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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Grails at il motore

Grails + Lilacs & Champagne + Wrekmeister Harmonies  |  Il Motore

THE FIRST ONE WAS GOOD  |  SEAN ZUMBUSCH

This show at Il Motore was a dusty road intersection in the west. Not much happens in that particular area; there is merely a lonesome wooden shop building on the north-eastern corner, yellowed and sun-burnt grass under a gigantic blue sky, and a forested area in the distance that was strategically placed by people in order to hinder the movement of wind. In front of the wooden, shack-like, building, an elderly man sits in a rocking chair while reading a newspaper. A light wind blows and ruffles the man’s paper, but he is fine with it. That is the sound of the slow, heavy jams that I witnessed.

Wrekmeister Harmonies is one man with a cowboy hat, a long beard, a laptop, and an electric guitar. He sang sparse vocals along with ambient guitar riffing and an ever-changing backing drone that went from screeching violins (it really is too bad that he couldn’t bring some violinists with him) to more synthetic sounds. His whole set was one big long song that spanned a good forty-five minutes. It reminded me of material from Current 93, Sunn 0))), as well as some of the later works of Swans and Michael Gira’s solo material. I liked it. The guitar riffs varied in dynamics from lightly overdriven chords and arpeggios to fully fuzzed-out drone doom, and further on to all-out black metal inspired speed strumming. One thing that struck me about the performance was the audience’s reception to the set. Rather than the usual kind of interaction at a rock concert, the audience decided to sit cross-legged on the dance floor and rested their entire attention to the music and the performer. In that respect, it seemed more like a poetry reading or acoustic folk act in an independent bookstore than a concert at a scuzzy punk venue. Truly great stuff in the highest order.

Lilacs & Champagne came next. Unfortunately, this band suffered a setback earlier on their tour; they had all of their gear stolen in Atlanta and had to re-learn their entire set on Grails’ instruments. In fact, the two-piece had several members of Grails play with them in order to attempt to get the sounds they would have gotten with their original gear. They had to get new passports in Boston not long before the show, and so they did not get to the venue until about half an hour before they played. Given those setbacks, it wasn’t too bad, but unfortunately their songs didn’t translate too well on different instruments. Their songs involve a lot of sampling and synthesizers, and without those sounds they ended up sounding like a bunch of dudes jamming in the basement. They were tight and their compositions were thoughtful, but ultimately their set suffered absolutely from the lost gear. I would like to see them again with their full setup. 

Grails were the last band of the night, and they capped the evening with a set full of moody, slow and instrumental jams. They used heavy and dark synthesizers in their set, as well as ambient noise textures. The songs in their set revolved around a single theme for that particular song which the musicians would jam around for its entirety. It was music that was inspired by both jazz and psychedelic rock, and the crowd was into it. They stood up for these guys (as well as the last), and received the music well. There were some hot leads, as well as softer passages within the jams. I found their set to be a little underwhelming compared to Wreckmaster Harmonies’ performance, though. While they are good players, I found that they lacked the certain spark of genius that the opener displayed. I just couldn’t get it out of my head that they sounded like me and my buddies in Alberta jamming after a few beers, and I think that took something away from being able to enjoy Grails like I should have. 

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