Littles Paia, Slight Harp, Bird Names, Sic Alps and Milton Melvin Croissant III Monday, July 7, 2008 Glob Glob Glob, Denver Better Than: Watching TV or staying home on a Monday night.
The cool evening air was welcome at this rare Monday evening show at Glob. It was also nice to see a decent sized crowd for bands that aren’t as well-known as they should be. Littles Paia started things off with his distorted, pastoral, garage folk. His sounds is a like what you might get if John Fahey had joined the 13th Floor Elevators. Littles employed his rare, vintage reverb unit to draw out and shape guitar sounds, and his unaffected singing was reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed.
After a short interval, the two piece version of Slight Harp were set up and opening with a song that was the sonic equivalent of rain falling into a lake, with piano tones accompanied by a sad accordion that you might hear in the closing credits of a movie set in pre-Stalinist Russia. The act’s next number reminded me of an old Mike Oldfield record. The piano created a sense of tension and dynamic flourishes while an ultra-minimalist guitar line filigreed the edges with spider webs of sound. I thought there could have been a better separation of sound between guitar and keys, but that hardly marred the music. Slight Harps’s third song, in all its ethereal grandeur, conjured Daniel Lanois if he had joined Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd in scoring the soundtrack for Mysterious Skin.
Bird Names, a five piece from Chicago whose members rotated instruments and shared vocal duties fairly equally, was up next. Although its members played traditional rock instruments, there was nothing traditional about the music they played. At times they employed a musical atonality across the breadth of the band, in others it sounded as though each member of the band was performing music with a distinct and separate agenda. Curiously, though, everyone’s part complimented that of everyone else in its own strange way. While some might consider it a happy accident that it worked, really it was just another and more interesting form of songwriting. For its part, the outfit sounded more like a lost forest tribe who had been exposed to these instruments and indie rock about three years ago but that’s precisely what makes them a fun and compelling live band. It’s pretty much impossible to not like a band who clearly seems to enjoy the music its performing -- especially when that music is pushing boundaries.
Sic Alps, a two-piece act from Los Angeles comprised of a drummer and a guitarist, both of whom sang, followed with gritty psych blues that recalled a slightly less swampy and not at all campy version of the Cramps. The vocalists fed their voices through analog delay, which warped and swirled them in such a way that it sounded like the past bleeding into the present and mixing together to create a sound that was slightly, and beautifully, out of phase. If Link Wray had hung out with Roky Erickson in the late ‘60s, it might’ve sounded something like this.
Milton Melvin Croissant III closed out the night with a short set of his inspired, experimental freak folk. He opened with a kind-spirited song that conjured sunny days at the beach while his gentle vocals soared over the top. He followed that tune with a track in which Croissant used his guitar as a percussive instruments, like Qawwali musicians mixing funk into their sonic tapestry, and closed with a shortened version of the “High Plains Gothic,” an ode that begins quietly with impressionistic layers of sound and vocals that ratchet up in intensity until its harrowing ending. One of the most powerful songs to emerge from the scene in the past several years, it’s the psych folk equivalent of “The End” minus the Freudian elements.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: I’m a big fan of psych/freak folk. Random Detail: Littles Paia used black tape to cover all the letters on his kick drum head except for “APE”. By the Way: The Constantines heard about the show and made an appearance but I never heard what they thought of the show. Perhaps they’ll mention it when they play the Hi-Dive on July 8 with d. biddle and Ladyhawk.
This is the first 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.)