Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Feel a bit remiss for not writing about the amaaaaaaazing Animal Collective/Gang Gang Dance/Black Dice show of over two weeks over. Work and woe (it’s been a bit of a grim summer for the Press/Reynolds clan) is one reason, but the other one is that the gig--at least the Animal Collective part of it--was indescribably good. Literally: it scrambled my critical faculties, completely paralysed that veteran reviewer’s default-mode of influence-tagging and "sounds like X crossed with Y/missing link between Z and G" type comparison. Well almost completely: there was an element to the vocals in one song early on that made me momentarily think of Meat Puppets, less for singing style as such than just the feeling it gave off--this bliss-shattered pantheistic splayed-ness of soul and psyche vaguely redolent of things like "We’re Here". Plus the song referenced a swimming pool, making me think of the Puppets' "Swimming Ground". Oh, and yes, later it did strike me the singer (Panda Bear?) might have listened to Arthur Russell's World of Echo-type stuff a bit (an impression strengthened having now heard his forthcoming solo album Young Prayer, which is excellent). But otherwise, nothing: I spent the entire gig blissfully freefalling in an adjectival void, reeling inside a glory so (yuck, I hate this word, loathe it even more than "savvy" and "smarts") sui generis that the application of predicates, tropes and reference points would have been presumptous and petty, as well as plain inadequate. And which I couldn't do anyway, cos that part of the brain was just switched off, or flooded out. So basically I’ve put off writing about it really for fear of emitting a burbling stream of superlatives. Truly, though, one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever witnessed.

Gang Gang Dance were also really really excellent, and almost as much of a thwarter of description. There’s something about vocalist Lizzi that put me in mind of Alison from The Cranes--not ‘cos they sound alike particularly, but because of a quality of being initially grating but eventually captivating, or perhaps more accurately, being grating/captivating at the same time (it’s not like you get used to the voice, it continues to set your teeth on edge all the way through). I couldn’t describe technically what she was doing (it all seemed to be sharp, or microtonal or possibly even harmolodic) but the effect really was like vinegar to the ears. The band behind her musically moved in this strange, sidling gait--the only thing I could think of was the idea of some world where all music derived from "Birthday" by The Sugarcubes. The drummer, most impressive, often seemed like he’d only ever listened to programmed rhythm, really askew and fucked-up drum’n’bass, and had taught himself to play like that on live drums, except that sometimes the drums sounded enhanced in some obscure hard-to-fathom way (there was a similar acoustica-meets-hitech element running through AC’s sound). The keyboard player, also splendid, was one minute making sounds like coral shimmering; the next, unfurling pagoda-like jags of ceremonial bombast. Gang Gang Dance were the first band to play, and the place (Bowery Ballroom, so not small) was pretty much packed from the off, and the response was really warm and supportive. (For Animal Collective, it was almost uproariously fervent).

Only bummer was that headliners Black Dice, who I’d heard such good things about as an super-intense live experience, seemed on poor form--to me it just seemed like a series of disconnected scrapes and grackling noises. The overall vibe was like bad sex, a couple trying to get it on when neither are really in the mood. After the first two bands, literally anti-climactic.

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