Slight Harp w/Black Magicians From the Mountains of Mars and Pink Hawks Saturday, August 29th, 2009 Glob, Denver Better Than: Every other Slight Harp show I've seen.
The three-piece Black Magicians From the Mountains of Mars looked like they might have still been in high school, but it was definitely not new to the art of making heavy psychedelic rock. At first I just thought it was better than average, instrumental stoner rock, but it quickly dawned on me that the songs were not sludgy and the pacing wasn't slow.
For this show, Pink Hawks was a 6-piece band. Yuzo Nieto looped synths, his echoing sax and his voice to great effect. The set was a single piece that lasted for over half an hour but, because of the multiple rhythms, textures and tones flowing throughout, it never got boring. The drummer played a mixture of calypso and reggae rhythms while there was someone dedicated to tambourine and another striking a chair with a drum stick--the latter two sounds cut right through all the other instrumentation. The bass player executed straight funk riffs with prog sensibilities, and the guitarist had a similar style though his single note riffing was often clipped and simple, seemingly augmenting the bass player. Just when I thought the song was ending with the band reaching the apex of a chaotic crescendo, it tumbled back into a reprise of the beginning of the song and did an outro of just the chair being struck by the drum stick.
Slight Harp, despite its relatively short life as a band, definitely made an impact on people in unexpected circles, especially with its performances opening for Xiu Xiu and that superlative performance of Terry Riley's "In C" at the most recent Dan Deacon show. On the verge of great things, the band had to call it quits because Alex Archuleta, one of the band's main forces, and a pillar of the local underground music scene, is moving to California. Sitting in with the band was Brittany Gould, whose vocal gymnastics elevated Valerie Franz's lower register vocals to create a wailing drone that whorled its way through the tribal rhythms. With three drummers primarily kicking down tom-heavy beats, the three songs Harp performed had a ceremonial and ritualistic flavor.
The first number, in fact, sounded like the music in Alexandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain. Brandon Brinkley's always been an interesting guitarist, but I was taken aback by his ability to create two textures inside one riff. Everyone in the band wore some kind of make-up and ceremonial garb so as to look like mystics, and Alex Archuleta's thick and hypnotic synth and accordion drones were mesmerizing and powerful. Until the end I felt like I was riding with the Arabs in Lawrence of Arabia because the music had the sort of grandeur heard in that soundtrack. A lot of bands play great final shows, but Slight Harp took it to the next level.
Bias: Slight Harp is/was one of my favorite Denver bands of all time. Random Detail: Ran into Ryan Hurd of Three Lines of Blur at the show. By the Way: Members of Slight Harp are still playing in other bands.