Live Review: Teeth Mountain, Christian Meth, GDFX, Hunter Dragon, Spellcaster at Rhinoceropolis

Teeth Mountain,Christian Meth, GDFX, Hunter Dragon and Spellcaster Sunday, August 10, 2008 Rhinoceropolis Better Than: Ending the summer dreading homework.

Christian Meth, a duo featuring Jacob from Sterile Garden doing tape loops, sampling and vocal manipulation through pedals and John Krueger playing what looked like a large didgeridoo through a Sunn amp, opened this show with the kind of music you’d expect to hear if you could travel back in time and be there as primitive humans painted images of animals and spirits on the walls of Lascaux cave. The hypnotically drones interspersed with the kind of sounds you might also hear while doing astral projection.

Up next was GDFX, a side project of one of the members of Teeth Mountain that centers on ancient analog synth sound — the kind with that bassy, almost cheesy character to the tonal range. Had video games of the 1980s had better background music, it would have been a bit like this. Memories of Cannon Pictures science fiction and action films and the soundtrack to The Terminator came to mind as the guy played two or three songs. A lot of those B-grade science fiction movies of the ‘80s had better incidental and theme music than the movies themselves, and GDFX was almost an homage to that legacy.

With three drummers, a bass/cello player and a guitarist/violinist/samples executor, Baltimore’s Teeth Mountain didn’t immediately strike me as steeped in a tribal/primitivist aesthetic. Once the act got going, though, its deep, thick layers of rhythms and overlays of ambiance, from the gritty to the sublime, established that the members were going beyond trying to evoke the roots of modern music and aiming at a primal, primeval human proclivity to create music that transforms consciousness and carries it to higher states. The stringed instruments were played for texture as much as tone and each was used to make sounds that they’re not made to produce in more conventional forms of music. The whole set had a polyrhythmic, organic architecture that evoked visions of living in an age pre-dating agriculture and literacy, living in a world lit only by lightning, the moon, the stars and fire. Toward the end of this neo-ancient epic, I saw the cello player do some bends with his strings to produce truly otherworldly sounds. The combination of the fury of the percussionists and the weaving in of unconventionally employed instrumentation, including a saxophone for the second of the two song set, created a temporary sacred space that had to have left an impression on everyone else who was there to witness this extraordinary band.

Hunter Dragon and Fridge Magnet had a much better night at the Rhino for this show. The duo announced that this set would be its last show for a long time. The guitar was a little gravelly because of the amp but that actually added to the character of the songs by dirtying up the tones a little. That quality definitely suited Hunter’s fragile, emotionally naked vocal delivery. For “Lil’ Devil,” each of them played harmonica through a tube and this seemed to amplify and change the character of its sound over the course of the six-song set of lively, refreshingly unvarnished, though very well written, pop brilliance.

Spellcaster finished the night with a short, brutal display of captivatingly harsh noise channeled through a series of pedals that may or may not have had their circuits bent – the effects seemed to be chained together in a way that allowed them to feed back into each other and then through a rather sizeable rack of guitar cabinets. Halfway through the set, Zach Bauer (Zombie Zombie, Outer Neon), who had been thoroughly into Spellcaster’s tortured guitar play, lightened the mood by putting a cigarette into Spellcaster’s mouth. After the howling feedback faded to nothing, we were told we could all go home, and some of us even did.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Pesonal Bias: I try to make it to as many Rhinoceropolis shows as possible because you never really know what you’re going to get to see. Random Detail: I gave Hunter a drink of my lemonade. Sorry it didn’t have alcohol, Hunter — but with me that’s likely to never be an ingredient. By the Way: Jacob from Christian Meth has a cool little record label called Basement Tapes that will soon be releasing an album by Christina The Hun.

This is the 37 in a series of what was supposed to be thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy (overachiever) planned on attending. His whole idea was 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.)

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