For his set, Peter Black used an iPad to control and trigger some of the sounds he was weaving into his live remixes. This set of songs had kind of a raw, percussion heavy sound and seemed to feature more hip-hop than chill out music. Unlike some of his peers, Black dances along and moves with the music rather than merely nodding his head with the beat and staring at the computer screen.
Brittany Gould took the stage next with her customary lack of fanfare. Her set began with islands of echoing vocals drifting in among high pitched streams of white noise. Something about her music always suggests travel on water or over it, with how the weather and the waves can be unpredictable to anyone inside it and unaware of the bigger picture.
Gould's compositions seem to be guided somewhat by the Heisenberg Principle in that seemingly random noises with absolutely non-random noises, such as her vocals, are set to wander about or serve as extended heady moments, but when heard as a whole, it captures the emotional tenor of the song and the imagery it conveys perfectly.
Here, Gould's vocals were infused with a delicate yet intense emotionalism. Her technique of using repetition in spirals brought to mind Stan Brakhage talking about how the poetry of Ezra Pound could suggest roundness, saying that the technique suggested characteristics beyond those immediately before you. The effect was hypnotic and arresting.
Something happened to Woodsman in the last few months because for this performance, the band eschewed its longer-arc songs in favor of more concise pieces. But this just made the group seem even more focused and powerful.
Some people who see this band, probably assume it's drawing directly from post-rock. But really, the group's sound is more akin to German experimental prog rockers of the '70s like Neu! and Popol Vuh, with an emphasis on swirling atmospheres and interweaving chord progressions. It's clearly not the first time, but Mark Demolar sang lead vocals on a few numbers including the stirring "Insect," which is one of the outfit's best songs to date.
Most recently, Woodsman has been exploring what its music was about in consistently interesting ways. This performance revealed a band that has emerged from its early stages of sonic self-discovery with an ability to write songs with a definite structure, as well as utilizing improvisation in a way that enhances the moods the band creates in a more accessible manner, rather than appealing largely to other musicians in the audience.
Toward the end of the set, Woodsman drummer Eston Lathrop took up the bass for a song or two with truly thick low end over which Demolar and Trevor Peterson could weave guitar pyrotechnics and processed sounds and under which Dylan Shumaker drove a direction for the music with the drums.
The opening of Tjutjuna's set felt like the guys were creating the kinds of sounds that cleanse the ears and the mind of everything in them before you came to the show. The end of the song emphasized this impression with a deep, rumbling, disorienting flood of sound. The mixture of insistent but dynamic and hypnotic rhythms with the sometimes dreamy, sometimes roaringly fierce guitar work and Adam Shaffner's electronic gymnastics between the sampler, his custom noise box and the Theremin made for an experience in which the very air churned and sounds seemed to whorl in a rush off the stage like a brilliantly incandescent vortex. In fact, with the Theremin, Shaffner used some kind of shard of crystal to trip the device's field with an at first amusing but ultimately shamanic intensity.
One song struck such an epic tone using interlocking drones that it was reminiscent of "Jenny Ondioline" by Stereolab. The breathtaking "Tobermorey" sounded for all the world like an unlikely collaboration between Silver Apples and Acid Mothers Temple -- an apex of this band's songwriting to date.
Late in the set, some drunken fools thought it would be cool to be part of the show by "dancing" on the ledge at the front of the stage. At least they didn't fall into the equipment. After about an hour of radiating the room with some of the most inspired instrumental music going today, Tjutjuna finally released us from their spell.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I've enjoyed seeing the three bands develop for the last three years into better and better musical projects. Random Detail: Adam Shaffner had a can holder on his Theremin stand. By the Way: All three bands had excellent releases this year that you should check out.