Moonspeed with Widowers
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Better Than: A CD release show with an overloaded line-up.
After an extended break from performance, Widowers played its first show in a few months. The sonic configuration for this show seemed cleaner and more spare than in the past, but that didn't mean the swirling melodies and the emotional complexity and intensity of the music wasn't intact or that Mike Marchant's and Mark Shusterman's vocals weren't as strong or as passionate as ever. As usual, "Blackout Bastard Sons" was a standout song though pared down to its emotive core. "Fives and Sixes," a new song, started out as kind of a warped country song, but it rapidly evolved into the tuneful psychedelia that's part Bay Area, California, and part Texas-free-flowing-but-edgy. The band's set closed with another new number that reminded me a little of Neu! 2 or Neu 75, with its driving rhythms and whimsical but evocative keyboard work and relentless energy. Widowers have many fine songs, but the closing number was among its very best.
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This incarnation of Moonspeed was comprised of nine members rather than the eleven the band has sported for most of its existence. Opening with "Silent Sky," Moonspeed created the kind of imagination stirring music that had me thinking again about the works of Michael Moorcock and guessing that the song I was hearing was the sort of music that people surviving great cities at the end of time might enjoy before the whole thing comes crashing down. "Magna Save" was similarly effective in generating images of what it must feel like to be in a rocket to the moon right after the burn of escape velocity -- a sense of freedom and exhilaration. For "Harvest," Hailey Helmericks performed the lead vocals and reminded us that she is capable of far more than the cathartic outrage and menace for which she is known.
The hollow guitar leads of "Wandering Sun" sounded like an attempt to capture the vibrations of ley lines. "Flowers of the Moon," the title track of the act's debut album, affected me in a way that I was reminded what it felt like when I first discovered that bands from Denver were playing music that wasn't following some trend of the moment, when the music I was seeing for the first time and had never heard before captured my imagination immediately. The set ended with a new song called "Sea of Stars" that Jeff Suthers told us was hopefully the seeds of album number two. With dreamily impressionistic guitar work bleeding into an ethereal urgency and richly textured rhythms that built to a scintillating climax, Moonspeed ended the show on a note of sheer wonderment.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of both of these bands from the beginning.
Random Detail: Ran into Ethan Ward of Gangcharger at the show.
By the Way: Matt Brown, formerly of Moonspeed, was one of the night's DJs.