Youth Code at Mango's, 1/16/2014
Photos by David Ensminger
Youth Code, Coming Mango's January 16, 2013
No doubt, Youth Code borrows quite heavily from Chicago's fabled Wax Trax! Records (Front 242, KMFDM, Revolting Cocks) roster, the epicenter of seething industrial music in the 1980s and 1990s, when the city rose from the frozen plains and became a beacon of aberrant noise, cluttered and chaotic dancescapes, and post-human poetry.
Other labels like Rough Trade (Cabaret Voltaire) and Mute (D.A.F.) also kicked in their share of forceful bands attempting to deconstruct music similar to the cut and paste assemblage style of William Burroughs novels. Youth Code, the mixed-gender unit Sara Taylor and Ryan George, forcefully revisit the modus operandi of such acts with acrid, atavistic, and artful ear-pummeling.
Detractors often consider electro-industrial and Electronic Body Music no more than menacing, dreary, and robotic drones of a generation trying to upend rock and roll traditions; those inside the subculture, though, feel cocooned in a cultural zeitgeist in which people like Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto and Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV hold court. Moreover, as a testament to kindred spirits, PTV's label Angry Love Productions released Youth Crew's limited edition"Keep Falling Apart" 7-inch single, though the B-side "Tiger's Remorse," played with total abandon at Mango's, seemed to rouse the crowd most into sweat-thronged dance-slam contortions.
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The unruly DNA of Youth Code embodies not just the cataclysmic tenor and agitated spectacle of their forebearers but their sonic matrix too. Endless echoes of Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb reverberate in the band's catalog, as well as earlier proto-industrial heroes like Kraftwerk and younger agit-prop front-liners Atari Teenage Riot. Like those before them, the pulsing, programmed, and prolific beats of Youth Code also belong to the here and now -- today's digitized mash-up paradigms and clusterfuck reality, in which an omnipresent feed of disparate information swarms like pixelated locusts into people's lives.
Armed with an Earth Crisis T-shirt and a voice box scorched by screams, Taylor is a seething, daunting figure that ping-pongs across the stage. Anarchic and athletic, imposing and cathartic, she resembles American first-wave punk icon Penelope Houston of The Avengers in both demeanor and style, though with tattoos like "Live to Win" and "Strange Love" canvassing her body. Her hoarse rasps and flared eyes constitute an intoxicating physicality.
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The hardcore stances of George (former singer of Carry On), like a combination of Kabuki theater and photo-perfect youth crew masculinity, are equally potent. He points into the crowd as if wielding a mallet of righteousness, smashing the old world order to bits. Plus, the way he hovers over his space, the cables and keyboards in a mess heap, is akin to a sleek pitiless wolverine.
Part of the thrust and unwritten manifesto of industrial music was to free artists from the manacles and messy dynamics of bands. Whereas performers once depended on ungainly piles of equipment, one can now do with a laptop and milliseconds of free time.
Yet, Youth Code eschews the easy tech and instead relies on old school hardware. This means their gig decisively lacked irony, guile, and pretend-time. Instead, the coiled crowd felt real manifestations of primal power and dark pain drilling into their backbones.
Working from their brief catalog (single, album, and demo), Youth Code's agitated and agile assault depicts an urban life carved by barbed BPMs. As such, they embody the new look-back-in-anger synth punk insurrection. Free the beat, and your post-hardcore ass will follow.
Meanwhile, openers Coming, Los Angeles cohorts of Youth Code, unleashed a brooding punk maelstrom that resembled early Killing Joke merging with Tragedy. Yet, the two songs in which the drummer and singer dumped their instruments and dueled with each other in a bare-bones industrial call-and-response style sing-off seemed to puzzle much of the crowd. Still, they packed a fiery, volatile presence.
Sorry to Captive and Subsonic Voices for missing their set.
Personal Bias: I grew up near Chicago - Wax Trax! was omnipresent in my youth, man.
The Crowd: Slightly adrift until Youth Code, mostly young and burdened by midwinter mid-week boredom, they quickly sweltered into the a.m.
Overheard In the Crowd: Sara Taylor telling me, "When my father found out I was listening to Front Line Assembly and Ministry, he said, 'That's the same music you loved as a baby!'"
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