[20 March 2009]
Enough so so music; life is short. I head to Beerland again. The chalkboard outside is heavy on Siltbreeze bands, the noise-monster label from Philadelphia and the driving force behind shit-gaze. There’s Pink Reason near the dinner hour, and Naked on the Vague in the afternoon, and that’s good, because I’ve been kicking myself about choosing a big label showcase (Secretly Canadian et al) over Siltbreeze and Post-Present Medium (Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko) for tonight’s evening entertainment. Plus, I’m starting to feel like a regular. The guy at the door doesn’t want to see my ID anymore, just waves me in.
My eyes adjust to the dark, and there’s Zola Jesus on stage, wailing like a banshee. (The tagline on her MySpace, coincidentally, is “fear the banshee”.) Zola Jesus is a striking presence in every way, from her long Morticia Adams black hair, to her spectral keen, a little of priestess-style Jarboe, a little skewed blues Carla Bozulich, and a bit of the extended sound palette of Yma Sumac. Zola Jesus is primarily one woman, Nika Roza Danilova, but for this performance she’s backed by fellow Wisconsin native Dead Luke, who elicits spooky, static, netherworld atmospheres from Korg, Casio, and other keyboards.
Crossing Fruit Bats with Intelligence sounds like some sort of weird Mendelian experiment, but it’s actually how Factums, from Seattle, were formed. That folky gene from Fruit Bats is apparently a recessive one, because this band’s post-Ubu, Chrome-plated clank and drone resembles the Intelligence and A-Frames more than any laid-back Americana trip. Drummer Matthew Ford drives clattering, lurching, robot-gone-feral grooves. He sings from the back, in hollowed-out, alienated tones while a storm of keyboard infected feedback, viscous bass slides, all out effects-pedaled frenzies litters the foreground. Bleak, stunning, and powerful.
Naked on the Vague
Naked on the Vague, from Australia, is next, a dissonance churning, industrially distorted duo of keyboard mayhemist Lucy Phelan and bassist/guitarist Matthew Hopkins. Their aptly named Blood Pressure Sessions, out last year on Siltbreeze, pitted the cold mechanisms of drum machine beats against undulating waves of Dead C-ish noise. Here, Phelan howls and wails and intones “try, try, try” as she full-body-bobs over the keyboard, Hopkins all bent intensity beside her. Think of the shape-shifting, dream vocals of, say, Bardo Pond, bludgeoned by noise, pulsed through with techno drums, chaotic, unfathomable, overwhelming, a fabulous trainwreck in progress, and you can’t look away for a second.