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Music

The Silt, Wyrd Visions, Castlemusic, Apothecary Hymns @ Casa

Posted by Scott / June 17, 2007

thesilt-at-casa.jpgThis Suoni event involved a lovely Saturday evening in the Casa, bolstered by four acts that could best be described as post-folk, as the day’s crushing heat receded. I stayed by the door, enjoying a cross-breeze and a few pints as the show got underway. You will note that this review is too long, but I am obliged to say that the evening was as well. While each act was skilled and offered a unique variation on blues and folk motifs, a showcase of four experimental artists was simply too much. I found each successive artist suffered from audience attrition, and the show slipped into the wee hours before the headliners were ready to perform.

Up first was Brooklyn-based Apothecary Hymns, who, like three of the four acts on the bill, is a solo musician framed inside a band name. Apothecary Hymns started out playing electric guitar through a looper pedal, and evidenced some interesting harmonic arrangements in the finger-picked songs. He sang in a style reminiscent of the Mountain Goats, only less impassioned. A third of the way into his set, however, he shifted to unadorned acoustic guitar songs strummed with stridency, and if audience reaction is any indication, this is where his set fell down. I must say this part of his set seemed rather ‘straight’ for the Suoni festival. Apothecary Hymns finished his set by switching back to electric guitar and more exploded arrangements, and audience appreciation suggested this to be a successful finish to his 40-minute set.

Following Apothecary Hymns was Castlemusic, the solo project of Jennifer Castle. Her set began a cappella (which is ballsy) and then moved into a fractured country-blues style of set, finding oblique similarities between Mo Tucker and Feist. Castlemusic did an excellent job of using vocal and guitar dynamics to control the room, bringing the volume of the Casa down and bending the audience toward her quiet, intimate numbers. With a natural vibrato and an idiosyncratic playing style, Castlemusic presented singer-songwriter material without tricks and effects, showing how effective this can be when done well. A highlight of the evening, for sure.

Third on the bill was Wyrd Visions. Building on slow progressions and drones to create mood, this solo performer played electric guitar and sang over long, repetitive pieces. It was clear that these pieces were deliberately stripped bare, utilizing parity to convey heaviness. The notes between notes? So heavy! It seemed as the set went by, Wyrd Visions began adding a greater vocal range to the songs, bringing out a higher register in the vocals that reminded me of the Sea & Cake or American Analog Set, and filling out the variety in the pieces as the set went by. On the whole, Wyrd Visions played a solid set that, as I alluded to, unfortunately suffered from being the third solo performance on a bill that went increasingly into the early morning hours. I believe his set would have been far better received if there had been fewer performers on the night.

Finally, the audience was treated to The Silt. Before anyone had played, I overheard one of the members of The Silt trying to arrange a place for the band to stay for the night. This is what being an independent band is about: being infinitely talented at what you do, but unable to sustain yourself (or afford a hotel) doing it. The Silt is a three-piece, boasting an unlikely combination of instruments: guitar and trombone, analogue synth and banjo, and the drummer playing the kit with one hand while fretting bass notes with the other AND singing. The Silt present 3-part harmonies in what could loosely be described as a country vein, and sounded at times like any of the Palace Brother incarnations, though certainly not derivative. Compared to the previous three solo acts, The Silt seemed like an auditory powerhouse, even though by regular band standards they are remarkably stripped down. The group moved through seven or eight pieces, switching instruments and lead singers, and featured arrangements that seemed to veer between the improvisational and structured. It’s a fetching combination, and I was pleased to learn that everything (positive) that I’d heard about The Silt was confirmed. Let’s hope they found somewhere to stay.

Again, the only knock on this Fig Records showcase was the number of groups on the bill. Four acts is, to me, pushing it a little, especially when each act offers more challenging, experimental pieces. However, I would look for any upcoming shows by these acts (especially by The Silt), as catching them after less attrition would allow me to enjoy them more.

Discussion

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