Having no point of reference for the instrumental music of the Ahleuchatistas before going to this show was like walking into a movie having seen no trailers and heard no spoilers. As such, I was gifted a relatively objective experience with this energized duo and found it striking and refreshing.
The inevitable conflict that arises for many of Ahleuchatistas' contemporaries in the complex and oftentimes recondite post-rock genre is the tension between the effortless ability to impress with virtuosity while simultaneously maintaining integrity and clarity of message. At what point do awe-inspiring chops overshadow the clarity of the message?
Luckily, Ahleuchatistas seemed to constantly engage in an honest dialogue with their audience. They perform stunning and dexterous feats of superb musicianship without it feeling like a talent show. Most of the songs, especially the new material from Arrebato, felt effortless and giddy as though the duo were not only the conductors of the train but also its most excited passengers.
The tightly composed, blazing fast interludes never felt over-rehearsed or contrived and gave the listener the sense of present danger, as though the looped, oscillating guitar melodies were at risk of derailing a bullet train from the tracks. Effortless and capable, even the most complicated polyrhythmic sections in odometers felt natural and familiar. This is music that hinges less on complexity and more on authenticity and efficacy of message. It's a testament to the practice of art and the art of practice.
The less structured improvised moments of the set washed over the audience in seamless conversations between guitarist Shane Parish and drummer Ryan Oslance. A bold, fearless musical story arc emerged, keeping listeners glued to the pages, anxious to hear where the narrative would transport them next.
These looping, rhythmic vignettes that Ahleuchatistas can create resemble something you may find in other ritual music throughout human history, which explains why this duo garners so many nods from the pseudo-genre of "international music influence." It's not that they're dabbling in the styles and trappings of other cultures with an appropriative eye, it's that they've undone the modern western influence of heroic riffs and stadium hooks and are comfortable creating ritualistic music that grows and blooms in a more honest, contemplative way. It speaks to a universal language of creation, and the form and rhythm of sustained practice, both in art and in life.
Ryan Oslance told us after the show in humble demeanor that he lived half of the year off the grid in the woods outside of Asheville, NC, practicing his craft. A refreshing story of sustained ritual and devotion in the digital age of pocket sized distraction and endless self-promotion.
This communion of music and daily practice is championed by Ahleuchatista's genre-bending label, International Anthem, and is gaining traction with more postmodern listeners looking to reconnect to their place in the universe without Western bravado or cultural dogma. This flag is carried by other successful Post-Western acts, such as Rob Jacobs (also on International Anthem), Wei Zhongle (which Jacobs fronts) as well as OOIOO, Rhyton and Niños du Brasil.
An exceptional artist is not only able to deftly express themselves but also reveals something to you about yourself. Some bands will ask you to labor hard for this revelation (especially in the math-rock genre), but Ahleuchatistas provide room in their music for me to have that experience. And at the mercy of their incredible skill, I could've been easily muscled out.
This was one of the finer shows I've witnessed in recent memory, and an optimistic indication of where 2720's new booking manager, Kaveh Razani, is steering the venue. This show was deftly supported by local rippers, Biggie StarDust, The Conformists and the abominable Skin Tags.
If you participated in the nationwide festivities of Record Store Day this year, you may have caught local vinyl-slinger turned rock n' roll singer Miss Molly Simms performing on stage at Euclid Records. She released a 4-song EP titled Borrowed or Sold, just in time for the upbeat holiday that celebrates all things wax.
With her last album, One Way Ticket, receiving high marks from local music critics, the new EP is a continuation of her mix and match genre, a blended composite of rock and blues, with a punk-like snarl to boot. Her lyricism shines through in songs like "Let Me Down," with searching lines like "I've been looking for the real thing / but I know this ain't where it's found" -- all built around a galloping drum beat and a garage rock mindset. Simms has always kind of remained in the gutter -- writing about bad men, looking for love and whiskey -- but has always kept her sights on the stars, regularly playing hotspots all over St. Louis and making a name for herself.
She's backed on the EP by Jamey Almond on bass and Zagk Gibbons on guitar, drums and keys (who also recorded the album) -- the pair make for a steady rhythm section, but it's saxophonist Zac Minor who adds catchy brass hooks that pair well with Molly's Social Distortion-inflected register. The entire EP is classic Simms but somehow an evolution of what she's become known for -- great rock hooks and a boisterous sound that's sure to please fans of every genre.
Touring to support their second album "Escapements," Brooklyn-based indie R&B duo Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett held forth mood upon mood.
