A dark ambience enhanced by a nearly subsonic bass drone signaled the start of the first Orbit Service show in over four years. When the foursome began playing, there were no real breaks, just interconnecting pieces that flowed together seamlessly. Anyone who listened to Songs of Eta Carinae, and really felt what was going on in that music had to have wondered what the writer of those songs could possibly do on the other side of such personal torment.
This set was the answer with atmospheric sounds of shifting density like time lapse images of weather patterns. Randall Frazier's softly intense and emotive singing seemed to both wander through and soar over the spectral labyrinths of the music. Throughout the show, projections were shown on both a large screen directly behind the performers and a set of four, translucent screens that gave the illusion of three dimensions. For Orbit Service's set, it was mostly abstract, colorful videography.
cEvin Key's set was far more rapidly-paced than you'd expect just from listening to some of his solo material, which is kind of like an updated hybrid of house music and industrial, marked by pounding electronic drums and textured percussive sounds. That was the foundation of Key's constantly evolving experiments in rhythm and tone across what had to have been a forty plus minute set.
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At one point, two dancers came on stage looking like they'd been extras in deleted scenes from Blade Runner. One looked like a refugee from a clone lab Madonna started in Harajuku. Fortunately the performances were so odd that they didn't seem exploitive. The set went on a little long but Key kept up the energy.
For the Dead Voices on Air's set, the sounds were a lot weirder and darker. Mark Spybey's nearly whispered vocals were vehemently urgent, matching the corridor of dense tones surrounding them. Spybey's music was very three-dimensional in its composition. At times, it was reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's Wavelength soundtrack from the early '80s, but with a richer sound and cavernous low end.
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Spybey's own emotive vocal performance brought a defiant humanity to music that definitely sounded like it was coming from the other side. The projection of footage of the Baader-Meinhof Group really accentuated the other-worldliness of the songs. Spybey was about to leave the stage but the crowd cheered long enough that he came back with Key, and they went into two of the most dynamic songs of the evening, with Spybey clearly smiling and having fun.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I think cEvin Key and Randall Frazier are two brilliant creators of lush, darkly beautiful music. Random Detail: Ran into Page 27's John Rasmussen and John Gross outside before the show. By the Way: It's not absolutely necessary to comment loudly during a relatively quiet set of music.