Expo 70, Temples, Three Tall Dudes with Small Trucks Friday, August 15, 2008 Glob Glob Glob Better Than: Noise shows where it’s all bent circuit manipulation and feedback.
When I walked into the performance space at Glob, Temples had already been playing for a couple of minutes. A one-man act comprised of guitarist Kevin Richards, whom I’ve long been a fan of, Temples music is far from conventional, thanks to the impressive fretwork of Richards – who’s also played with Motheater, Jandek and the avant garde, ambient guitar band, Epileptinomicon.
Richards’s set-up for this performance included a stereo delay arrangement with a third amp providing sound manipulation without casting forth sound itself; the treated guitar was played in a way that sounded like parts were looped and then reflected off one another, which had a touch of ethereal grittiness like the forces of erosion sped up and given voice. Richards spun back and forth at the waist as though keeping time with some cosmic clock that regulated the rate and change of the encircling guitar flow. At various points in the set, he mixed in expertly generated feedback into the continuous river of sound and invoked the outpourings of the far side of a black hole – unearthly, searing and powerful.
Apparently there's a thriving, though nascent, underground scene in Kansas City, and Expo 70, who was up next, has been a big part of what’s going on there with at least nine releases (I bought all of them) under its belt. Elements of the act’s latest album, Black Ohms, made it into a set that otherwise seemed like inspired improv. Low, droning tones introduced what was to come: The band had set up a tricolor filter, rotating light that gave the feeling of being at a campfire in William Hope Hodgeson’s The Nightland. The flow of drone quickly became infested with the sonic equivalent of bioluminescent creatures too far below the surface to be distinct. The bass drone drew out to infinity frequencies from the upper stratosphere and channeled through middle-range delays. During the first third of the composition or so, the music sounded like the tapping into the communication channels of crystalline life forms translated for human ears. Fog jettisoned from between the amps and drifted off to mark a shift in tone, as the song evolved into a driving pace with fluid bass lines lurking beneath the cycling resonance of echoing guitar loops and heady, sustained leads swimming through the electronic fog that served as a cognate of the actual mists still lingering.
The sounds then rapidly transformed and a rough-textured low end streaming nearly made the band sound like a classic rock unit, only it was so drawn out and stretched beyond normal rock boundaries it took a little imagination to figure out what the members had done. It’s not often a band, without trying, forces you to use your imagination. The final movement had a stoner-rock-esque bass riff surrounded by delayed, encircling guitar drift that recalled Sleep with lessened sense of impending doom.
The next group of the evening featured Matt and Karl from Boy Howdy, who had joined up with a guy named Keith to form an impromptu outfit called Three Dudes With Small Trucks. Karl is moving to Portland at the beginning of September, so this would be his last show in Denver for a while. Some of us got to see him in Boy Howdy, Jandek and Outer Neon. If Expo 70 drifted through the various regions of the psyche in its soundscaping, this group definitely dipped into the dark side. Industrial sounds dominated the beginning of the group’s set and sounded a bit like the a singing radio making love with a set of oscillators.
Low end conjured visions of electric, alligator-hippopotamus hybrids menacing sewer workers. The percussion was like marching music for tribes going to war in a cybernetic, psychedelic jungle, with bass notes slashing through the air in graceful arcs like a sword dullened not to cut but to break bone. The second half of the set brough forth a sound that evoked a baby alien crying while being stretched into unnatural shapes. Later Matt and Keith switched up instruments, and at one point, they were both on drums. As the set drew to a close, seismic rumblings shook the air and the sounds of intelligent machines closing in on us from the ground and the moonlit clouds coming to round up the humans for termination. Somehow the act tagged on a musical epilogue that imagined life inside the bowels of an oppressive robotic empire.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: Kevin Richards is one of my favorite guitar players. Random Detail: Expo 70 has really cool T-shirts with twin cobras beneath an SG inside a triangle. By the Way: Glob’s John Golter is doing recordings of Expo 70 collaborating with Kevin Richards.