Last Night...Wolf Eyes and Aenka @ hi-dive

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Photos by Chris Velarde

Wolf Eyes and Aenka Tuesday, June 25, 2008 Hi-Dive Better Than: Soft-rock

Wolf Eyes are hard to describe without superlatives. They’re one of the loudest, heaviest, most intense onstage and most approachable offstage bands out there. Phrases like “from the primordial ooze, they emerge” or “like NIN if Trent Reznor wasn’t kind of a wuss” or “you guys are the next big thing!” (an older man actually said this at the merch table after the concert) get kind of close to the live experience of the band, but can’t quite catch the jaw drop.

Wolf Eyes may actually -- as an enthusiastic older man asserted -- be the music of a dystopian future: unrelenting bleakness and raw power filtered through electronic wizardry. Mike Connolly, the group’s electronic/one string guitar player, had an utterly evil briefcase full of nasty tricks that he employed, while lead singer Nate Young howled or moaned, and guitarist/other electronics player John Olson either shredded or let it growl.

The act's set was a steaming, 45-minute chunk of sound that didn’t stop, and alternated (rather than, as Wolf Eyes had made reference to in recent interviews, split between) dirges and thrashers. A few enthusiastic members of the crowd flailed and stomped occasionally, but most others just stared in horror or awe. The electronic beats were sometimes catchy, but they often sounded like they came from the bottom of a corpse-filled well, so that kind of took any semblance of fun out of them.

Despite having lengthy songs that are eardrum-burstingly loud and horrifyingly strange, the outfit operates on some sort of mysterious structure that makes the most sense if you give yourself over to the whole wash all at once. The talented men of Wolf Eyes have given the entire noise scene a new face and some mainstream recognition. At the same time, though, they've manged to avoid sacrificing anything in terms of aggression or artistry by playing short, focused sets.

Openers Aenka didn’t wash over the crowd as much; instead they sizzled with restrained energy. The players were more technically sound than Wolf Eyes, but their instrumental jazz-inflected jams weren’t boring, just sort of different. The spirit of loudness, feedback, and strange electronic gadgets connected the two bands.

-- James Anthofer

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I was interested in Wolf Eyes because they toured with Sonic Youth two years ago, with a stop in Denver. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was true for many in the audience. Random Detail: Westword's own Jon Solomon plays in Aenka. By the Way: Olson claimed this set was one of his favorites of the tour, saying “We sounded really good, right?”

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