Last night, Dauphin was lucky enough to witness a close-knit gig at Sneaky Pete’s on Cowgate, hosted by Powan Presents. The Douglas Firs, along with Iliop and Wounded Knee (who I’ll be taking a closer look at in tomorrow’s post, keep your finger hovering over the F5 button) supported NYC native Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – also known as Lichens#mce_temp_url#.
Iliop played a great set – his opening salvo was tighter and more efficient than last Monday’s outing at Roxy Art House, yet the rawness and static energy he so captured the crowd with was still present. The Douglas Firs were again impressive, racing through another flawlessly executed set – and Wounded Knee were a revelatory find. I’ll be honest, I’m not writing much here because I feel the fact I missed most of the first song due to a run to the cash machine/the gents makes such a review illegitimate; but hey, it’s a blog and I never promised efficiency. They’ll get a post all to themself tomorrow.
Onto Lichens. Prior to the show starting, I chatted to Robert over beers – he’s amiable, modest and wears an excellent bow tie with a fine, Frederick Engels-esque beard. He’s polite and unassuming and would get on rather well with anybody. While he’s preparing to go on stage, I talked to the promoter, Steve, who tells me that the music is like “a shaman… it’s indescribable, incomparable…”
Shamanic is an apt word; seeing Lichens live is closer to a spiritual experience than a passive show. His entire set is a single song and it’s one of the weirdest, most beautiful songs I think I’ll ever hear. For the twenty minutes he plays, it’s like he is in control of the laws of physics, such is the pull of the sounds that radiate from the speakers. Lowe’s eyes roll back, catatonic and possessed; he’s like the man at the centre of the earth, always moving, arms constantly attending to the next button and lever, always consumed by the music. His voice is haunting, yet deeply moving – ambient and potent with alien electricity. Words seem too clumsy a medium to describe such an esoteric, abstract concept as Lichens’ music; it’s sanity-warping, magnetic, spellbinding. The projection behind him, a result of a collaboration with an animation artist in New York, revolves with surreal colour and seems to react to the changes in the music, it’s like being in the eye of an audio storm.
It says on his website that he creates his music “by means of mutated wordless vocal loops and the layering of fingerpicked acoustic and hypnotic electric guitars, Lowe creates densely atmospheric pieces that blur the boundaries between heavy drone, minimalist and American primitivist artists”. Forget genre names, this defies labelling. So much that I’ve invented a new genre name to describe it (if only for the neatness of my iTunes library): Anti-matter.
You need to see this live because it’s the only place I know of where you can buy his CD’s, but also because “each Lichens show is entirely improvised and unfolds with a sense of evolution and natural process. Lichens exists in it’s current surroundings, allowing Lowe to act as shaman enrapturing listeners and ultimately opening door” – and after experiencing one, I believe it. It’s like whalesong, or swan song – it sounds like being inside the womb, or a pulsar weeping. It sounds like time ending. I’m thoroughly confused.
Rating: Lichens DDDDD, Douglas Firs DDDD, Iliop DDD, Wounded Knee DDD