wonder why i can hear you
some types of music are harder to pull off live than others. that's why i have to applaud the loveless music group for starting a semi-monthly night called to here knows when, dedicated to shoegazer, dreampop, and other styles mixing trippy melodies with drones and noise.
newest east village club scenic is the former guernica, and more famously, save the robots. i never went to either of those, but the new owners seem to be doing things well so far. besides the nicely-designed upstairs bar, they put a very decent PA with proper monitors and plenty of outboard gear in the basement for live acts. this is a great thing, and i wish i could personally thank whoever signed that puchase order. even so, bands like the ones tonight fight an uphill battle with sound.
the problem comes from the template established by my bloody valentine and others. the main instrument is a wall of sound that puts the "harm" in "harmonic". this is usually chiefly layers of heavily treated guitars and keyboards. vocals (usually breathy and female) are also awash in effects, partially buried but tweaked and multitracked in the studio to be just the right balance with the supporting instruments behind the gorgeous ruckus happening up front.
autumn thieves seems to be one of a few bands at the forefront of several new local shoegazer outfits. the songs i heard on their myspace page are pleasant and well-recorded. they bring a portion of this to their live show by using the now-ubiquitous mac powerbook for rhythm and keyboard backing. the guitarist slashes up a storm, the bass is basically an instrument for counter-melodies, the lead singer (above) is very stylish and has a pretty voice. but as you can guess from my long lead-in, they face the same sound issues as anyone else mixing a delicate balance of instruments in a live setting. at times the waves of effects and distortion completely overwhelmed everything. i hope to see them again when these issues are resolved, because they seem to have some good ideas.
since one of their members is also the main organizer of LMG, this night is their baby. i'm very happy they put it together. this kind of music has gotten short shrift until recently (the lost in translation soundtrack, cover versions and reissues of slowdive, and general MBV-namechecking). still, they're aware that keeping to a strict definition of shoegazer isn't really an option when putting together a night if you want to stick around.
this is one reason i'm glad they also had aarktica playing. i hadn't seen them since their set at bowery ballroom opening for low. they showed just as much professionalism in this much smaller venue as they did there. as then, 6 musicians weilded various acousitc and electronic instruments (including an ipod for a few beats). they wove their trademark guitar loop-based pieces that expanded into songs and/or drone/texture explorations before collapsing in on themselves. aarktica leader jon derosa is also fond of switching his guitar to alternate tunings mid-set. perhaps because their layered sound comes from everyone playing extremely quietly rather than loudly, their mix was somewhat more successful than the other bands.
this night faces a lot of challenges (the wednesday slot, a relatively unknown club, a kind of music that's not hugely popular at this moment). for the sake of everyone involved as well as the nyc music scene, i hope it keeps going for awhile. it's time people realized there's a lot more going on in this city than indie rock.
the title of this post comes from lyrics to a slowdive song.