Common Eider, King Eider
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Better than: Waiting out the apocalypse alone.
Gosh, it's nice out, isn't it? Having progressed from unseasonably warm to alarmingly, unflaggingly temperate for longer than any mildly seasoned S.F. resident recalls, it seems increasingly likely that we've just rolled a lucky seven, climate-wise, while others on our fragile starship face flooding, tsunamis, and tornados. To paraphrase Mr. Eddie Vedder, do we deserve the pretty face of the global warming coin? And we are taking advantage of the good fortune appropriately?
All of which is to say: complex times demand complex music. In a sea of rock-based bands trafficking in monochromatic moods and nostalgia, to be bathed in the abstract lets us consider this utterly unique moment on its own terms, with all its attendant paradoxes and unwinnable Kobayahshi Maru scenarios. Ergo, a night of thinking person's art rock at the Hemlock during which the mercury once again failed descend below the mid-60s.
Common Eider, King Eider set the tone for the evening with a happy marriage of abstraction and intention. Gone are the days when you can hum into a mic, run it through a bank of pedals, and call it art. Listen up, kids: you gotta have some focus. Common Eider brought vision to spare, turning faint wisps of sound into genuinely terrifying stabs of heavy rock guitar -- riffs that were too weird to rock, but too melodic to be called noise. Just as quickly, the band turned back to the faint electro-wisps, unified in a spooky lurch that evoked a kind of Margaret Atwood post-apocalyptic vista through a vision of SunnO))).
Italy's Father Murphy came up next, a seemingly innocuous and attractive raven-haired duo whose twee-looking gear and posture seemed prepared for something altogether lighter than their cohort this evening. That was absolutely untrue as it turns out, for their Swans-meets-Laibach martial art rock was heavy as a death in the family and full of complex and dynamic turns. Rattling drones evolved into a frightening rhythmic unison as electronic drums ushered in an indecipherable lyrical interlude that could have been either confession or declaration. Father Murphy had that uncanny mixture of improvisational ease and skin-tight precision that makes for an exciting, unpredictable set. Its crunchy no-wave guitars were tempered by a melodic sophistication, like punks who secretly learned classical. An ominous church organ riff was the lovely and orthodox centerpiece of the duo's angular attack, the throbbing axis about which their complex vision spun.
Sutekh Hexen closed with its deconstructionist metal, bathed in fog and three blue halogen bulbs, portending darkness then explicitly swallowing all light. Their set began with slices of Earth-esque twang, minimal chords trading with ominous howls. The howls took over and the twang evolved into blackened gravel, guitars unrecognizable amidst waves of distortion. The visuals, almost completely obscuring the band for a majority of the set, were vivid and effective in conjuring a narrative; the same narrative, it seems, that all of tonight's bands shared: darkness without nurtures art within. The apocalypse may be nigh (and could arrive on a wave of comforts), but that's no reason to not keep at it. A better night of music you could not have found for less than the price of a movie ticket.
Overheard: "Did I actually just see that? [sighs audibly]."
A fog machine in Hemlock? Surprisingly, it works.