Last Exit to Houston

Easter Sunday Filled With Sounds of Tomorrowland

The Van Allen Belt, PopeNQM, FLCON FCKER, Matsu Mixu Fitzgerald's April 5, 2015

There were no empty tomb events downstairs at Fitzgerald's last night. No necromancy took place on Easter Sunday. Even if there were such a parlor trick, just about as many people who realized the profoundly large boulder moved attended an extraordinary lineup with The Van Allen Belt headlining.

Scarce as hen's teeth, the few who showed up to bear witness of Houston's burgeoning acts, some of whom will -- and have -- perform festivals and headline shows in the coming years, were treated to a musical Tomorrowland. Last night, bands filled the laboratory with future sounds, overwhelming the senses and courageously discovering new and unclaimed territories.

The ceremony commenced with Matsu Mixu, an electronic duo featuring Michelle Yue on vocals and synths and Mat King, a DJ whose emphasis on uniquely accenting beats and shading the spaces between is second to none. Yue's vocals leave vapor trails of scintillating reflection -- breathy, airy, light, and capacious.

A perfect blend of classic house and chillwave, the beats move from four-on-the-floor classicism to abstract rhythms that sound like harsh mood swings. The duo's standout track, "Masochist Letter," seizes the senses while skillfully weaving a subtle narrative around the carnal cadence. Each subsequent track that followed "Masochist Letter" exposed the group's attention to detail. Every moment created new wonders that keep the listener interested during the entire set. Only their fifth show, Yue and King sounded seasoned, yet at the same time their sound arise a promise of greater things to come.

FLCON FCKER excites and captures the attention of crowds wherever he goes. His cerebral yet emotionally arresting ambient improvisation Sunday night verged on otherworldly. Plate-tectonic shifts of bass resonated throughout the downstairs room. He interspersed visual glitch to compliment his expansive sound. A sonic landscape that would make M83's Anthony Gonzalez jealous swelled throughout the piece as shadowy rhythms emerged, briefly distracting from the ethereal feats. Manipulated vocal samples sifted through the piece toward its close, drawing faces of wonder and enchantment in the audience.

The night's co-headliner, Pittsburgh's The Van Allen Belt, created disharmonious melodies, managing to manipulate clamor into opulent noise pop. Tamar Kamin's voice spreads itself sensuously -- and near flawlessly -- over psychedelic overtures. Surreal lyricism escalated the songs' furtiveness. Scott Taylor sat like a mad maestro, concocting searing and agonizing tones, while Ben Ferris layered strands of lush melodies.

The three-piece exemplified the notion that the sum is greater than the parts. Each band member shared his and her gifts that, if they existed mutually exclusive from one another, would be nothing more than unrefined noise. They promised that they will perform Metal Machine Music backwards with Scott Taylor donning his best Ginger Rogers look, five-inch heels and all.

The self-described "Rhythm and Drone" act PopeNQM bookended the evening, leaving nothing but shell casings and blood behind them. More rhythm than drone, PopeNQM's frail and innocent voice is evocative of Daniel Johnston, especially during his most productive era, circa Hi! How Are You? and The What of Whom, also eerily charming as Johnston's. However, PopeNQM's compositions are distinctly more sophisticated and exquisitely produced.

Michelle Yue's veritable doppleganger, keyboardist PopeVoCoCo, splayed her hands over the keyboard, not missing a single note as they athletically and gracefully leaped over one another. SloPope, PopeNQM's rhythm specialist and 808-keeper extraordinaire, performed binaural beats in real time. One thing is for certain: PopeNQM possess virtuosic performers who stand to be heard, and seen, as they blossom into a great band.

Speaking as a resident of this great city for the past 35 years, Houston's music scene is bursting at the seams. There will come a time when Flcon Fcker and Matsu Mixu will not be performing for free.

Note: this review has been changed after publication to correct the name of a member of The Van Allen Belt.

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Stephan Wyatt