Wrekmeister Harmonies - One man sits on stage with a guitar and promises us a 30-minute composition. And exactly 30 minutes later, Chicago based J.R. Robinson not only kept accurate time, but delivered a lovely hard ambient soundscape filled with imagination and even a touch of humor. Spacey guitar pillows and droning background sounds lay out space for soft spoken vocals that build in intensity. The guitar noise moves up a few notches as well before ceding to a quiet finish filled with odd lyrical bursts including a few lines from the Meat Puppets' "Lake of Fire". This reminded me of Robbie Basho's "Zarthus" album with its contemplative sonic intensity, and Basho may have played in this manner if he was born 20 years later. There were also vocal moves that were reminiscent of Alan Vega from Suicide with a trace of Nick Cave. Woven Hand likes to play live with drone bands, which create an interesting comparison and contrast with what they have evolved into. And this set was effective both as part of that overall pattern or by itself as a way to spend 30 minutes floating between highly active and passive listening. And in chatting with him afterward about a new album coming out featuring strings, and many musicians collaborating, I will want to keep up with this interesting musician.
Woven Hand - This band is on a short list of bands I will always go out of my way to see and whose records, I am constantly replaying year after year, likely until I expire. David Eugene Edwards has been a genius of a songwriter ever since he began 16 Horsepower in my former hometown of Denver, Colorado. Woven Hand has evolved from a solo project into a full band featuring Ordy Garrison on drums and a variety of players and combinations that now comes to us as a trio with a bass player filling the gap between percussion and the intensity of DEE's vocals, guitars, and banjos. Intensity is the word a friend of mine used when he saw them recently and I would add mesmerizing as rarely am I as transfixed by a 75 minute set of music as I was by tonight's performance. This is a very heavy Woven Hand, sonically speaking, as there are subtle droning sounds going on somewhere in the mix, as well as masterful control of guitar feedback, and constant bass work segueing the many songs from their recent albums. Yet the real heaviness is the journey we take following this music forward into dark mystical territory. Answers are not there, but insights develop as the assembled crowd follows along, with far more rapt listening than that of a crowded DC9 show. It was good to see several Xes on hands here, along with the many people that like I, have been following this music for a long, long time. Rather than write more, it is time to lean back and continue to absorb this profound experience while the music surrounds my head.
Quote of the Night: From the introduction before the Wrekmeister Harmonies set... "Don't talk, but if you have some thoughts (during the set), write them down and put them under your pillow tonight and I'll come by and give you a shiny quarter. No answers, but you'll get a shiny new quarter."