HEALTH, Spellcaster’s Rock and Roll Time Travel Committee, Pictureplane, BDRMPPL, the Late Severa Wires, the Don’ts and Be Carefuls Monday, July 14, 2008 Rhinoceropolis Better Than: Music that pretends to be wild but really isn’t.
Greeley’s the Don’ts and Be Carefuls seem to embody a similar artistic outlook as its scenemates in Lil’ Slugger: Be wildly original and weird yet accessible. A quartet with the usual intrumentation, the act was flanked by two cute dancer girls that looked like came directly from an avant garde ballet class move to their music. It was sort of a noisy, danceable post-punk thing with low-end synth to bolster the presence of the songs. Before the outfit’s last song, the lead singer said, “We don’t deserve this, this is our third show,” acknowledging the band’s presence on such a high profile bill. As good and interesting as these guys were, though, such modesty will soon be unnecessary.
The Late Severa Wires from Santa Fe played next. Another four-piece with usual rock instruments, this outfit sported a guy who created live vinyl samples from twin turntables. Had the members employed more traditional means, they might even be categorized as a harsh noise band of some sort, but they actually used instruments with pedals instead of the modified pedals favored by the bent circuit crowd.
On one cut, the DJ made noises that sounded like a creepy child’s music box playing music backwards, while the instruments collided and fragmented over the top. It was collage music but instead of beautiful synth lines and electronic drums, this was something much more intense and harried that invoked the sound of wires being cut on an old circuit board and then being cut and fused randomly together at other points – which may be where the band gets its name. The act, which only played two numbers, ended with the band employing a panning or hard tremolo effect that conjured the image of a TV tuned to an all David Lynch network.
During its set, BDRMPPL projected a psychedelic image of shifting colors and images on the left wall of the room while it performed. The band could be considered part of that tropical pop sound pioneered by bands like Brooklyn’s the High Places but with heavier doses of dub and thick, mind-altering atmospheres. Spiralling loops of repetitive melody lines and synths used as percussion alongside electronic percussion made for a constantly heady atmosphere throughout the group’s set. Even the primal scream vocals were looped and manipulated beyond their original parameters. And yet it stood as the most organic sounding use of pedal manipulated synths, drum machines and collaged, manipulated vocals heard in recent memory.
Truly bursting his own bounds, Nick Houde constantly strives to obliterate musical and artistic boundaries with performance. Subsequently, he and BDRMPPL, along with its contemporaries in Pictureplane, are creating the dance music of a future that isn’t hopelessly defanged, compromised and artistically irrelevant.
To paraquote something Henry Rollins once wrote in his classic book, Get in the Van: I once saw Lightning Bolt make people lose their shit, but not like HEALTH. I have no basis of comparison to other HEALTH shows, but this will go down as one of the best live shows I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen more than a few. While HEALTH’s records are good, they don’t hold a candle to the live performance. Jerking themselves around like puppets the musicians were electrifying, and that crypto-divine power transferred to the audience, who writhed and jumping about with total abandon. To be honest, the crowd did get a little obnoxious, with more than a few people spilling splashes of drinks on pedal boards — something that made the musician in me cringe.
Although to some, HEALTH's music might have sounded like utter chaos with occasional moments of sublime musical beauty, to me it was like they had taken the essence of no wave, post-punk, harsh noise and electronic pop and created an alchemical blend of all of it that was unbelievably intense and visceral. At one point during the set, the power went out, which killed the momentum. As soon as the band got everything back on track, though, it gave a lot to the audience and this audience paid them back in spades of sheer emotional outburst.
Because it must have been well over a hundred degrees in the room with a level of humidity I have only encountered on especially muggy days in the tropics, I stepped out for some fresh air. Unfortunately, I ended up missing Travis Egedy’s always inspirational and musically brilliant performance as Pictureplane, but I did make it back inside to witness the violent, abusive, ridiculous performance of Spellcaster’s Rock and Roll Time Travel Committee.
Having seen Spellcaster before and knowing some of the players involved, I was pretty sure it was extreme performance art more than anything. But the outfit really outdid itself this time, with water being thrown about the room and drum equipment being hurled to the center of the room, which added to a true climate of danger that culminated in a guitar being thrown haphazardly into the crowd. I was nowhere near the kill zone, but I’ll bet no one there will ever forget the spectacle.
-- Tom Murphy
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I think the noise hybrid music and tropical pop are two of the most important musical movements happening in the world at this time. Random Detail: Some smartass was playing an obnoxious Styx collection in the back room. By the Way: Health has cool T-shirts worthy of Stereolab.
This is the eighth in a series of thirty-five consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)