Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Features :: Pitifully Short-range Teleportation :: SVIIB

Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St NW, Washington, DC
Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's been a year and a half since I first caught School of Seven Bells at 9:30 Club, opening for Fujiya/Miyagi. This night they were headlining and Active Child opened.

In concert, Active Child is really two children playing parallel in a sandbox. There's a harp (fuck me, right?) and a couple of Macbook Pros. So that's what it takes these days. It's hard to imagine what a band rehearsal must look/sound like, two twenty-somethings heatedly bouncing in front of their laptop screens, feeling rad and beautiful at the same time. I got more Top Gun-theme off of them than I'd expected, and since I was already wearing my flight suit, I figured fuckin-A, right? My main problem was with the drum and bass side of the equation. There didn't seem to be enough of either. To quote my friend Dave, and I'm not sure he expected to see his name here, " we're watching the definition of a talent differential," referring to the harpist, Pat Grossi, and his mate. But for my dollar, dance music has to be more sympathetically sexualized and less androgynous. Put another way: bump and grind, not bob and mope.

I like Active Child's recorded work, but live on stage at the Rock and Roll Hotel, the act felt a bit thin. Pat Grossi can sure as hell carry a note in both his native baritone and his falsetto, but I never found a sense of the emotional reverberations of similar bedroom-laptop artists making their way around the interweb this year, melancholy or otherwise. Where Washed Out infuses his work with a perfect sense of post-college dread--future, what future?--left behind by friends and peers, working out the meaning of things back in his childhood bedroom; Active Child sounds like he's pleading with his step-father to buy him another new Range Rover after he wrecked the first one. It's probably that Active Child just isn't what I'm looking for in my eighties throw-back bands. I need my pretty music to have a rusty edge to it. I need to know that Phil Spector's got one round in the chamber, and he's willing to wait all night.

School of Seven Bells, on the other hand, is reminding me a whole lot more of Ride from the Today Forever EP, a personal favorite. It seems like with the absence of the twin (Claudia Deheza), Ben Curtis is driving harder on the guitar, straining the already spindly notes further; and although I wouldn't brand SVIIB's new sound as shoegaze, it does send my thoughts across the pond. Ben's more confident, out front, moving around the stage, and not hiding behind attractive twin sisters and lighting effects. And I like it.

"Windstorm" has more in common with any of the tracks from Alpinisms, relying on samples, loops, and the sisters' vocals as much as any from their first album.  It's also more stripped down. On stage and on record, the band doesn't seem to be  dealing with the same vocal harmonics that were the trademark of tracks like "Wired for Light" and "My Cabal." Alpinisms feels at times like an experiment in resonance manipulation, while Disconnect from Desire seems to be veering generic for a larger audience (and not in that bad way I might usually mean).

Alejandra kept dropping her guitar (was she done with it, or was she just not playing it to begin with?) in favor of strange hand gestures that seemed to be trying to draw attention away from the music and towards her face, which I suppose is not a bad move to pull.  She doesn't quite have the range that her sister provided in the past, and somehow she seemed less compelling on this go around than the last. I already know I'm a freak for conjoined babies in a jar, so maybe this is that thing. Also, there was a drummer this time. And, god, did he sound like Phil Collins (the other Phil) hitting play on a drum machine, completely spot-on with the rhythm and totally ready to win your heart.

I can feel it coming in the air tonight
Oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life
Oh Lord

Active Child :: Wilderness
SVIIB :: Windstorm

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Features :: Weaponize Your Stereo Today :: Fan Death Records

Catch the fall mixtape streaming  from FDR's website while it lasts. The songs range from pop-drones to chainsaw revving on the listenability scale. Highlights include a new song from Broken Water (Olympia, WA), which picks up with a Ron Asheton-style grumbling Detroit lead-in and settles neatly into a downward-gazing female grunge chorus.

My personal favorite has to be the new Puerto Rico Flowers song. For those who don't already know, this is the new band fronted by John Sharkey of Clockcleaner (Philadelphia). It rides the line of being too derivative of Joy Division to deal with, but if you imagine Sharkey's sadistic thrill hunt set in a melancholy British fog, the reverie becomes too thick to dismiss. He's abandoned his deranged (think: neighbor masturbating out the bay window of his model home) guitar in favor of synths, a move I'm more hip to thanks to B'more  growlers, Future Islands. Clockcleaner also has a  track included in this mix, which will be riding on their new FDR release. Can't wait to pick that one up (catch Auf Wiedersehen out on Load Records now). Those guys made me fear for the safety of my neighbor's daughter, for what I might do to her. How could I be so sick without knowing it?

Listen to it. Love it. Cry yourself to sleep. Wake up. Eat shit at your job. Drive home too fast. Expose yourself to your neighbors.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News :: Upcoming Shows :: October

10/21: School of Seven Bells @ RnR Hotel

10/22: Ty Segall @ Comet

10/23: Great Lakes (ex-Of Montreal) @ Velvet Lounge

10/24: Fluorescent Scents @ Velvet Lounge

10/25: Sunny Day in Glasgow @ RnR Hotel

10/26: Marnie Stern @ RnR Hotel

Ty Segall :: Girlfriend