Gem Trails is the solo side project of Trevor Peterson from Woodsman. From this performance, the name is appropriate for the spectral, glistening streaming of guitar that Peterson often does in his more well-known band, but the ambient side of his sensibilities was more prominently on display for this group of compositions.
The gossamer melodies over a shifting soundscape was reminiscent of Popol Vuh -- if that band worked with Daniel Lanois and Michael Brook on a lost Werner Herzog science fiction epic of the 1970s. Toward the end of the set, Peterson interrupted the flow of entrancing sound ever so slightly with carefully crafted and executed use of controlled feedback in layers and modulated so well it blended in with everything else perfectly.
Ryan Mcryhew of Hideous Men doesn't play solo often these days as Thundercade, so it was a real treat to get to see him do a set using analog synth. Hashing together layers of intermittent electronic sounds of various textures and tones, Mcryhew conjured images of a gigantic, laser printing press accidentally developing consciousness and using its various components to communicate and then to make its own music: blips, resonating coils of sound like a single spring sampled and streamed together into a loop, sundry industrial noises.
The effect was not unlike a slightly less upbeat cousin to Art of Noise's "Close (To the Edit)," except that the voice sampled here was pitched down and slowed to a cybernetic slur. Later on in the performance there was a section of music that sounded a lot like the opening to "Synchronicity II" by The Police, but taken way off track, disembodied and made to conform to a completely different rhythm.
Apparently this was to ultimately be the night of side projects as the show unexpectedly ended after Kevin Costner Suicide Pact played its songs. Peter Goodwin and Tyler Pelo (along with a third collaborator on samples and percussion) are often seen in their band Fellow Citizens, creating a kind of lush mixture of space rock and western-esque pop. On this night, it was shimmery, expansive droning where the line between bass, guitar and programmed beats were blended together so well it almost sounded like a single instrument.
It was like seeing a live performance of Flying Saucer Attack's album Further, or Windy & Carlos, or even Jessamine. The evolving tapestry of sound was rich, and at one point, the sheer physicality of sound was reminiscent of songs from that second Sigur Ros album -- a dense yet effervescent wall of noise that enters your brain and cleanses the synapses of mundane inclinations.
After Kevin Costner Suicide Pact finished, and Night of Joy was about to set up, we were all informed that the bar was having some plumbing problems. Maybe a pipe burst or whatnot but one or more of the bathrooms was flooding and the bar manager said we could all go down to the Larimer and get in for free. Night of Joy was told they could play there after the show proper ended. Some of us went, many of us didn't, but by all accounts the Night of Joy set went well but the hand of fate.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: A fan of the "main" bands of everyone who played. Also, Westword scribe Bree Davies is in Night of Joy. Not that she'll get any special consideration in a review just because of that. That band stands well on its own six feet. Random Detail: Ran into Sara Century and Enrique Jimenez at the show. By the Way: Kevin Costner Suicide Pact has an excellent tape coming out on Tuesday.