Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interlude: NW

This review appears in Wireless Bollinger.

Terminal 5 is not for the faint of heart. Formerly known as the notorious nightclub Exit, the 3000 person capacity and triple-floor structure make for a venue that’s as imposing as it is uncomfortable. But in the oft-fragmented mosaic that is New York, it’s now a hub for bands that are less of the up-and-coming sort and more geared to those that have arrived. Native band Blonde Redhead fit the bill, having released their seventh album, 23, and toured throughout the last year in support of it, with this gig perhaps the culmination of the current cycle. Last May, the group packed the Apple store in SoHo, leaving the spillover crowd waiting outside in a block long sprawl. They proceeded to sell out spacious Webster Hall, returning in August to McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, and subsequently filled Terminal 5 to capacity.

The School of Seven Bells

Openers School of Seven Bells joined Blonde Redhead on their September trek, which took them everywhere along the East Coast excluding New York. The quartet is Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On!Air!Library! and James Elliott, who has recorded under the pseudonym Ateleia. The result was a spacey mixture of each member’s expertise. Curtis’ psychedelic-flecked band provided a template for pseudo-pop songs while Elliott’s electronic leanings were physically pronounced as he perched over a synthesizer. Meanwhile, the sisters’ haunting vocals dueled, and though their words were obscured, the strong melodies and pop sensibilities overcame any lyrical uncertainties.

MySpace: School of Seven Bells

The Raveonettes

In an inspired transition, the house soundsystem played Autechre’s "Dael" to kick off the intermission, the song’s mechanical snarl a natural follow-up to the avant-garde quartet. But the minimalism didn’t last, as the sweeping fuzz of the Raveonettes overcame any thoughts of laptops. Bassist Sharin Foo and guitarist Sune Rose Wagner’s entwined voices created an immersive wall of sound, both monotonous and euphoric. A compact three-piece kit was deftly handled by the duo’s tour drummer, while the guitars wailed. Towards the end of the set, the band focused on material from their most recent album, Lust, Lust, Lust; single ‘Dead Sound’ defying its title, bringing a lively groove and almost pretty vocals. Closer "Aly, Walk with Me" was a noisier, but equally effective outburst, with the house lights blazing alongside the instruments.

The Raveonettes play at the Bowery Ballroom on March 26th. Here's a remix and original of "Dead Sound," as well as their Black Session, recorded on August 28th, 2003. If you'd like the whole set, please use the Mediafire link below.

MP3: The Raveonettes - Dead Sound
MP3: The Raveonettes - Dead Sound (Peter Holmstrom and Jeremy Sherrer Remix)

1. Intro
2. Attack of the Ghost Riders
3. Evil LA Girls
4. Veronica Fever
5. Let's Rave On
6. Noisy Summer
7. Chain Gang of Love
8. That Great Love Sound
9. My Tornado
10. Wanna Dance
11. Do You Believe Her
12. Untamed Girls
13. Heartbreak Stroll
14. Cops On Our Tail
15. NY Was Great
16. Beat City

Entire Set: Mediafire
MySpace: The Raveonettes
Official Site: The Raveonettes

Blonde Redhead

When Blonde Redhead’s solemn, prerecorded introduction came on, the usual expectant cheer rose up from the crowd. What was more impressive was how the trio mesmerized the crowd for the next hour-and-a-half. Kazu Makino began the set far stage right, seated at a keyboard, with drummer Simone Pace in the center and his twin brother and guitarist Amedeo on the other side. The size of the stage meant each member was an island, but there was willful detachment. Over the course of the first few songs, none of them spoke a word, preferring quite wisely not to dilute their distinct aesthetic. A quiet, piano-driven piece began the set, with Makino’s high-pitched vocals the clear centerpiece of the song, and arguably of the band. Amedeo Pace assumed singing duties on the next song, while Makino switched over to guitar, the juggling of instruments continuing throughout the night.

With guitar squalls, the band justified those early Sonic Youth comparisons, but they were far more distinct. Makino’s chilling keen cut through all of the noise, and she played while seemingly oblivious to her surroundings, utterly consumed by the music. The one early exception was when she and Pace would unite towards the center of the stage, trading guitar lines and, in a particularly memorable moment, she grasped his arm.

When the band finally acknowledged the crowd, it seemed almost by accident. Amedeo’s earpiece had gone askew, and as the room waited for the technical issue to be resolved, Makino leaned exclaimed, “He looks so helpless!” Makino would later elaborate on the origin of the cryptic track "SW," saying that the letters stood for Stevie Wonder, whom the song reminded them of even if “no one else thinks so.” These were somewhat unexpected revelations, but they spurred on an already adoring crowd.

The undeniable highlight of the performance was "23," its electronic shoegaze texture transformed into a more aggressive live incarnation. Prior to the song, Makino would invite a guitarist onstage, first joking, “I don’t know who that is,” and later introducing him as Paul – as in Paul Banks from fellow New York band Interpol. Despite the two guitar assault, Makino’s ethereal voice rose above the mix, a spectacular combination. With such a momentous conclusion to the main set, the encore was more of a formality, although the appearance of "Dr. Strangeluv" echoed the grandeur of "23." A few more experimental pieces followed, and the night came to a satisfying end.

MP3: Blonde Redhead - 23
MySpace: Blonde Redhead
Official Site: Blonde Redhead

1 comment:

wondergecko said...

The desk behind the ticket is instantly recognizable as an NYU desk :P

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