Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stretch the skin until it's taught

Last Thursday, I saw local experimetal bands The Better to See You With and Silentist put on a great show at Berbati's Pan. I wrote a review of it that came out in Saturday's Oregonian.

I have to admit, in hindsight, I didn't do the best job of writing for the O's audience in this case, and for that reason, a lot of the meaning of the write up was lost in editing (for instance, it would be hard for Silentist to play a prerecorded track, seeing as how it's prerecorded, and I neglected to consider that saying the band played to a prerecorded track might look like a typo to the non-initiated).

So, here is the version of the article I filed the morning after the show. Go see Silentist on Sunday at Ground Kontrol with Thrones and DJ Nate C.

Last Thursday, as the galleries of Northeast Alberta St opened their doors to the strolling public for the street's monthly art walk, a few miles southwest at Berbati's Pan, there was something of an audio gallery for the brave.

With no need for jackets nor to pay a cover, the warm night maintained a loose feeling in contrast to the heavy sounds. The bassist, drummer, and vocalist who form Portland's Silentist each faced forward in a row, like actors giving monologs in an experimental theater production tied together by a melodically discordant prerecorded piano track composed by drummer and bandleader Mark Burden.

As a drummer of great strength, Burden lent an uncanny dynamism to a cover of a song by sometimes monotonous Norwegian black metal pioneers Burzum. He built intensity until the crowd knew just when he'd strike the final, brutal blow, and from motionlessness, struck it with their heads.

Meanwhile, vocalist August Alston walked between the spread out crowd of about 50, who as he swayed, screamed and chanted, felt comfortable with him, not confronted, as if by a punk vocalist. The air was appreciation for the confidence and ease with which Alston produces inhuman sounds. "He's got some of the best pipes in the city," commented audience member Dan Barone.

After midnight, local four-piece The Better To See You With finished the evening with selections from their eponymous LP released earlier this year on local label Celestial Gang. Vocalist Fae Knutson, dressed in three-inch heels and a gold sequined dress, periodically built melodic trust by singing softly with gospel-like keyboards...for about 15 seconds. Then all was crushed in impressively tight bursts of spastic near-cacophony featuring guitar feedback played like a theramin by varying the distance from the amp, only to return to a moment quiet enough to hear Knutson recover from screaming with heavy breath.

Despite the dual nature of the music, it maintained an incredible flow--some watched with their eyes shut. Others remained fixed on Knutson, who, in moments of passion, bared her sharp K-9 teeth. With only the occasional intelligible lyrical fragment, like "stretch the skin until it's taught," she seemed like monster talking to herself, unaware anyone was watching and thus revealed to be both child-like and ferocious.

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