added another amp to the stage, and things improved. It didn't really compare to their set at FYF Fest, but it was still good to see all the local kids getting super psyched for it. We left to go check out Peanut Butter Wolf, but the sound on his stage was so quiet that it was actually kind of infuriating to try and watch. So we bounced. All in all, pretty great for a free festival.

Friday, October 2, 2009

haust - ride the relapse (2008)

This band calls to my mind a specific emotion, or perhaps a state of mind, that I'm not sure there is a word for. The closest match might be "frenzy"- a sort of unhinged, panicked rage. On Ride the Relapse, the debut album from this Norwegian band, this frenzy is expressed as crunchy, nihilistic hardcore punk. It's a particularly heavy and metallic take on hardcore, sounding somewhat like a stripped-down version of Converge. It also straddles the line between punk and black metal- the riffs wouldn't sound out of place on one of the new Darkthrone albums, and it's really only the restrained drumming that prevents this from crossing over into actual black metal. Matching the aggressive mania of the music, singer Vebjørn Guttormsgaard Mølleberg shrieks and raves about white trash, drugs, Oslo and whatever else manages to catch his hate. It's an excellent debut and perfect listening for when you put on headphones to drown out all the human waste in the world.

Haust - White Trash Extravaganza
Haust - Ugly Fucking Oslo