Jason Isaacs is probably better known for his stints in Bio Bitch and Friends Forever, but for this show, he performed as Night of Ultraviolence, a project that's been going on for at least a couple of years. With three banks of keyboards, Isaacs created a swarm of noise through which he executed warped yet driving melodies reminiscent of 8-bit video games. At the end, the crowd demanded one more song, so he treated us to a cover of "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin played entirely with synths and keyboards -- surprisingly faithful but not reverent.
Even though it was back to its three-piece configuration, Aenka (featuring our own Jon Solomon) was up to its usual sax and violence -- the sort of music you hear, or would like to hear, in the background of a John Cassavettes film. This is one group that has mastered the art of improvisation and its use of claustrophobic moments with notes, rhythms and moods crowded together, flowing over each other was well balanced with impressionistic passages suggestive of space and cosmic wonder. With the occasional use of heavy guitar, you might call this set post-Zorn free jazz.
Very few bands performing in DIY spaces could be said to be genuinely and deeply influenced by the music of the Middle East and north India, but that music is precisely the foundation from which Bongo Fury's songwriting is built upon. Creating a hypnotic clatter with percussive devices and actual drums, bongos and otherwise, Tripp Wallin, Zach Spencer, John Golter and Marcy Saude took us into a world of sounds and song that you usually have to leave the country to hear.
The closest Fury came to a pop song was "The Journey of Long Hill," but even that had a tasty harmonium drone and vocal cadences rooted in the aesthetics of the Near East. With expertly played saw providing haunting overtones, perfectly harmonized wails, powerful yet subtle percussion and the ever present harmonium flowing through each song, Bongo Fury made it seem as though we had stepped out our usual cultural context for the entirety of its short set.
When he sang, "I will compensate with a year of sleep," Hunter Dragon set the mood for what turned out to be a set that was intentionally rough around the edges. If he wanted to, Hunter could perform polished pop songs. What has always made his music interesting, however, is that he'll push the aesthetic boundaries and risk being too emotionally-charged or blur the line between lo-fi pop and the abrasive aesthetic of Siltbreeze bands.
Throughout the set, Hunter laid out an impressive array of moods and textures with synth and guitar, but his raw emotions were on full display with an honesty that probably splits many audiences. The mixture of light and darkness here made this somewhat loose performance electrifying.
CRITICS NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I'm a fan of the experimental, the avant-garde and the eccentric. Random Detail: Ran into Nate Hayden, former member of Friends Forever. By the Way: Bongo Fury is putting out an album for their tour but it won't be readily available until the band returns from tour.
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