Today's noisenik shows are but a distant cousin of that declining ritual of late century US musical subversion: the Sunday hardcore matinee. At an 18+ show 20 years ago, dozens of sweaty youth caromed recklessly off one another like oily cueballs, as loud, abrasive five-piece bands shouted tidy epigrammatic choruses. This past Sunday, the kids laid quietly on their backs on doormats scattered around the SPACE Gallery floor. Alone together, they stared at walls and ceilings, bathing in layers of processed sounds made by solo performers.
After a brief mindwarmer of a DJ set from local fuzzkins Planets Around the Sun, Brooklyn-based banjoist Melaena Cadiz played a frolicking batch of lightly mournful Americana songs. She was joined by local everything-player Vince Nez on vocals and guitar; the two shared a good musical vocabulary despite having just met the day before. Vince Nez is a deft improviser, and his unassuming playfulness was a good fit with Cadiz's silvery croon.
It feels most appropriate to call Kevin Micka, the sole member of Animal Hospital, a sound architect. His churning, rhythmic collages were organically played, looped, tweaked, and layered with a fleet of switchboards, guitars, and effects pedals. For additional performance value (or perhaps to silence unbelievers), an on-stage camera projected a bird's-eye live feed of Micka's knob throbbery onto an upstage screen.
After another intermittent Planets DJ swamp kept the kids (from) feeling awkward, Grouper came on, and a gorgeous set of subterranean dreampop warble followed. A one-woman band, Liz Harris filled the room without drowning it, and her minor-key chord progressions revisited the ponderous maladies of Robin Guthrie with a steeping note of distant terror. Enough, perhaps, to coax a bead of sweat from a brow or two.