Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dead Echoes @ House of Tinnitus

In my short post about Dead Echoes yesterday, I referred to Zanzibar Snails' music as "free jazz," which prompted one of the band members to quickly reject the label in a comment thread. My initial reaction was indifference (I guess they can call themselves whatever they want, I thought), but after I pondered it for a couple of minutes, I realized that my use of the term might have been a bit lazy and overreaching, even though I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from a band that I hadn't experienced in person. After finally getting to see Zanzibar Snails perform at the House of Tinnitus last night, however, I am now completely sure that the term "free jazz" doesn't describe their music at all, and the only real link I can find between them and Ornette Coleman is a saxophone. Last night's Dead Echoes fest at House of Tinnitus was full of surprises like that, and it was honestly one of the better local shows I've seen this year.

Despite what some of the anon comment posters seem to think, I'm not really the biggest "noise" or "drone" guy in the world. Sure, there are many free form and ambient electronic groups that I like, and I probably listen to a lot more "noise" than your average indie dude on Blog Street. But as I've said before, some of my interest in that music is more theoretical than experience oriented, and quite frankly, I often find a lot of it to be lacking in anything truly compelling or profound on either level. Of course, this isn't to say that even subpar noise doesn't have some sort of value outside of how one normally values rock or pop music, its just that a lot of it doesn't hit me where I want it to, conceptually or otherwise.

This is why visiting the House of Tinnitus last night was such a pleasure. Right off the bat, I think it should be said that there didn't seem to be any kind of pretentious holier than thou vibe to be found anywhere on the property, despite what some people would have you believe. Spending just a few minutes in the middle of the respectably sized and good natured crowd that we encountered last night was enough to reveal what is really going on in various corners of Denton: relaxed, intelligent and fun groups of people putting on good shows, enjoying one another's company, and passively not giving a shit what people on blogs think about them. If anything, the energy that we encountered at House of Tinnitus was healthier and more welcoming than that which exists at many of the venues we've visited around town in recent months, and I was glad to see it.

The music we heard once we settled in was consistently provocative, decidedly forward thinking, and often innovative. My idea of what Zanzibar Snails would be like completely changed within the first minute or two of their performance, which started off with a low hum of keyboards and guitars before slowly and gracefully building up to several points of soaring frenzy with doses of sharp, heavy saxophone holding everything together. The sax was incredibly well played and almost always front and center throughout the performance, but it was really only a small part of the mood and atmosphere that the band created, mixing jagged, noisy guitar bursts with thick layers of ghostly, trance inducing sound swirls that certainly took anyone who was paying attention on a ride that was constantly rising and falling and rising again. It seemed that as soon as they locked into any kind of pattern or groove, they would abruptly and appropriately move things forward with the slash of a guitar or a pause for space to creep in, celebrating their ability to throw you off guard while regaining your attention an instant later. The constant back and forth resulted in a genuinely satisfying set that was intense but surprisingly organic and easy to digest.

After their pleasurable but draining performance, we were happy to discover that OVEO packed a punch equally powerful but slightly more hypnotic, spacey and lush. With a nearly constant electronic drum beat serving as a pattern forming and repetitive background, Oveo crafted dark, glacial waves of buzzing electro noise that didn't invite you to listen as much as force you to hear, allowing the music to control the room and be absorbed into the audience while taking a life of its own. As they got deeper into their set, a complexity and cohesiveness that we hadn't heard in their previous work with You Are the Universe made itself quite apparent, as the group displaying its ability to properly utilize repetition while dancing around thinly layered rhythms with a tape machine to keep things interesting and ever-expanding, invading the subconscious while also putting on a show. Paul Baker's strong and surreal visuals also worked their magic throughout all the sets we saw, effectively playing to the music and sometimes taking a life of their own.

Noise rock isn't for everyone, and you can expect an outright rejection of this music to continue in some circles around town no matter how good these guys get. But the strong performances we witnessed last night (including a part of PD Wilder's excellent set) and the excitement surrounding them were refreshing in a way that few other experiences in local music have been this year. These bands aren't going to slap you across the face with something that you can jam out to at any time in any place. Instead, it seems that the performers and audience members in attendance at House of Tinnitus last night were there to create and consume music (and beer) that is meant to be enjoyed in a manner that simply doesn't have anything to do with most rock music, approaching the listening experience inside out, upside down, and every which way but conventionally. This fact isn't good or bad in and of itself, its just different, and there are a lot of musicians and cliques in the area that could only hope to have as much fun as the House of Tinnitus folks were having last night. I'd even be willing to wager that if some of the haters around here attended the next Tinnitus show with an open mind, they too might find many of the pleasant surprises we did. The term "free jazz" probably wouldn't even come up on the ride back to Dallas.


Anonymous Dead Echoes said...

not trying to be a jerk, but its P.D. Wilder

awesome article, and thanks for coming out!

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent review. We need more of this.

House of Tinnitus sounds cool in theory, but I'm afraid that if I attend, I will end up with some nasty inflammatory infection, such as the "Walleyed Rigors".

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no pressing matters today???

12:04 PM  
Anonymous -|zs|- said...

Thanks S.R. -- let us know if you want a CDr. Anybody else for that matter, they are available on our ms page. It's a recording of a previous live show that was more accessible and melodic ... except for the many wandering brainwave sections of pure thickness and static.

Wish you could have seen Venison Whirled and Ethereal Planes Indian for a further redefinition of what musiq is and means. A very powerful evening, ture ...

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, was this AMAZING?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous funny police said...

no, it was INCREDIBLE.


4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, it sucked, and you suck, and you are the fagiverse

5:41 PM  

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