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Review Mon Jun 11 2012

Review: Boy Dirt Car, Eric Lunde, Jason Soliday, Karl Paloucek @ Empty Bottle

BDC live.jpg
Boy Dirt Car | photo by Blake Edwards

The day after my preview post went live, I was gently chided by Karl Paloucek for my anachronistic use of "the 'I' word." Apart from the fact that the title was lifted from the name of a venerable reissue label, I was unaware that Industrial as a genre designation had been put on the no-fly list. No matter...after a night with these four acts, I understood what Paloucek meant. As a description for the night of outré sonics on hand, Industrial as a term wasn't antiquated; it was merely inadequate.

Paloucek Live.jpg
Karl Paloucek | photo by Blake Edwards

Paloucek's choice of equipment for his shows is a bit unconventional: tinfoil, amplified and blown with a fan; one or more hanging pieces of metal, mic'd, this time including a set of windchimes/glockenspiel; an audio backing of slightly ambient synth and piano tones; and, most distinctively, a row of four sewing machines amplified with microphones. Though baffling to look at, the agglomeration of musical and amusical tools creates a surprisingly pastoral effect, abstract in construction but personal in effect, like a pointillist painting. The tinfoil, given to unpredictable flight with the fan, crinkles gently like the foliage of industry. The hanging metal, which Paloucek taps gently with his fingers, a distant ringing thunder. The sewing machines, their footswitches carefully and deliberately held at certain speeds with tape, are synced to a metronome, their jackhammer rhythms going in and out of sync like a Steve Reich piece, but also conjuring the hum of a home movie projector. When combined with the melancholic synth recordings, the effect is one of far-off contemplation, a sonic location rather than composition, a quiet place to dream of electric sheep.

Jason Soliday Live.jpg
Jason Soliday | photo by Blake Edwards

Jason Soliday took this calm space and melted it down for scrap. Like a six-armed robot assassin, Soliday opened fire from every direction, his rig a pressurized canister of sonic whoop-ass. He's been working on this quick-cut style for a few years now, but this evening's set topped them all. Slight curlicues of feedback trailed off into the darkness, affording just a little air before the next volley of hornets buzzed your ears. The last five minutes featured some slowed-down speech sounds that masked an ear-burrowing shriek that possessed enough layers and details to keep you listening. It was pain, all right, but pain with intent.

Eric Lunde Live.jpg
Eric Lunde | photo by Blake Edwards

Eric Lunde started his set by turning on a recording of John Goodman's final soliloquy from Barton Fink and walking off the stage. The crowd immediately bristled: was this going to be some sort of anti-performance? Was he ever coming back? Was this it? Minutes later, Lunde came back, armed with his shRAD (short-Range Acoustic Device, his ramshackle version of the police sound cannons) and decked out in a hat a suitcoat, just like Charlie Meadows/Madman Mundt. "I'll show you the life of the mind!", Lunde bellowed before aiming the shRAD at the microphone. An audible wave of tweedling sounds, like distant shortwave beacons, rose above the other radio and electronic transmissions. Lunde's set was a mix of distorted readings of his prepared texts, overloaded and illogical techno beats, and heavily processed and distorted sounds on cassette tape. He peered over his rack of equipment like a stranded driver looking under the hood at a stalled engine, fiddling with this, poking around in that, until other sounds sprung to life. When the whole rig briefly went silent, all you heard was Lunde grunt under his breath, "hmm, weird," flip a switch, and the blast returned. The mix of speech, drum beats, and white noise gave the impression of a dance club imploding in on itself, while the monologue sequences, perhaps intentionally, inched into inaudibility, forcing you to prick up your ears, focus harder, try to read the signals. This tantalizing cipher exists in all of Lunde's work, and it made for a heady experience.

BDC live 2.jpg
Boy Dirt Car | photo by Blake Edwards

At last, the guests of honor, the wrecking crew themselves. Boy Dirt Car took the stage, looking like a cross between Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the escaped "doctors" in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A coyote blues made up of double-time hammering of floor tom and guitar introduced the set, a burnt offering sent up to the god of bad vibes, who blessed the group with a bounty. With the exception of Keith Brammer, who held down the bass the whole night, everybody else switched instruments constantly, "instruments" in this case including not only guitars and effect boxes, but also ball peen hammers, bins of rocks, and metal files. The lead singer channeled paranoia and gypsy curses in equal measure, and it was here when I realized that Boy Dirt Car were less industrial and more a really nasty psych band, comparable to Rochester, New York's Pengo crossed with the swampy blues of the Flesh Eaters at their murkiest. BDC mainman Darren Brown would hunch his hands in his pockets and shudder his words into the mic like a terrifying child with anger problems, but between songs, he was clearly having a blast, as was everyone else in the group. 30 years on, and Boy Dirt Car still sound like no one else and still pack a wallop. If there was any downside to the night, it was the surprisingly anemic turnout on a Thursday at the Empty Bottle. For shame, noiseniks.

 
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Paul Heilemann / June 13, 2012 11:15 AM

Great review! Your words succeed in creating a sonic image of what the show must have been like. BDC "nasty psych ... swampy blues" indeed.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

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