in the woods

i hadn't been back to tonic since its rescue from imminent oblivion (and reinstatement of proper restrooms). since it's always a great venue for interesting new and avant-garde music, it's fitting that the first band i went back there to see was edison woods. i've been meaning to catch them for about a year, but they don't play very often. i was going to back out, but my friend and fellow photographer bianca convinced me to go after all.

i'd never heard of openers the new radio band, and tonic unwisely had no description next to their name on the bill. still, we turned up in time to see them and were pleasantly surprised. at first glance they're a simple jazz trio of drums, upright bass, and saxophone/flute. this is the kind of setup that could be very boring trad or improv jazz, but fortunately it was neither. the bassist had a solid groove and a great sound, laying down simple (yet not simplistic) lines which jumped into variation without losing the pulse. the drummer was locked in without being metronomic, intuitively sensing the right time to make changeups, and never overwhelming the other players with grandstanding. and much to my delight, the saxophonist/flautist played through a monstrous effects pedalboard, augmenting his inventive melodies and snippets with just the right amount of technology.

athenians hope for agoldensummer(photo above from their website) were pleasant and talented, but personal taste interfered with my enjoyment of their set when their songs took a bit too much of a backwoods twangy turn for me. i did like the initial mix of pj harvey-like vocals with sparsely earthy guitars, cello, and unusual percussion (for one song, the drummer shook a wooden crate of coke bottles in rhythm).

edison woods have eight members, and not one of them is superfluous. two female vocalists (one of them also playing piano and accordion), a guitarist, drummer, violinist, cellist, bass guitarist, and baritone saxophonist. from the moment the blonde singer took the stage her presence was palpable. they began with an accordion-driven instrumental, which set the tone for their set, freely alternating between vocal songs and understated chamber music pieces. several of the musicians clearly had a command of both conventional and experimental techniques. each of the players had moments in the musical spotlight, but took their turns with a quiet reflectiveness that suited the songs. the exception to this came at the end of the set when the backing vocalist stepped out front and shifted from breathy childlike whispers to a series of wordless crescendoes of operatic intensity. this was a welcome climax to the gorgeous restraint shown until then. i hope to see more of this band.

the title of this post comes from a great melancholic black metal band.