dawn of the idols
last thursday i went to something i’d been looking forward to for awhile: the wierd records compilation release party. somehow the wierd parties have slipped under my radar for the past 5 years. the three-record (plus 7”) set i picked up a few weeks ago at other music shows pictures and flyers from those parties, and it looks like i missed a lot, as did anyone who didn’t come to club europa that night.
one of the great things about wierd is that it crosses the artificial boundaries of genres and cliques. most of it falls under the heading of “coldwave,” dark but strangely danceable minimal postpunk made almost exclusively on old analog synths and drum machines (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). but there’s also a smattering of experimental noise, techno-industrial, and nouveau deathrock. so the crowd was also not the “usual” you might expect to see at an event like this - adhering to neither hipster nor goth or any other standards, everyone was free to simply enjoy the music for what it was.
i arrived too late to see column, but the dj’s trading off between sets spun a good mix of dark electronic music with a few obscure goth tracks that lived up to wierd’s unnoficial slogan, “very rare.”
diako diakoff worked very hard with his two cheap-sounding keyboards, impressively playing both at once, with only the drum patterns programmed. at times it was hard to tell if the defiantly lo-fi set was totally earnest or tongue-in-cheek.
nearly all the lights in the club went off for the odd band out of the whole wierd roster, the comparatively straightforward blacklist. visually and sonically, they fit in with the postpunk-inspired end of the LES indie rock scene but push closer to goth-rock such as the mission or sisters of mercy. even given some almost unnoticeable technical problems, they were easily the most professional and energetic act of the evening. part of this was due to the foundation being driven forward by bassist ryan, who also puts on the night hail and was involved in visions of the impending apocalypse.
but the crowd really mobilized for the next performer, tobias bernstrup. this was possibly aided by his penchant for over-the-top costumes (online you can see him as both schwarzeneggeresque soldier and drag-queen diva). he took the stage dressed head to toe in black leather and vinyl, topped off with huge blue plastic eyes and a giant claw that made him into some kind of fetishistic insect. his entire musical set played from offstage as he sang, swayed, and posed, more performance artist than musician. he got one of the biggest responses of the evening.
i was most interested in the next act, sleep museum. it takes a lot of strength, being based in NYC in 2006, to get up onstage as a one-man synth/drum machine act. most electronic performers these days bring along a mac laptop, maybe a few controllers. sleep museum and the rest of the evening’s performers took up the entire stage with gear and wires probably not seen onstage here in such quantity and vintage since depeche mode first toured the US in the early 80s. the music was a blend of pre-sequenced minimal synthesizer bleeps with live mixing and key changes. he topped this off with bleak, discordant singing, vocally and visually reminiscent of iggy pop drowning in echo.
the following act, epee du bois, took this sound even further, adding ever-darker layers of synthetic drones and electronic percussion while changing tempos. it was great to see cheyney thompson looking like the classic bookworm/science lab tech, generating such dark sounds howling into the void. this sonic/visual dichotomy was further underscored by the later appearance of sean mcbride, who’d also just crouched behind an onstage mixer for sleep museum’s set. mcbride has the dirty blond, clean-cut look of a member of haircut one hundred, but clearly knows his way around a synth far more than that lightweight combo ever did. together they played an incredible long dark instrumental piece. i eagerly await a full-length release from thompson's project.
after that, mcbride remained onstage for two more sets, the first with vocalist liz wendelbo as xeno and oaklander, and secondly in solo form as martial canterel. wierd impresario pieter schoolwerth was right to offhandedly call him “the genius of wierd records” when we met briefly. both sets were dead center on the coldwave sound, but unique in their own way, not an unenjoyable moment through the end.
soaking in the glorious analog noise, i didn't want to leave, knowing this sort of thing doesn't happen very often (although the wierd party has resumed weekly installments). hopefully this compilation and night will kick-start the growth of music inspired from dark obscure places.
the title of this post comes from the song of the same name by blacklist.