Friday, December 28, 2012

Gig: SIANspheric

SIANspheric (Ringo Deathstarr)

The Garrison. Thursday, June 30, 2011.

As always, I'm a fool for thinking that a rock'n'roll show would start on time, but the fact that even the doors for this one were forty-five minutes after the listed time rankled a bit. Even with that later start, it was pretty empty in the Garrison's backroom as a DJ plied their trade. It was encouraging to see General Chaos visual were on the scene, providing their trademark swirling visuals — a perfect backdrop for the hazy guitar textures on tap.

There was also an impressive heap of Marshall amps on stage, plus a bass cabinet covered by a rising sun flag — a visual signal that Ringo Deathstarr were equipped to bring the volume. The first thing to know about the Austin-based three-piece is that they are worthy of a far less goofy moniker. The second is that their sound is closely indebted to a narrow slice of British guitar rock extending roughly from Spacemen 3 to shoegaze. Although at this point they hadn't quite grown past putting new wine in old bottles, they played with a charming vigour, and were clearly embraced by a crowd that was too young to have seen this stuff in person the first couple times around.

Opening with ear-bleeding feedback whitenoise, "Tambourine Girl" alternated slow surging rumbles with jaunty pop hooks, the yearning in guitarist Elliott Frazier's barely-comprehensible lyrics coming to focus in the "Touch me touch me touch you there" chorus. "So High", with its back-and-forth vox between Frazier and Alex Gehring, showed the band at their catchiest. Gehring spent most of the set on her three-stringed bass, but switched over to guitar from time to time. There was also a lot of heavily-processed synthy backing tracks underlying the guits.

Touring on their debut full-length Colour Trip1, the band played as many songs from their pre-album singles2. There was something to like about pretty much all the tunes, but also a few places that drew too much attention to themselves, such as "Some Kind of Sad" which went beyond being an homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain and right into sounding like a thinly-veiled rewrite. The baggy dance beats of "In Love" worked better in this regard, recalling Primal Scream without aping them too much.

And while the band did a good job of moving from song to song, the tasty "Summertime" was undercut at the end when it just drifted into guitar-tuning. But otherwise, they built some momentum toward the end of the set seguing about six songs together in a non-stop barrage while the projections melded on the wall behind them over a slide of earthrise as seen from the moon. They were joined at the end by some of the members of SIANspheric — Sonic Unyon, their longtime label has released RD's albums, and there was obvious affection between the bands.

Listen to a couple tracks from this set here.

That sense of respect-your-elders that Ringo Deathstarr showed the nominal headliners was not so obvious among their audience, about half of whom split before SIANspheric took the stage, skewing the average age in the crowd up by about a decade. Although that did keep the audience age in line with that of the performers.

Although I was certainly aware of the Hamilton group back in their late-90's heyday, they were one of the groups of Sonic Unyon's Rock Hits era that I was never really into. At the time it wouldn't have made any sense to me, but now their woozy, ambient/shoegaze leanings are the sort of thing I can appreciate much more. Though never breaking up, there have been some sabbaticals and lineup changes in their discontinuous history, and I was glad to have a chance to see this newly-reactivated group in action.

Still a four-piece in their current incarnation, bass and drums provide a framework to the guitars, with vocalist Sean Ramsay employing a knee-high rack of effects while Ryan Ferguson (also of Electroluminescent) also threw in some analog synth. There were a more modest number of amps for this set, but the stage was by no means spare, and they still had the tools to blast out the volume as required.

The set began with a tasty saturated blast of guitar hum that hit me in a good spot. The first songs on the setlist were "Bright Lights" and "Starfucker" — unfamiliar titles, presumably from the storehouse of music the band has been working on since releasing their last longplayer in 20013. I'm not sure the one of those ended and the other began — there was basically a noise section that segued into a slower, psychedelic middle and then worked its way back up into noise.

"Jahm", another of the new songs, was a great success, if not the highlight of the set. It offered a gentle glide of guitar sliding behind just a hint of whispered vox buried way down. Certainly not constrained to verse/chorus type songs, the set generally offered contrasting spells of noisy shoegaze squall with quiet interludes like "No Space".

Building up to a final frenzy, they ended with the implosion of "All on Standby", Ferguson swinging his effects pedal around in the way most guitarists swing their axes while Ramsay spiked his guit to the stage floor a couple times, before falling to his knees to generate noise by twiddling knobs as the rhythm section headed off stage.

There's no firm announcement yet on any of their new material seeing release, but it sounds like good stuff. There's a general propensity to pay attention to the new in the face of longstanding, patient bands like SIANspheric, but here's hoping that they'll get their due whenever the new material does emerge.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 That "u" in "colour" is quite possibly a bit of a giveaway to the band's not-so-latent anglophilia.

2 These would be subsequently be compiled on the Sparkler release.

3 There was, however, a 7" single released in 2006 and an EP in '03, as well as a couple archival releases along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment