Saturday, February 28, 2009

Albany Sonic Arts Collective – Experimental New Music (C)

Featuring Century Plants, Grab Ass Cowboys, Ghoul Poon, Bad Costume, and Bone Parade

After nearly a year of watching good shows pass me up at the Upstate Artists Guild down the street from my apartment in the lovely lands of Albany, I decided to brave the unseasonably warm February weather to see Century Plants for the second time. To seal the deal, I perused the myspaces of the other acts playing and started getting pretty psyched for Bone Parade and Bad Costume, as well. So, I headed down to the fabled UAG to see what all the fuss was about, grabbed myself a seat, and waited. For a long time. Apparently Grab Ass Cowboys were supposed to be the opening act and one of their members was running late, so the show was delayed for about an hour. Eventually Century Plants offered to go first, and first they did go.

I had high hopes for Century Plants, of course, after their smashing success with Sunburned Hand of the Man last year. Unsurprisingly, their set was entirely different than the one I had experienced before. Where the “Sunburned” set trafficked in drones and beauty, this one began in stark contrast. The drones from before were still there, but this time they were pierced, interrupted, and ushered by the furious and percussive abuse of the second guitar. The set’s steady progression from beginning to end, eventually switching from bowed soundscapes to more chaotic tremolo picking, was gorgeous. The set was a highlight of the night, and ended up being a fantastic starting place.

Grab Ass Cowboys were up next. They had a cool noise set with a decent drummer backing them. Unfortunately, the drums were mostly inaudible, but what I could hear was a cool addition. The most memorable aspect of the set was seeing a rather tall dude climb on top of a precarious stack of amps, lay his guitar down, and then climb on top of that as well - all to have what I can only describe as a personal adventure with his head up between the rafters of the gallery. The music that ensued was a good mix of noise and face-ripping guitar solos that would do Matt Pike proud. The only proper way to wind down music of this proportion was the unorthodox, and fun-to-watch method picked by our gallery-astronaut… And that would be to get off his guitar, and use it as a tool to unplug everything in sight one by one until there were no sounds left but the backing ambience and drums.

Ghoul Poon. Apparently they played too long, but I didn’t notice until somebody turned the lights on. I’ll admit I never really understood Ghoul Poon on record, I don’t know whether it’s just not my thing or if it’s because I’ve never heard anything like it before, but it just strikes me as kind of confusing… Their set was good, though. Much more centered and slow than I was expecting. It ended up being sort of drones with pulsing bass underneath. It did run a bit long, long enough for the pre-recorded projections to run once and a half, and there wasn’t much to watch, but the projections were well done and provided a good companion to the music.

Bad Costume were easily the highlight of the night. Their improvised set, half electronics and half drums, was nearly flawless. Hella-mad-dumb-wicked-stupid props go out to the drummer for being able to play so intensely for so long. Until that night, Sunburned’s drummer was my hero… And now I have two. His playing style was innovative, full of unique fills great rhythm changes, and musicality. The electronics aspect was various samples mixed with lots and lots of heavy synthesizer to create a whirlwind of sound that could be compared with noise, but in no way similar. The combination of such a powerful sonic experience with easily the best projector piece of the evening was mind-blowing.

Bone Parade were a great cap for the evening. Right before their set I picked up a t-shirt and an album (Along with some Century plants, and a free Ghoul Poon album since nobody else was selling merch… If only I could get my hands on something bad-costume-related!), and hunkered in for some great dark-ambient-ish-industrial-whatever. Bone Parade offered a great, if a little repetitive, set full of material that would fit right on Einsturzende Neubauten’s Silence is Sexy right between “Alles” and “Redukt”. The very full bass and drum machine sounds created a fantastically desolate atmosphere as a platform for some great operatic vocals. To top it off, they made the excellent selection of a largely high-contrast black and white video that added some excellent light play t the atmosphere. A+, I say. Very enjoyable in all respects.

The Albany Sonic Arts collective managed to gather a great and diverse group of artists for a fantastic show. I really do look forward to seeing many more in the future, and encourage those that have the opportunity to attend shows by any of these artists to do so without fail!