Monday, June 24, 2013

Currente calamo: NXNE 2013 (Friday)

NXNE 2013 (Friday, June 14, 2013)

While these shows are fresh in my mind I want to get some quick notes down. In the fullness of time there will be a more complete accounting of the night that'll include even more details and recordings.

10 p.m.: Mexican Slang @ Creatures Creating

After spending the day at the 159 Manning BBQ, I took a quick trip just around the corner to drop into the Creatures Creating gallery, home to a three-night stand of NXNE shows curated by Wavelength. The spot was easily recognizable, given the swirling colours of General Chaos swirling in the front window, but the show turned out to be in the let's-call-'em-cozy environs of the low-ceilinged basement, with a stage at the back similarly receiving the GC treatment against the backdrop of Alex MacKenzie's glittery backdrop.

I was just in time, with Mexican Slang finishing their preparations and launching into their set. I'd been hearing good things about vocalist/guitarist Annabelle Lee's quartet for months, but had never worked things out to check for myself. As it turned out, this was right down my alley, with their "fuzzy heavy dreamy punk rock jams" sounding something like a poppy version of Homestead-era Sonic Youth that had installed Kim Gordon as fulltime leader. The band was rough around the edges in the best way — though the collapsible NXNE backline might have contributed to that. Racing through a short set, this definitely left me wanting more.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

11 p.m.: We Were Heads @ Creatures Creating

I stuck around for one more set to check out another band that was totally new to me. Hitting the stage with enough enthusiasm that they got started early, my initial impression of We Were Heads was a shouty sort of metallo-funk party band. After a few songs, I got a sense of the cultivation behind the clatter, and a notion that you might want to append a semi-ironic "avant" to whatever genre tag you'd assign 'em. They didn't make as big of an initial impression on me, but I'm sure I'd find them suitable for further evaluation. If nothing else, give them points for having the good sense not to end their band name with a "z".

Midnite: Bill Orcutt + Chris Corsano @ Double Double Land

If Wavelength are mildly-unexpected presenters at NXNE, then having a couple Burn Down the Capital shows under the festival's umbrella was an all-out jaw-dropper. In the best way, mind you — I was thrilled that as another option on the schedule grid that some folks might get exposed to some of the city's most dynamic cultural programming. This set was the capper of a night of full-on noise-rock at the (equally-surprising-to-be-a-venue) Double Double Land that saw sets from Brian Ruryk and a temporarily-reunified Induced Labour.

I've heard a bit of Chris Corsano's apocalyptic drum work, but I mostly knew of Bill Orcutt (and his time in Harry Pussy) by reputation. As the pair settled in to play, Orcutt looked fairly relaxed — almost professorial — sitting on his amp. It was quickly apparent that these two were working on a pretty advanced level. Where a lot of improvised music works on the principle of starting off and kinda meandering along until the musicians lock into an idea, this set dispensed with that. Each of these pieces hit the ground running, compressed as tightly as diamonds, a controlled burst of energy and then done. Even while marshalling spazzy explosions from his guitar, Orcutt managed to convey a sense of restraint. Corsano was a bit more openly galloping along, but his playing always had a laser-guided sensibility behind it. It was less than twenty minutes into the set when Orcutt called out the last song, but it still felt like there was more musical content than most sets of double that length. Next level chaos theory, expertly applied.

Listen to a couple tracks from this set here.

1 a.m.: The Luyas @ Sneaky Dee's

Wanderin' circumstance ended up re-programming my night, which is how I ended up seeing The Luyas. Not a band that I sit down to listen to very often, I have come to enjoy them as a live act, and given I'd last seen them on the cusp of the release of their Animator album, I was curious to see how things had developed.

Even in a smaller venue for a festival-sized set, the band had brought along their DIY lightbulb rig — and there was a larger sense of scale at play as the band was willing to play fewer fully-fleshed out songs than try and trim and tuck more tunes in. In that regard, album-opener "Montuno" sprawled over the middle of the set, its lowkey pulsations managing to capture the attention of a somewhat wayward crowd. Though stretching out to forty-five minutes, this felt like a quick set and that the band had a whole second act that they had to hold back on.

Listen to a track from this set here.

2 a.m.: Majical Cloudz @ Sneaky Dee's

I think I've already said what I have to say about this here. You can listen to a track from this set here.

1 Prolific recorders, the band also has a quartet of EP's available for (free!) download on their bandcamp. Recorded with a rough-and-ready lo-fi aesthetic, there's a bit less groove than in the live incarnation, but also shows off the range of Lee's compositional interests.

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