My day started so pretty and got so raunchy.
Daughter was a gentle way to start the morning, at a showcase broadcast by Seattle's KEXP. The London-based trio, originally the solo project of Elena Tonra, was lovely and a bit dark at the same time.
Wooden Indian Burial Ground are from Portland, Ore. and were the rare breed of psychedelic garage music that rises above the mediocrity of most bands making this sort of music these days and gets me remembering why I've loved this kind of music for so long. Their sonics are loud but rich, with some sort of screeching, homemade synth box and a good dose of tremolo. The drummer consistently mimicked the melody and rhythm being played by the seeming bandleader and controller of said synth box and tremolo, guitarist Justin Fowler. Don't think I understood a single word all night. Oddly for me it didn't matter — I now need to find their music
Check out Bob Boilen's CMJ favorites from his first day at the Music Marathon.
That was just a warm-up for a very intense evening. Last night, NPR Music partnered with WNYC's Soundcheck for our one and only event during CMJ. And though we only booked three acts, (plus DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest) each was singular in their vision and demanded a lot from their audience. I left exhausted and exhilarated.
Buke and Gase have a sound like no one else. Their angular electrified guitar-ish-based sounds are from homemade instruments. One is a modified baritone ukulele (buke) and the other a guitar/bass hybrid (gase) made from an old Volvo. All of these tones are propelled by four very busy feet that trigger a thumping kick drum and a toe-bourine (I'll leave that up to your imagination). And in all of this are smart, sometimes oblique lyrics sung with passion in staccato. The duo played a lot of new songs, some from their current EP and some from their 2013 album. I love these two.
Our DJ made the transition as best as anyone could for what was about to happen: Death Grips. This show was so intense that I actually had to leave the room. Death Grips is an assault on every level and leaves zero time to digest what's coming at you. What's coming at you are speaker-ripping sounds (in this case they were backing tracks from a laptop, my only disappointment) and live drums — sans cymbals — from one of the producers of those laptop sounds, Zach Hill. Then there was Stefan "MC Ride" Burnett, who rapped with the frenetic boundless (and shirtless) energy of Iggy Pop, but maybe even more in-your-face.
After about a half an hour I'd had enough. It was that I didn't find it amazing, but my threshold for something like has limits, and it reminded me of why punk shows in the '70s sometimes lasted just 25 minutes.
Flying Lotus was our closer and such a perfect late night act. Stephen Ellison's music isn't casual either, but its innovation is not in its rage but in its communal vibe. He so easily draws you in with his warmth despite the music being made on machines. I loved this blend, especially at the end of day's worth of sonic assaults.