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Archive for April, 2005

I went to see Mono, I didn’t see Mono

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

I’ve struck a new low in concertgoing: I allowed myself to be chased off by opening acts. Tonight I went to see Mono, a Japanese post-rock band who has released one album on Tzadik and two on Temporary Residence. Opening for them were two bands; one I’d never heard of, and the other was Eluvium, label-mates with Mono on Temporary Residence. The first band (the one I didn’t know) was quite bad. I feel like post-rock is a genre with little margin for error: bad post-rock tends to be pretty atrociously dull. This band featured an incredibly boring drummer, a serious problem in this particular kind of music, and just seemed gratuitously and painfully loud. Granted, my impressions should be taken with a grain of salt because I could only make myself stay through two songs before I left the club to make a phone call and wait for Mono.

Well, that was my intent, anyway… when I went back in over an hour later, Eluvium had yet to start. I wasn’t too keen on hearing them (er, him — turns out this is a one-man band), but I figured I’d give it a shot. Well, I did, and I hated it. I’m not sure why. This guy plays a kind of drone music, using lots of delayed guitar loops and the occasional piano interlude, that I found alternately boring and grating, like Fripp’s Soundscapes gone horribly wrong (I couldn’t get Fripp’s phrase “a lot of noise from one guitar” out of my head). I suspect I would like his material much better on record than I did live, oddly enough — I just didn’t have the patience for it in a live setting, particularly since all the speakers in the club were overdriven, resulting not only in painfully high volume levels but also in fairly ridiculously obvious distortion. I kept looking back at the soundman and I swear the guy must have fallen asleep standing up. What the hell was he doing?

Anyways, by the time Eluvium had gotten through four ear-splitting pieces, none of which I could tell apart from one another (except for the fact that two were played on piano and two on guitar), I was in a bad enough mood that I stepped out of the club again just to save my ears and nurse a budding headache. At that point I contemplated my options; it’s a weeknight and the show had been delayed an hour and so Mono wouldn’t start until midnight or later, it seemed. At that point I decided to cut my losses and get the fuck out of there.

It’s too bad, really; under different circumstances I might like Eluvium, and I’m sure I would have really enjoyed Mono. I have their second album and there are some absolutely stunning moments on it. But after those two opening acts I just wasn’t in any kind of mood to enjoy music at all. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back into the club and getting pummeled by another noisy band (even one that I liked). I didn’t put my headphones on on the way back home, and I haven’t even put a CD into the player since getting back (which never happens). I’m sure it has more to do with my mental state than their music, but those two bands can be proud to have turned me completely off from music for the rest of the night. Not to mention make me spend eight bucks and then leave before seeing the band I’d come to see. Ha.

You win some, you lose some. Actually, I’ve had very few bad concert experiences up until now, so I can’t really complain.

Check out Mike Borella’s Avant Music News

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

I recently found out that Mike Borella is running a news blog by the name of Avant Music News. The name pretty much speaks for itself. He tracks all kinds of avant-prog, rock, and jazz there, and it’s good reading. He’s been doing it for a while now (over a year, almost two in some form or another), not sure why I hadn’t known about it before. In any case, I’ve got it bookmarked, and if you like this kind of stuff you should too.

Ahleuchatistas @ Warehouse Next Door

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

This past weekend, Steve at Cuneiform gave me the heads-up regarding a show in downtown DC: the Aleuchatistas, a kind of heavy math-rock/prog band who are compared to the Ruins, King Crimson, John Zorn, et al. It sounded like something right up my alley. Sure enough, the show was pretty jaw-dropping. These guys are phenomenally tight, playing a noisy, chaotic, lightning-fast, rhythmically incomprehensible (my girlfriend is an accomplished musician and was at times trying to figure out what they were counting, but apparently she just got herself all confused) kind of avant-rock. The guitarist and bassist seemed telepathically linked, and they were anchored by a drummer who seemed to have about three extra limbs, not to mention extra brains to control each one independently. Yeah, they were pretty cool.

Talent aside, it was almost too much for me. I have trouble listening to stuff like the Ruins or Koenjihyakkei or similarly nonstop, über-intense bands. Ahleuchatistas, as it happened, were pretty amazing live because of their refusal to let up on the gas pedal, but I’m not sure how well I would stomach their studio albums. I didn’t have the cash on me to buy them at the show, but I’m sure I’ll pick them up sooner or later (Wayside has them, not surprisingly as Steve is a big fan of these guys). The fact that their second, perhaps more highly-acclaimed, album, is a concise 28 minutes long, will certainly help me digest it.

Oh, and the venue? A neat little hole in the wall (though a nicely renovated one) near the convention center — the Warehouse Nextdoor. All ages, with a tiny bar, nonsmoking. A pretty intimate setting and perfect for a band like Ahleuchatistas, who managed to clear out about 75% of the crowd (who were probably there mostly for the two, much younger, probably local, opening bands) after about two frighteningly complex and comparatively inaccessible songs. The tiny venue helped the atmosphere stay exciting even though the crowd got really small.

The band have some MP3s on their website. If you like the Ruins but wish they were instrumental and added a guitar to their basic bass-drums duo lineup, check these guys out. Their website indicates that they’re playing a bunch of live gigs this spring (and they’ll be back in DC on June 13).