Electronic music has come a long way since Thaddeus Cahill began work on an electromechanical instrument, the Telharmonium, in 1898. Ferruccio Busoni in 1907 predicted electrical impulses as the basis for modern music. Luigi Russolo gave noise concerts as early as 1914. One can only imagine the grave-spinning disappointment of these visionaries when the synthesized bleats of disco or the now naïve sounds of such LPs as 1968’s Switched On Bach came about.
Thursday’s show at The Kosmos is one not likely imagined by these visionaries. But I’d like it think they would loosen their celluloid collars and maybe shake a leg on the dance floor with girls wearing less than their great-grandmothers wore in the bathtub.
Synthpop is too pithy a word to describe what Albuquerque band The Gatherers does. Formerly of Small Flightless Birds, Bon Baca’s bass is way out front—where it should be—solid as metamorphic bedrock. David Ramon’s drums provide the counterpoint of heat and pressure threatening to turn things downright igneous. James Sturgis (also of SFB) and Leigh Scariano play honey-sweet keyboard runs while swapping gorgeous vocals like gleeful kids trading Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. We don’t know exactly what the inscrutable Nathan Bickley (SFB; Smoke Rings; Daffodil Megasaurus) does with all those little black boxes and knob-wrenching, but we like it. Whether it’s high BPMs or a flickering EKG, there’s plenty to dance to, like Ladytron covering New Order. But happier.
“I don't know what I'm doing; so that makes it artistically credible as music but not musically credible as art.” That quote from Guidance Counselor’s Ian Anderson sums up his Portland band tidily—though you can expect anything but tidiness from this outfit (completed by Andy Parker and Brett Whitman). In addition to reports of underwear-clad performances and dildo battles, Guidance Counselor totes screaming vocals, static-drenched guitar, call-to-arms marching beats and persistent bass like a parasitic worm burrowing into your brain. Then when you’re ready to surrender, the band can turn around and lay out a melodic song with solid vocals reminiscent of the less spastic Joy Division numbers.
Also from Portland, Marius Libman is an unstoppable electro juggernaut. He’s a DJ who turns out piles of remixes including R. Kelly, Starfucker and Panther. He plays bass in two bands (Atole; Astrology). His solo project Copy is a self-described “headphone experience” with control as his watchword. Although it adds up to a deceptively simple sound, Libman at times layers up to 20 synth effects, beats, keytar riffs and chiptunes. Despite an ominous undertone, Copy sounds like you’re deep inside the circuitry of a rogue Game Boy that somehow remains playful and engaging. Libman decided to relinquish some of his sought-after control by inviting Andy Parker (Guidance Counselor) to drum for Copy shows. With Libman’s sequenced percussion track, Parker is free to deviate a bit and either heighten the beats or head out in uncharted directions. This suits Libman just fine. The man is a smorgasbord of electro treats welcoming all to come and take a bite. Or a byte.