Over the weekend: Syndrome of a Down, Dugout Canoe, Talk Normal and Zombie Bite at Rhinoceropolis

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Syndrome of a Down, Dugout Canoe, Talk Normal and Zombie Bite
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Better Than:
A show where the experimental bands are experimental in the same way.

Playing it's second show, Syndrome of a Down was a duo comprised of two guys using the pseudonyms "Reeves Impediment" and "Jean-Luc Retard." Before things got started, "Jean-Luc" told us it was going to be 21 minutes, to which "Reeves" added, "You're going to wish you had never been born. It's 21 minutes of your life you'll never get back." The guys then sang along to pre-recorded songs including "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and one by Charles Manson. The vocals were pitch-shifted low and high and done in an intentionally slow manner as though a tape machine battery was dying, and it was somehow hilariously bad.

Dugout Canoe had its most elaborate set-up yet. For this show, Jacob Isaacs had his usual looping set-up, but he also employed a more sophisticated sampler than he has in times past, and it all added a layer of sound that filled out the songs a little. The sampled percussion was reminiscent of the percussive soundscapes of Astor, but once the music got going, Dugout Canoe didn't really sound like anyone else. A rich and precise tapestry of sound evolved during the course of the set, and in the background, a psychedelic mandala turned on a field of flowing colors. John Golter played bass on a couple of songs and added a subtle but driving dynamic. The core of Dugout Canoe's songs are strong arpeggiations forming the melodic structure and informed by a jittery but joyful energy. Toward the end, Zach Bauer played drums opposite Isaacs, adding another dimension of rhythm. Of all the Dugout Canoe shows I've seen this was the act's finest.

Talk Normal from Brooklyn was up next. A two piece outfit with one woman on drums and vocals and the other also singing while playing guitar, its sound was like a sustained shredding metal sound with coils struck by tiny metal hammers over urgent, unconventional rhythms. The act reminded me a bit of Magik Markers, except that this band isn't at all psychedelic but, rather, possessed of a severe, minimal, brutal beauty. The vocals were not musical so much as a vehicle for expressing the pure emotionalism of the music and as such, worked brilliantly.

The night ended with Minneapolis' Zombie Bite, which was basically one guy using three pedals to create an advancing wall of sound: High frequency howls sang over motorlike, cycling low tones that rode underneath an ambient hum like the voice of a letter sorter. There was a motion suggested by the mixture of sounds that gave it a powerfully present feel. Later on, the vocals mixed in like a ghostly creature of Native American folklore, a wendigo, lamenting some mysterious discontent. At the end, the whole sprawling ghost/soundscape spiraled down into a vortex that faded all the sounds like it was going down some cosmic drain.

Personal Bias:
I'm a big fan of Dugout Canoe.
Random Detail: Zombie Bite had played a house show with Page 27 in Boulder the night prior.
By the Way: Wet Hair's van broke down in Wyoming and thus couldn't make the show.

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