Things got started fashionably late at Rhino with Married in Berdichev. The first song sounded for all the world like a Brittany Gould original, with all the gorgeously lush and delicately textured grandeur enveloping you like a projected daydream chasing away mundane reality. But Gould later revealed that she was covering noted Tempe, Arizona songwriter Stephen Steinbrink, himself covering Arthur Russell.
The rest of the set was more familiar, but no less entrancing with Gould exercising an emotional intensity that most people would express through cries of frustration, outrage or fear. Gould, however, has distilled such expressions into ululating tones over a tapestry of treated vocal loops feeding back to create sea of tones and textures. There's really nothing like it, and we're lucky to have someone of that caliber of creative sophistication here in Denver.
Yoda's House is changing its name to Then Eats Them, and the bulk of the material performed this night came from the band's newly released tape, from which the act derives its new moniker, Then Eats Them. For the tour, the band created a video projection specifically featuring some recontextualized commercial footage and manipulated scenes from an animated dinosaur video and Land of The Lost -- the '70s version, not the far inferior most recent versions.
Yoda's House is one of the few outfits that know how to make the otherworldly sound organic and immediate. "Black Friday," it's most haunted song, was the sonic equivalent of a bracing blast of cold air -- not chilling so much as making the brain tingle with the sense of impending disaster heard hovering in its layered stream of sounds.
The drums both grounded the rhythm and provided textural elements, while the guitar was never melodic so much as a rhythmic noise generator on its own, like a synthesizer with an undeniably physical presence. At several points, the music sounded like what a soundtrack to a movie version of William Hope Hodgeson's The Night Land might be like: part avant-garde rock, ambient, jazz, outsider folk, all underpinned by non-western musical elements. Overall, Yoda's House was singularly impressive for its obvious imagination and talent in execution.
It looked like Hot White was having fun in spite of a technical issue or two. Darren Kulback kept making absurd comments to Kevin Wesley, and at one point, Kulback took the mike for what was probably the first time ever and he called Epileptinomicon's Mike Reisinger out on an imagined indiscretion of some kind. But this silliness only broke the tension a little, and the group went to its sonic mayhem with a bit more gusto than a few recent shows.
Wesley's guitar sounded like a tightly controlled movie Godzilla roar -- vaguely metallic and squalling. Tiana Bernard remained The Woman With No Fear as she charged into the audience toward the end of the set after the band covered "Ever" by Flipper -- a gesture that got certain members of the crowd riled up and singing along. A section of the set was relatively new material, including one of the band's best numbers on which Wesley takes on vocal duties. But on the oldest of the songs the band played, Kulback referred to it as, "This is the song we hate to play." But like the good sports he, Wesley and Bernard are, they played all of the songs like they meant it.
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Before the final act of the night played, everyone in Rhinoceropolis sang happy birthday to one of the space's former inhabitants, the talented and always affable Milton Melvin Croissant III, who graciously accepted the kind gesture. Then Hideous Men closed the night on the best note possible. But not before Ryan Mcryhew cursed out Hot White for taking too long setting up, playing and breaking down. People who don't know better might have taken it seriously, and Kevin Wesley came to the front and mock tried to start a fight with Mcryhew.
What this band has done, without necessarily going for something too specific, is fused experimental electronic music with house music with hip-hop and completely non-trite uplifting lyrical content -- all while sounding melancholy and celebratory at the same time. This is probably because Kristi Schaefer's girlish voice is colored with a bit of vocoder and she dances around like an '80s aerobics instructor, but you believe her enthusiasm. What's more, you're swept up in it, along with the streaming layers of gorgeous sound that she and Mcryhew create together.
At the end of the set, the Hideous Men performed its excellent cover of Milton Melvin Croissant's classic pop song, "Books on Tape." But before letting the night come to an end, Mcryhew playfully stuck a verbal dagger in the eye of lazy music journalism with a cry of, "Fuck you, 'Witch House!' You can suck my dick!"
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: These are four of the best musical projects going in the underground right now. Random Detail: This was a well-attended show and there were some people you don't often see at Rhino there for a bill with bands not nearly enough people know about. By the Way: The night was pleasant and shenanigans were at a minimum.