We regularly stand in awe of just how involved Lance Higdon is in the general Houston music scene. His industriousness might not be as well-recognized as that of Robert Ellis or Geoffrey Mueller, but Higdon simply doesn't know how to sit still when it comes to making and promoting music in this city. He plays drums for Tambersauro and Golden Cities, leads an art-noise outfit called Wall With One Side and helps run Esotype Records. To top it off, he's been organizing a regular series of experimental, avant-garde get-togethers under the moniker of Resonant Interval Sound Series. Rocks Off has been talking up this series to others for weeks now, but we've been unable to make it out ourselves until this past Friday, and it seems we couldn't have selected a better evening.
The night kicked off around 9 with Roomies!, performing trippy, spaced-out tunes on guitar and upright bass. For 30 minutes, the assembled crowd of about 35 enjoyed music that struck a fine balance between delicate, avant-garde pop and dissonant, melancholy free jazz, right down to waves of powerful, droning feedback.
Whether plucked or bowed, the bass lines typically served as the group's primary voice, while the guitarist created dense layers of fuzz and feedback with either his E-bow or by plucking notes high up on the fretboard. The effect was quite meditative in tone and mood, and the night was off to a great start.
Weird Weeds, a quartet from Austin and Houston, brought its brand of experimental pop next. Featuring two guitar players, a drummer and a young woman on upright bass, this group excelled in creating wide swells of sounds that could have alternately been described as minimalist, downtempo or psychedelic.
We had the pleasure of seeing the band perform at Lost In Space Fest this past December, and we found this outing to be much darker and decidedly more ambient and dreamy in feel. We came away with a better idea of what instrumental post-rock could (or should) be, a six-song set that eschewed the clichéd epic soundscapes for finding fresh ways to twist, subvert and deconstruct classical pop-rock themes.
Up next was J.D. Emmanuel, something of a cult hero to the folks in hyper-nerdy analog keyboard circles. Emmanuel released several limited-run albums 30-plus years ago that are now revered in small pockets of North America and Northern Europe. Now living in the burgeoning metropolis of Shenandoah, Tex., Emmanuel (complete with his "Don't Mess With Texas" ballcap) wowed the crowd with five left-of-center, brooding, atmospheric synth offerings, all laden with heavily futuristic tendencies.
This music resounded with the sort of bubbling, creeping tones appreciated by fans of The Knife, Fever Ray, Portishead, Giorgio Moroder and Joy Electric, and it was readily apparent from the bowed heads in the room that the crowd was definitely absorbing the quality and rarity of the event.
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Closing out the night was Dutch analog synth act Stellar Om Source. This delightful, exuberant woman (who was un-ironically wearing loose-fitting leather pants and a "Cosby Sweater") began the show by noting her affection for Emmanuel's music and how lucky Houston should consider itself for having him so close.
Her own music was a brilliant mix of various layers of electroclash drone and Scandinavian pop of the Bjork/Knife variety. With no beats present to drive the music, notes and tones were frequently bent and pitched into different, crytpic directions on an Akai AX60 and Korg synths. The result was a non-stop, 25-minute set that was occasionally bristling in its dissonance, but still remained rather warm in overall tone, especially when the aggression and chaos was increased, making things much more engaging.
While Higdon was apologetic that Dan Higgs of seminal post-core outfit Lungfish) was unable to perform as advertised (as he was stranded in Lafayette, La.), it was readily apparent that the crowd thoroughly enjoyed this installment of Resonant Interval Sound Series.
Ever-hustling, Higdon and his compatriots are excited to put these shows together, as they seek to highlight a batch of artists and sounds that probably don't get enough attention in this town.