Josiah Gabriel's Infinity Machines Astonish Fitz Crowd
The sound of Houston today: Josiah Gabriel, infinity machines
Photos by Susan Wyatt
This is what it must have felt like to live during the time when the gift of tongues was dispensed upon Jesus' apostles.
A pentecostal spirit swept through Fitzgerald's downstairs during Josiah Gabriel's set Thursday, reducing the history of modern music into 25 minutes. The few people present during his set witnessed the art of the remix, the convergence of house yesterday and today, and a minimalist ethos coupled with rap's present trap craze. Imagine Steve Reich sitting down with Chief Keef to make a one-take recording and dropping like Drake's surprise mixtape.
As one of Houston's groundbreaking musicians, Gabriel continued to exhibit his future gallery pieces to an intimate crowd. There was no time wasted between songs, and little banter thrown here and there. The sounds passed through his body in ways words cannot express -- part joy, part meditation, and part introspection, Gabriel is constantly reinventing himself.
From his early work that conveyed Houston's grimy and expansive landscape to now, his songs have helped to generate a musical renaissance. Along with B L A C K I E, P.L.X.T.X, Free Radicals and Richard Ramirez, Josiah Gabriel has added his color to a musical mosaic that sounds distinctly Houston.
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In the supporting slot was Android Genius, whose opening set included songs from his new album nirya and one of my favorite EPs from 2014, mtns. His newest batch of songs possesses deeply soulful textures filled with a more developed appreciation of the trap genre he infuses into his own music. He interfaces with his equipment with grace, permitting his weapons of choice to speak for him alone.
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Moreover, Android Genius' sound live does not have to battle the limitations imposed by computer speakers and Beats headphones. The deeper bass textures are better felt in a small room filled with a generous crowd for a Thursday night. People were drawn to his song's quirks, which showcased his inventiveness with a childlike curiosity. And the level of growth from his last record to his newest release only projects a promise of greater songs to come.
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It may not show in the photo, but the atmosphere at Fitz resembled a Pentecostal revival.
After performances by Houston's -Up, a solo project from one the Wrestlers (formerly Bagheera), and new electro-rock band from Dallas called Lev, Gabriel took the stage; religious ecstasy ensued. Entranced and fixed by sounds unknown, the audience watched as Gabriel conjured spirits of music's past and present by turning his knobs. Like at a pentecostal revival, he danced and writhed, overwhelmed by the spirit. His infinity machines looped and distorted signals that revived dead souls.
For those who haven't yet experienced Gabriel live, his music creates both an attraction and a repulsion with sounds both coarse and sweet, his rhythms both angular and head-bobbing. The crowd's reticence to fully immerse themselves in his music existed because he creates moments that confound people; they simply do not know how to respond. It jolts, it pierces, it slays and above all forces you to think about your own standard definition of how music should be played and performed.
Towards the end of his too-brief set, the sub-bass influence that emanated through the sound system tore the house speakers into shreds. Stereotypical drops and stage name call-outs (J-J-JJ-JJ-JJJJ-Josiah Gabrellllllll) were interjected into the few performances. White noise colored the spaces between the melody.
As the noise slowly waned, the night came to a subtle end. Gabriel quietly thanked the crowd, not understanding the feelings of thanks they wanted to pour onto him for this shared moment of enlightenment. Josiah Gabriel is not only the sound of now, but he is the sound of Houston.
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