Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cursive - Cymbals Eat Guitars - Conduits -- Black Cat - Apr 6 2012

Conduits - From the heartland of Omaha, Nebraska comes this indie rock Americana band. Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. There is a variety of sounds, but the things that come to my mind are dreampop, drone rock, psyche, and shoe gaze. The latter elements are ever so light and are handled like powerful, delicate seasonings. The immediate focus is on the Jenna Morrison's vocals which balance icy cool and hearfelt emotions with a leaning to the former. Imagine Natalie Merchant putting together a band with members of Ride, the Swirlies, and Teardrop Explodes and it may sound something like this. The dynamics are subtle and instead there is a smooth ride for much of the set. There is some sonic muscle that builds but not with the expected explosive payoff. It is mostly haunting hypnotic grooves with good balance among guitars, rhythm section and keys. That is mostly good, although it works better for a 32 minute set than the upcoming day where they will be headlining and playing for over an hour. And that day may not be too far away as the music fans at this heavily attended show, was getting into this band, who they likely had not heard at all before tonight. I enjoyed this set for maintaining accessibility with creative flourish and strong vocals.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Somehow I know this band, but really don't know much about them. Perhaps it is due to having a name that is pretty much unforgettable after you hear it. Whatever the case, this NY quartet with one guitar and keyboards creates the type of music I expect from them. And then they, of course, they twist and turn into various unexpected directions. Here are the extreme dynamic shifts which I discussed above. They have great pop moves, but the jarring volume increases are taken from shoegaze, but with their own rock approach. There are some really heavy swirling psyche effects at times, while other songs have a nice twisted pop melody. This one is tough to describe, but it is strangely intoxicating. They said they had two songs left and then played what seemed like three songs. Instead that turned out to be one massive psyche-prog masterpiece. I need to find out where they recorded that one. Then they closed out their 46 minute set with a far simpler number that left the crowd mostly pleased with perhaps a few puzzled looks here an there.
Cursive - Also from the home of Warren Buffett (a nice little city where I spent a week once), comes a five-piece band featuring keys, guitars, rhythm section and occasional trumpet. The sound was surprisingly off early on with thin guitars and overpowering drums and distracting lead vocals. By about the third song, the balance of the universe was restored and the music was getting more interesting. Pulsing rhythms had me enjoying this more in my subconscious than my initial note taking had indicated. I was feeling a tad skeptical at times and it may have been the strained vocal work in some songs. The more relaxed vocals were far richer and evocative and let me feel the music dancing away from any sort of cliched melody. Not far, but enough to give this band an interesting flavor. I can see why they have some popularity as there is something catchy, but by avoiding cliches, they can pull in a lot music heads looking for things on the unique side of the mundane. This is a tricky band that may take a few more listens for me, but that is more often a positive than not.

Quote of the Night: from Cymbals Eat Guitars after that great long psyche monster... "You guys like Hawkwind?   Oh yeah."

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