Thursday, May 10, 2007

the unbearable closeness of blonde redhead (w/ fields), webster hall, 5/8/07

this past tuesday, new york was swamped by a literal deluge of excellent concerts, from the re-sold on ebay for $500+ amy winehouse and patrick wolf to a solo ben gibbard to the repeat dates of bjork, beirut, and the arcade fire (they don't get a link because i don't like them). but i didn't go to any of these shows. first of all, i definitely don't have 500 bucks lying around for some jackass of a scalper, i don't like death cab, i would've loved to see final fantasy (opening for beirut), but i wasn't too impressed with beirut last summer at mccarren, and, besides, i like blonde redhead more than any of these guys.

so i was off to webster hall. i hadn't been there before, and i was excited to check it out. i arrived a few minutes into the fields set, which, in retrospect, i'm a little disappointed about. an anglo-icelandic quintet, fields layers lush melodies over startling distortion, bringing to mind both the noise aesthetic of the my bloody valentine and a folk sound, driven by frontman nick peill's acoustic strumming. finely textured, fields pairs heavily distorted guitar lines with the husky soprano of thorunn antor, the icelandic keyboardist who shares vocal duties with peill. some fields songs have been floating around, which really define their sound (i especially like "song for the fields"), and their set didn't disappoint. what is really refreshing about fields is the ease with which they blend tight pop rhythms with determined noise patterns, breathing life into the somewhat stifled "shoegaze" genre. except for a fashion faux pas (see below), fields performed an excellent set that clearly pleased others as well as me, because their debut LP, everything last winter, was sold out at the merch table after the show. released earlier this week on atlantic (and from whence the mp3s came), promises to build on their EP of last year, 7 from the village. some of the new tracks are streaming at their myspace, and i've posted "song for the fields" below. i've also tossed in "brittlesticks" from 7 from the village, and i really recommend to everyone to go out and get the new album. here's another picture of fields i took.

i find that a lot of venues, or bands, or both, really aren't aware of the role that light plays in creating the right atmosphere during a performance, but that certainly wasn't the case during this show. the lights during the fields set were really good, but whoever was minding the board during the blonde redhead set really knew their shit. from the timing and connectivity with the music, i would assume that the lighting person travels with blonde redhead, which definitely increases my estimation of them. ive been doing a lot of thinking about how to describe blonde redhead, and haven't really found some satisfactory adjectives. to my ear, blonde redhead's music exists as a paradox. the oeuvre is simple, but the sound is complex; songs sound similar, but each is unique; the aesthetic is apparent, but the performance is layered. i really like blonde redhead, but without any one of their songs standing out as being better than any other. the minimalism of the vocals and melodies are perfectly complemented by the nuanced drums and distorted sounds. blonde redhead songs often operate with a continuously chugging guitar that sounds atmospheric, rather than repetitive. kazu makino and amadeo pace (his twin brother, simone, has drumming duties in the band) share vocals and guitars (makino also plays keyboard) and all three have really fluid onstage chemistry, which is no doubt aided by makino's marriage to the guitar-playing pace. i've posted "23" from their new album of the same name, and "falling man" from 2003's misery is a butterfly. instead of trying to describe blonde redhead's sound any further, i'm going to finish the writeup of this show by posting a number of photos. as i said, the lighting really accentuated blonde redhead's set, and it really spoke deeply to me about their music overall. so, without further ado, blonde redhead.

final words: we got a double encore. it was fucking sweet. the title of the post refers to the way i felt surrounded, nearly encompassed by the bass of the drum machine. at one point in the set, after not speaking at all, makino called a time-out, and asked the crowd if the bass was too high. upon hearing that it was, blonde redhead offered many apologies, and genuinely seemed ashamed. these artists obviously take their work incredibly seriously, which seems to be something special. not only do they clearly gain pleasure from performing, they treat it professionally, no sloppily put together work here. blonde redhead are real artists, and it was really special to see them.

fields - "song for the fields" "brittlesticks" buy everything last winter here.

blonde redhead - "23" "falling man" buy blonde redhead stuff from 4AD here.

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