Paranoid Critical Revolution, Altaar, Benn Miller, Deathcrush, Neg-Fi, E.I.D. at Silent Barn 03-13-11
I am hereby going to dub Neg-Fi “The most punctual band in New York City.” Even though they did cut an agreement with the organizers to start a few minutes after their designated time and put in what, for them, qualifies as an epic set (20 minutes?), I’m pretty sure no other band is in the running for this title. I’m always using the word minimal to describe Neg-Fi’s music, but I don’t think that’s really the right word, because they’re always plenty loud and fill the room with sound. It’s just such tightly scripted and executed music. Punctual is actually closer. Or maybe maximal.
This was one of the Silent Barn’s upstairs-downstairs shows, and downstairs the one-man noise project E.I.D. (Explosive Improvised Device) was going on. This contact mic harsh noise has been around almost 20 years now if you think about it, though it seems to be less popular at the moment and I think E.I.D. is too early for a retro resurgence – but he’s definitely carrying the flame.
The sounds here were actually really varied and dynamic. Lots of quiet-loud moments. More like a Masonna without the vocals than a C.C.C.C. or something. My only complaint: protective gloves! Does Masonna wear kneepads? Does Lucas Abela put masking tape on the edges of his glass? Bleeding for your noise is just part of the HARSHness, dude. Okay, okay, I’m giving E.I.D. a hard time, but there’s just something about a guy doing the full-on, serious noise thing (in a Macronympha T-shirt no less) that begs for a little heckling. But for real, I was impressed by how good this sounded.
Back upstairs was Benn Miller, who played a table full of fun, ancient-looking stuff. Cassette tapes, loop station, reel-to-reel, old synthesizer, and saxophone run through effects. There was also a drummer who did a good job of playing along, keeping things loose enough so that the oddball sounds could run free, and just tight enough to add a little rock. My only complaint here is that all the stuff could have been turned up because the drums were by far the loudest part.
Then Deathcrush (from Norway I discovered) played, and at first I honestly thought this was just terrible, but I was totally won over by the end. So many things made it seem like this was going to be awful. First, I’m always skeptical of bands that seem like they spent more time getting their hair, make-up and clothes right than their music. (male or female of course) Deathcrush came out of the gate with rock star “attitude” and “moves,” accompanied by completely un-tuned guitars and beyond rudimentary technique. (except the drummer who clearly had some solid skills) My first impression was that this band did all their song-writing and practicing in front of a mirror with non-functioning prop instruments, and this was the first time they’d been handed the real thing to use. It was like they thought they were in Def Leppard but came out sounding more like… The Dead C?
But as I watched, I found I did a complete 180 in my thinking. First I thought: if they were pulling out rock star moves and sounding like Def Leppard, would that be better? No way, that would be terrible. If they sounded like a sludgy & dirgey noise-rock band but spent the show crouching over their amps and staring at their feet, would that be better? Again, no way. Then at some point they did this one song and by some combination of willpower and magical happenstance it sounded perfect. Even when the guitarist was holding up her guitar and gesturing to her tourmates that a new string was needed, feedback howling away and sounding no different than it was when she was furiously doing something with it a minute ago – there was this great semi-melodic vortex of sound going on, like a Venus in Furs moment – and I officially changed my mind. The headbanging into the audience finale sealed the deal. Deathcrush were kind of awesome.
The Paranoid Critical Revolution, usually a duo, played without their drummer, who I’m told had quit the band. So it was just member Reg Bloor playing guitar. Reg also plays in Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra, and on her own she sounds like a whole orchestra of guitars. I don’t really know how it’s done, but using an amp that doesn’t look all that big, she can blow out any eardrums in the room. Earplugs take a ton of the treble away, but it still sounds hellishly loud.
We’d had a brief conversation about black metal before the show started and with that in my mind, I couldn’t help thinking how Reg’s style is kind of black metal. The super-fast strumming with little notes picked out of a hurricane of white noise. It’s like part black metal, part no wave, and part nuclear holocaust.
Because of some overlap, I only caught the end of Altaar’s set. They also had thoroughly filled the room with smoke-machine fog, so my point and shoot camera was useless. This was the band that had been described as black metal, but we Americans do know a thing or two about our metal genres, and just because a band is from Norway does not make them black metal. I’d put this firmly in the sludge/doom metal category. Maybe with a noise-rock bent, given all the pedals in use. So what I saw was about 10 minutes of slow, heavy, thudding noise-dirge – which it wouldn’t really be fair to judge these guys on, as it was probably just the triumphant climax to an epic show. I’m going to assume that’s the case.