Despite Victoria Cecilia's illness, Gliss managed to put in a solid performance at Gathering of the Clouds last night at the Walnut Room. If she indeed needed the cough drop she had half-jokingly solicited from the audience, you couldn't tell from her singing, as she emoted gracefully with her hands and danced fluidly. Cecilia traded lead vocal duties with percussionist Martin Klingman now and then, and overall, the band created a dreamlike vibe that had threads of nostalgia woven in, as though the act is influenced by '60s girl groups as much as it is by the Cure.
David Reiss' guitar tone was sharp and gritty with a similar effected texture -- flanger, heavy reverb, chorus and probably delay -- that made Robert Smith's sound so iconic. For this show, it was the sound more like the Disintegration period of that band's music. But in the context of this music, it was also reminiscent of a more classic pop-oriented Medicine.
For its set, Gliss played select offerings from Langsom Dans, and that's when the outfit shined brightest. The newer material showed that the band had evolved past its obvious influences to deliver a pleasing brand of downtempo dream pop with a bit of a gritty edge to it, between Klingman's strong beats and Reiss seeming to draw electricity from the air to channel through his guitar.
When Stuart Confer of Hindershot told us a song he had just played was called "Good Shit," it was difficult to tell if he was being serious or not. Either way, it worked on both levels. Later he implored us to come closer, and then Ned Garthe, absolutely tongue-in-cheek, sang, "If you come closer I will cut you." Something along those lines. Hindershot has always been a very powerful, sonically compelling and inventive live band, and this was no exception.
On some songs, Lucas Johannes, Confer, Garthe and Spencer Alred all seem to be swept up in the moment and engage in on-stage quasi-acrobatics. And it's real. Johannes in particular doesn't look like he is even doing it as a goof. Some of the guitar interplay is so beautifully constructed, it was reminiscent of the Chameleons from Script of the Bridge. Other times, it was like Magazine -- or like the Rapture doing its best Devo impression. The set ended with the incendiary "Inside Out."
It's been a while since the Morning Clouds played, probably since last summer, but the band didn't come off rusty at all, even with some pretty major line-up changes. While Josh Wambeke was obviously still on vocals and guitar, the group now includes Brad Turner on bass and Spencer Alred on drums, in addition to Lanette Walker, who's still in the group. The gorgeously entrancing guitar melodies and synth work were the hallmarks of this performance.
Sonically, it was pretty diverse with one song reminiscent of Sonic Boom's Spectrum, with shades of Spacemen 3, but more grounded in pop. During a song that may have been called "Night Trees," there were some especially emotive rapid-strum shimmers from Alred, akin to some of the sort of free flowing energy you'd hear in Mogwai in the '90s but more harnessed and directed. The set ended on a more countrified note with a song that had a paradoxically downbeat tempo but summery tonalities.
Land Lines made simple elements, layering of sound and shifting dynamics seem so lush it took you a bit by surprise. This show also made it obvious that even though the listener is naturally drawn to Martina Grbac's plaintive, haunting vocals, all of the music works masterfully well together. It's like there is none of the competition for presence in the mix that happens with many, if not most, bands.
Ross Harada's percussion style was the opposite of what a rock drummer would normally do. He accented and provided mood and texture to create the percussion most of the time. When he did go for a more conventional drum part it was an element of the rhythm rather than the driving force.
When James Han came in with the keyboards, it perfectly complemented and enhanced the melodies provided by Grbac's plucking and bowing of cello. The whole thing was impressive from a musicianship and songwriting standpoint if you took the time to listen closely. Even if you didn't, the songs alone were beautiful and subtly powerful.
During "Arms," Harada played a rhythm part that was him creating a nice enough kick pattern that was echoed by strikes on the snare and then the same on the tom with kick spliced in to give a sense of a drum sound that you would swear was made with an effect. But it was just purely creative drum playing and at that something to enhance what Grbac and Han were both doing.
Han's parts also often sounded like string instruments when the song called for it and psychedelic and sharp when that heightened the mood of the music. At the end Harada played a drum part that was reminiscent of Joy Division's "Heart and Soul" -- which seemed fitting because that's the place from which this band seems to play.
Personal Bias: I saw Gliss nearly four years ago at the hi-dive and have been a bit of a fan since.
Random Detail: Ran into Jordan Huebner of Prism Waves and Hearts in Space, Scott Blair of Hearts in Space, Suzi Bromfield of Fingers of the Sun, Amy Shipley-Moore of Radio 1190's Local Shakedown program and music critic Mike Long at the show.
By the Way: Stuart Confer has some of the best and most amusing stage banter in Denver. Also, Brian Castillo spun "Fluorescent Grey" from a great Jay Reatard and Deerhunter split 7" during one of the breaks.
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