Some of you may recall I sorta reviewed CS Luxem about a year ago, but had to tap out due to a migraine. I always felt bad because, while I’m sure few people know of my existence, I felt like I shorted folks. I found out he released a new album in February and wanted to check it out. Some of the stuff I noticed that night definitely come out here, but no one came here for a recap of an incomplete review. I certainly got brought more lucidity (hyuk!) to what was otherwise lost in brain fog.
CS Luxem knows how to fuse together styles like ambient, doo-wop, and avant garde and pair it with the surreal and surfer elements. This is most apparent in “Goat Ghost”, “Feed the Dog”, “Space”, and “Heal Support”. It’s refreshing to see something so ambitious that is, for the most part, effectively pulled off with deft. Admittedly it still reminds me of bands like 10 CC and The B-52’s as they were both avant garde in their own ways and pulled it off just as well.
At times, though, the hodge podge of creativity gets problematic as certain elements vie for dominance and the basic elements suffer. This is most apparent when whimsical seems to take priority. One of the worst offenders is “Own Way” where more focus is placed on percussion and being odd that it has no substance. At times, though, it seems as if lacking substance is the point, but then I hear songs like “Hot Corn Girl” where the echo effect overpowers the vocals and– while I suspect the drowning out of lyrics is intentional –sacrifices the lyrics so the listener is left missing out on what should be just as considered just as important if it’s included in a song. It is most apparent when part of the lyrics seemingly allude to myths about Persephone and the Corn Maiden, but can’t be fully made out due to a wall of echo. What is there is left an incomplete idea that sounds interesting but loses effectiveness as a song.
Then again, lyrics may not be a real concern for CS Luxem, as I found most of the songs lacking in this part. Songs like “Let Me Go On” and “Space” clearly have lyrics, though it feels like they aren’t complete ideas expressed in the songs and we’re to focus on everything but what the vocalist sings. If that is the intent I have to question why lyrics exist and aren’t instrumentals, as quite a few songs would be enhanced without them. At times, though, the songs strike a balance with whimsy, sincerity, and lyrical content. Songs like “Spider Webs” and “Symptoms” really present the more sincere approach to lyrics that seem to dance with the song and express a full idea before succumbing to the oddity.
Despite seemingly torching my copy of the album I feel there is much to enjoy from Symptoms. While at times it lacked sincerity CS Luxem promises an experience where the listener can lose oneself in the juxtaposition of avant garde stylings with deceptively mundane rock.
Coming all the way from Colorado to grace The Replay Lounge is Tycho Alba. I’ll admit I couldn’t help but make a horrible wordplay on the artist Tycho in the title of this article. In reality the only similarities they share are something with Tycho in their names and tend to create ambient music.
Tycho Alba captures ambient music vibes and mixes it with atonal vocals (though I suspect at times the singer just missed the pitch) and synth elements reminiscent of 80’s electronic music. At times they varied on this by pulling from disco or jazz (and in one song power chords) in order to create a sound that I can only really describe as both playing into ambient music and a new wave revival. They also go as far as to create dissonance within their music while not compromising the tranquility of the music. One song in particular featured a very staccato rhythm with the smooth, connecting elements of ambient melodies. However, one of the pitfalls of ambient music is its monotony, and Tycho Alba can’t escape it. There were times where the songs sounded too much alike where, had they been played consecutively, I would have figured was a long song. However I think this band’s aware of this pitfall and at least came prepared to keep the audience’s attention.
As I’ve said in other reviews I find it hard to review an ambient performance. The point of the music is to be relaxing and trance-like. Playing at a venue that tends to be lively proves challenging, especially for music that provides a relaxing atmosphere. It can put a show at odds with the surroundings. These guys were able, from what I could see without a crowd, show some enthusiasm with their music They also joked a bit with audience and engaged further with special effects. At least, I think fog machines fall under special effects. Either way they used it, and boy did it release a lot of fog! The audience didn’t seem to mind, though.
The audience, in fact, seemed somewhat engaged. As I noted they gathered closely around the stage so I had a hard time watching the performance. There was a bit of cheering and applauding throughout, and it seemed fairly consistent with the exception of one or two songs. As I said, playing ambient music live can be tough, especially at a lively venue.
Overall Tycho Alba are able to add to ambient music by incorporating at times very dichotomous elements. Even though they still fall into the trappings of performing ambient music at times they still manage to captivate the audience as much as the genre is capable of doing.
