Last Night / Decibel
Decibel Festival, Day 2: Maria Minerva, DJAO, Cut Hands, Demdike Stare, Andy Stott
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 3:42 PM
Last night, my little slice of Decibel was so intense and amazing. It went something like this…
MARIA MINERVA @ TRIPLE DOOR Maria Minerva looked like she was dressed to perform some modern dance, but instead she (wo)manned her gear with one hand and gripped the mic in the other. With these rudimentary tools, she enchanted a sedate crowd at Triple Door, a venue that always seems too posh for the music I go there to hear. Minerva slung her voice like a lasso, flamboyantly swooping up and down her register while coaxing distorted keyboard ululations. Her set largely explored a languid sort of dub and electronic pop hybrid, but sometimes diverged into deep drone zones, sculpted airplane-engine roar, lopsided house music, midtempo funk, and, during the last track, a Moog-like babble that evoked Mort Garson, Dick Hyman, and Gershon Kingsley. Lots of people were leaving throughout the performance (probably to see Orbital, who, according to reports I heard, were weak). Bad choice, people.
DJAO @ BARBOZA I will keep saying this until it happens (or it doesn’t): Local producer DJAO (aka Alex Osuch) is going to blow up, any year now. He led off the Dropping Gems showcase with a masterly set of slow-your-roll hiphop/future bass spectrality that had the crowd transfixed. DJAO contrasted ocean-floor bass pressure with ethereal tone impressionism and angelic croons (his own) to stunningly beautiful and yearning effect. And as the sole practitioner of Chiltonwave™, he scropped and chewed Big Star’s “Thirteen” until it gradually deliquesced into a pool of molasses-y loveliness. DUG DJ Jon François said, “I like [DJAO’s music] because I feel like I’m alone when I’m listening to it, even in a club.” Achieving that sort of intimacy is a special skill.
CUT HANDS @ MELROSE MARKET STUDIOS I hate to be that guy, but if you missed the Modern Love Records showcase at MMS, you fucked up, badly. Cut Hands (William Bennett of Whitehouse, looking like your favorite humanities professor) unleashed a sadistic rhythm orgy, a relentless barrage of percussion and flayed frequencies, for a little over an hour. It was one of the most intense sets I’ve seen at Decibel, and I’ve been going since year 1. Cut Hands’ most recent album is titled Afro Noise, and that’s what the man delivered. An iconoclastic Caucasian Brit messing around with Ghanaian and Congolese rhythms risks accusations of cultural colonialism, but fuck, this shit sounds phenomenal, so loosen up, Mr. Politically Correct. Bennett, now in his 50s, danced feverishly to his own clattering madness, an elephant stampede of kick/kettle drums—or maybe frame drums the size of a satellite dish? Whatever they were, they left you dazed and contused. Frequent metallic tonalities clanged like gangbusters and drums progressively became more weapon-like as the night wore on. You couldn't help feeling thoroughly pummeled. So damn primal...
DEMDIKE STARE @ MELROSE MARKET STUDIOS Nobody’s better right now at the imaginary horror-film soundtrack game than Demdike Stare. Their cantankerous drones are supremely elemental and soul-stirring, piercing the dark of heartness [sic]. Sometimes they entered a solemnly ritualistic mode, like a 21st-century :Zoviet-France:, sometimes the instilled a volcanic panic with great clouds of disturbulence, sometimes they shifted into a black-lunged techno gallop. Whatever style they chose, it complemented extremely well the phantasmal collage of creepy cinematic footage flickering behind them. Demdike Stare totally lived up to my—and everyone else’s—hyperbole.
ANDY STOTT @ MELROSE MARKET STUDIOS By the time Stott went on, around 2 am, I was zombified something awful. But he oozed out some black-and-white techno that trudged like the intro to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," but with a killer 4/4 pulse behind it. Stott’s new material is reviving that heroin-house sound Porter Ricks pioneered in the ’90s, and it’s about freakin’ time. Halfway through Stott’s performance, I pretty much surrendered to fatigue and pondered torching my notebook—which was quickly becoming illegible and gobbledygook-strewn anyway.
Make no mistake, Modern Love dudes set the bar so damn high, I don’t think anyone else will surpass them at Decibel (unless the Raster-Noton crew pulls off an upset).
What I love about acts on this Modern Love bill is that their music is devoid of fun—it makes fun completely irrelevant. This music transcends fun; it takes you deeper into yourself than you want to go, but once you get there, you can't believe how thrilling that inner sphere is. It’s the music world’s most profound mind/body fuck currently available. Orbital ain’t gonna give you that—not in 2012, Jim.