Modern Witch • Married In Berdichev • Hideous Men
02.05.11 | Meadowlark
Most people who have seen Ben Martin perform have probably seen him as a guitarist and singer in experimental rock band Lil Slugger. But last night, he teamed up with his brother Sam for a duo that made some legitimately soulful synth-pop. Turns out Ben is a talented R&B singer, and that element, mixed in with the vintage synth sound reminiscent of certain strains of hip-hop and electronic post-punk with a touch of Giorgio Moroder, made for a sound that wouldn't have been out of place in the Miami dance clubs seen in Scarface and Miami Vice. The whole inside of the stage proper was dressed up in some kind of silver mylar or some other thin plastic as was the table on which the electronic instruments used by the Martin brothers sat. With colorful projections going, there was a beautifully retro-futurist feel to the set.
The trio of Modern Witch, sans Kristy Fenton, went for a slightly different side of its sound this time out. Coming off a bit like Autechre making slightly dark dance club music, this show was a bit like a live DJ set but with a lot more going on than usual, as the guys mixed together melody with a claustrophobic electronic bass sound that paralleled the beat.
Amid the textured sequences, samples of people talking fearfully could be heard, including a woman saying simply, "I'm scared." A streaming low-end sound skirted the border between rapid vibrato and being abrasive, while white noise pulsed within light blasts. At one point, the group got back to more familiar, utterly synthesizer-composed post-punk sound, but mostly, it was these guys pushing their core sound into more challenging territory, using noise inside music that would otherwise be designed for dance clubs, only it's just too weird to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Wearing what looked like the fragment of a geodesic dome in her hair, like a priestess of the future looking back at partial manuscripts of Saint Bucky and inspired by his visions, Brittany Gould, performing as Married in Berdichev, had her whole soundscape dialed in with more assurance and confidence than ever.
The snippets of voice as a beep served as a kind of background percussion over the top while a high-pitched tone hovered in the middle distance like rain clouds threatening to come in on a summer afternoon. Performing only three songs, including "Funnel Clouds," Gould's songs capture the feel of daydreaming of travel on or over water, or trying to imagine better things ahead, like the girl who gets trapped indoors in Ray Bradbury's "All the Summer in a Day." Gould's music was luminous and gently electrifying.
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"We are called The Olsen Twins," announced Kristi Schaefer as Hideous Men began its set. With the rare ability to be melancholy, exuberant, joyful, hopeful and playful all at once, Hideous Men played a set largely comprised of the material it has perfected over the last year and a half. But partway through the show, Ryan McRyhew announced he and wife Kristi were working on a new album.
Taking the brave course of keeping the new music out of current shows, McRyhew laughed off the fact that those of us who know the band's material just accepted their changing of various elements of old songs as a new permutation of its admittedly already strong songs. Later on, someone let out a friendly heckle, which McRyhew accepted and deflected, along with Kristi, by saying, "We're the Terry Riley of Thornton."
Toward the end, McRyhew said they were doing a UGK cover, and then Schaefer dedicated the song to someone in the audience, and the pair did a lively cover of Le Tigre's "Keep On Livin'" from that group's 2001 album, Feminist Sweepstakes. Hideous Men, with humor and completely unaffected positivity, still seem to make alchemical music in that Kristi and Ryan are able to take the sadness of the world and turn it into hope for the future, by writing songs about serious subjects and treating them as such but never forgetting not to take things too seriously.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: If "bias" means you have an opinion, then yes, I like all of these bands and the people in them both as artists and as people. Random Detail: Ran into Eryc Eyl at the show. By the Way: Shows like this seem to bring in people from various walks of life who go see local music because it's experimental but immediately accessible.