As of late The Replay Lounge has some act where they play ambient music every time I visit. I’m not sure why that’s the trend, but I found myself catching a band who has Michelle Bacon (locals probably know her from quite a few other bands such as The Philistines). Since I’ve enjoyed other bands she’s played in I felt I was in for a treat. I learned some stuff after the performance when I went to research the band. Based on research it seems Heidi Gluck is a multi-talent solo act who recruited musicians for her live performances. I’m presuming then the songs are written by her and will address that aspect as such. In spite of this being more of a solo work I feel Heidi’s work is both unexpected and familiar.
I applaud Heidi Gluck for tying soothing ambient aspects and gritty alternative rock with vaudeville theatrics. I can’t recall if I’ve heard that combination before and I feel it’s pulled off well. She put a lot of thought into their sound and it’s a welcome change from the typical ambient music I’ve heard at The Replay Lounge lately. The weakest point musically came from not the unique blend, but the pitfalls of being creative: at some point one’s musical influences show up in one’s own work. Unfortunately the influences stand out too much and take the foreground periodically. There were times I felt the lyrics and other parts of musical composition were so familiar, as if they came from songs I’ve heard. I couldn’t tell if that was on purpose, but it detracts from the music for me. Pairing up what I suspect is an issue with composition is while aesthetically and creatively strong, lyrically they’re weak at times. While I do enjoy metaphors comparing love to target shooting –a metaphor fleshed out the entire song – I didn’t feel the juxtaposition lyrically added anything to the music.
I’m giving them leeway in the presentation aspect with some extra points because I had a hard time actually seeing them play. From what I could hear, though, there were moments where we got to see everyone on stage interact with the audience, such as the proud announcement for Heidi (for which I envy you). These little moments help bring out a performance. I do have one thing that I feel goes into this category that is important to note. I’d like to suggest rearranging the set list for venues like The Replay Lounge. In particular, while the audience may have been gathered around, at this venue there’s a lot competing for their attention. You are dealing with televisions, pinball machines, anything that’s going on out on the patio, and sometimes more. Starting off with ambient music when the set list contains other songs that are more energetic and unique are a disservice to the performance.
I couldn’t see how the band performed, but I did see how the audience reacted. The very fact they crowded the stage to watch is great. As I said, though, there’s more to a concert than performing well. It’s not just about great music and looking cool, it’s about actually getting the audience to engage with you as well. They were somewhat engaged early on, which was evidenced by cheering and clapping. It increased more when the music got less ambient and more vivacious.
I think there’s a lot of creativity and ambition in Heidi Gluck and she will go very far. Musically my only input is to make sure the creativity is paired with meaning and authenticity so the work will blend into something deeper and unique.
Posted in ambient, music, progressive, punk, rock
Tagged alternative rock, ambient, april, heidi gluck, music, progressive, replay lounge, review, rock, trance
Beaded Hall, the project for Andrew Fredrick, started off the night. While most likely known for his work with OILS Mr. Fredrick also likes to perform his solo project, which has some local notoriety as well. This one-man act provides a blend of indie, ambient, and experimental music.
If given the chance one can get lost in the soothing, jazzy ambiance mostly dominant in the music. At times the only thing to break the trance in which I got lost was the either the singing or the end of the song. Sometimes the songs weren’t fully developed as I thought they could be, and this disappointed me at times.
The biggest issue I noted was the use of a falsetto. Sometimes it was off-key and I couldn’t tell if this purposefully so. If so, working on it is a mute point. If not, some vocal exercises are in order (like the siren exercises) in order to learn how to fully use it. Not all of the off-key issues can be attributed to a falsetto. Sometimes Mr. Fredrick let his voice collapse, I tendency I have and recognize the sound all too well. Some breathing exercises and being mindful of this tendency is all I can recommend.
I really enjoyed how the personality came through in the act as well as the music. The audience got to see a quirky, goofy guy who happened to like quirky music. One major issue I had with the performance was how the transition from a bandmate to solo act didn’t go smoothly. I didn’t know his set started until well into the second song (or I’m assuming is the second song). Being unimposing goes well for a band, but not all too well for a solo work. It shows that maybe Beaded Hall is a little green in that respect. It can be deceivingly easy to own the stage when it’s small like one at the Replay with calming music. However the intimacy of this venue actually makes it harder to fill the space and keep the audience’s attention with this type of music.
The audience reacted to his unimposing stage presence by not paying attention for the most part. They mostly payed attention when Beaded Hall got into less ambient music and more into his experimental and indie rock elements. Otherwise they were focused on other things. It didn’t help there was a DJ to compete with for attention on the patio, though luckily this didn’t disrupt Beaded Hall’s performance.
There are some things Beaded Hall needs to work on and most have to do with vocal technique and not being so shy. Despite these issues I see a great solo act that has some greater performances in the future.
Audience Interaction: 1