It's hard not to fall a little in love with live music. Live music implicates and makes present a necessary sense of touch. All of the elements are there, seductive at a thoroughly formal level. Hands cradle instruments; fingers seek and press upon carefully considered triggers of sound. There are lips and ears -- embodied inputs and outputs to which we otherwise allow only the most intimate physical access. Live voice is the proximity of mouth to mic, alternately smiling, singing, or spitting into its mesh. The volume is overwhelming. It follows you to the bathroom or bar, and sound hangs on in your ears afterward, lingering like a scent, fading only over time.
On Friday, Cherokee St. arts incubator the Luminary hosted a sold-out performance by the atmospheric, enthralling, and deeply intelligent band Foxing, who returned to their home of St. Louis with tourmates O'Brother, Tancred, and Adjy. And in short, I loved it.
Not exactly analogous to a one-night stand, the love in live music comes in often unavoidable phases that come together as the whole story only after the night's over. Anticipation: the line that winds around the building before the show, as chillier-than-expected April wind creeps into your collar. Frustration: having someone too tall in front of you. Anxiety: worrying that you are too tall for whoever is behind you. Nagging: the unsatisfiable need for more vocals in the monitor, for which bands have yet to find a cool way to ask. The needs of the other: the merch that they entreat you to buy. Obligation: the merch that you do buy, enabling another day on the road. Dissatisfaction: the just okay third opener, whom you could have done without. Platitudes: Foxing singer Conor Murphy's thankful parting words to the crowd, that St. Louis is "the greatest city in the world." And finally, at least in my case, the compulsion to overshare the experience, to tell everyone, to want the world to know.
The show opened with the communicable youthfulness of North Carolina six-piece Adjy. Like a too-good student who emails the professor for advance access to the syllabus, Adjy were earnest, admirable, and awkward. The slow build of many songs eventually became anthemic and full, with soaring lead vocals bolstered by the interjection of supporting shouts. Then, during one song's extended middle lull, several of the members pulled paperback books from among their instruments and began to read, at once performing and affirming their romantic sensibilities. It was cute, although I imagine that they will one day look back on this gesture with a bit of blushing.
Adjy was followed by Tancred, whose recently released album Out of the Garden finds songwriter Jess Abbott expanding the intimate, almost secretive scope of her earlier work. With an eager and uncompromising fearlessness, Abbott's songwriting examines the variable effects of attraction, uncertainty, and strength. Her new songs simply ask to be turned up a little louder. Traversing sounds and textures of the 1990s, Out of the Garden offers welcome echoes of Veruca Salt, Nirvana, Weezer, and That Dog, among countless other points of departure. Abbott opened with a timely dedication to Kesha, "who needs it right now," before launching into the song "Pens," in which aggressively catchy guitars ratify the ominous confidence of the chorus ("I'm insanely healthy in my head / It's crazy how stable I am"). Throughout the focused set, Abbott delivered her lyrics with a subtle smile and almost victorious confidence -- the joy, it seemed, of someone who can transmute darkness into something big, beautiful, and fun.
Tancred was followed by the Atlanta five-piece O'Brother, whose heavy, moody music is what you might listen to after your high school football team just got crushed in the district semifinals. Throughout their set, it was hard not to feel an impatience for Foxing, to whom the night truly belonged. Their indefatigable touring schedule had brought them to this triumphant homecoming in St. Louis, surrounded by a capacity crowd that would, by the band's own onstage admission, doubtlessly impress the parents and girlfriends who were also in attendance. Before and between songs, Murphy and the other four members of Foxing frequently thanked their hometown for its support, and the crowd responded with the kind of protective, resolute enthusiasm that St. Louisans confer upon their perceived cultural patrimony, from pizza to parishes to professional sports.
Foxing opened with "The Medic" and "The Magdalene," two tracks that easily accommodate a roaring voice of an audience who they knew would will sing the words right back to them. Later moments were intense in other ways, as ethereal textures and complex sonic densities gave the audience more to inhabit, but less to hold on to. Spanning songs from 2014's breakthrough album The Albatross and their more recent Dealer, Foxing performed with cohesion and conviction that contrasts powerfully with their lyrics, which often convey a deeply felt ambivalence, indecision, and longing. They finished the night with a stretched-out version of "Rory," which builds on the early stabs of a single piano key to the powerful, unresolved appeal: "Why don't you love me back?"
If live music is at all like love, then we did.
Electro-indie band Joywave opened for Metric at the Pageant on Friday night.