Before going to at this show, I made a promise that I would somehow get myself sedated. Turns out it was unnecessary, 'cause if the beatless drones of Rhizone and Windy & Carl aren't enough to sedate you by themselves well you know what I'm trying to say. It was pleasant music for a pleasant evening.
I walked into the house's smallish living room midway through Rhizone's set, sat down somewhere near the back, and immediately realized that this would indeed be a "relaxing" experience. Rhizone consists of three Wes students Jesse Kudler, Rob Powers, and Doug Russell, on Theremin, computer, and guitar feedback, respectively. The only light in the room seemed to be the glow of Rob's iMac, with Doug facing the wall and Jesse alternating between gesturing wildly (as the Theremin requires), twiddling with some knobs, and squatting in front of the band to see if the sound system was tweaked correctly. Throughout the drone, some familiar noises would be repeated, as the Theremin attempted to not stand out in the mix (which is difficult given its distinctive timbre). I had incorrectly assumed that the live instruments were being fed into the iMac and sampled or otherwise processed, because some of the computer's output sounded remarkably similar to a sampled Theremin. It turns out that each performer was creating his own sounds, distinct from anything anyone else was doing. The music itself was very, very pretty and easy to get lost in when I wasn't thinking about how the fuck they were making it. The ambience coming out of the speakers seemed somehow disconnected to those who were performing it, but that didn't bother me too much. I even enjoyed hearing the sound of the mouse clicking when things got really quiet.
Rhizone stopped playing so the crowd could calm down a little. We were getting way too excited. I half-seriously expected Public Safety to come in and shut the concert down because we weren't having enough fun. The 20-minute or so interval between bands actually gave people a chance to talk to one another, something that, during the bands sets, would have been disturbing. It also gave me a chance to watch Windy & Carl setting up, something I didn't pay nearly enough attention to.
From their records, I knew that Windy & Carl (who record for Kranky records) were more interested in creating long ambient drones than in "rocking out," as the kids say. But I was still excited to see how they were going to perform live. The ambience on their records is so cloudy that the only discernable instruments are the bass and the quietly unintelligible vocals, both emanating from Windy. Listening at home, I had wondered what the fuck Carl was doing to create all this other noise. As they were doing the sound check, I found out. He just plays guitar with a lot of pedals and effects, mind you but just guitar. No synths, computers, or anything else. Not even a second guitar (except on some songs when Windy dropped the bass and picked one up). Watching Carl play guitar was like one of those high-school chemistry experiments where you add a drop of one element and the entire solution becomes cloudy one guitar string plucked seemed to set off a delayed chain reaction of beautiful ambience. Meanwhile, Windy stood at the microphone, played a simple descending bass line on one string, and recited some barely audible lyrics. It sounded surprisingly similar to their recordings. And, as happens frequently when I listen to them on my stereo at home, I slowly dozed off, lying down on the floor
Sometime during my slumber, I awoke to hear something different something was being sampled and looped! It wasnt very overt, but definitely audible, and my suspicion was reinforced by the fact that Windy was messing around with some black box in the back of the stage. The introduction of a simple loop changed the sound completely rhythmically, it made the long piece somewhat more structured and easier to pay attention to (I guess Im just a sucker for anything resembling a beat). But, nevertheless, I was just too comfortable lying in the middle of the floor, and I think I fell asleep again
The second time I woke up, it had nothing to do with the band. A large skunk had apparently made its way right outside the window, and an odor was responsible for interrupting my dreams this time. It made me think I certainly wouldnt have heard someone talking to me (the music, while gentle and soothing, was actually quite loud), and I wouldnt have responded to any visual stimuli because my eyes were closed. Perhaps if someone had shaken me really hard, or shoved food in my mouth, I would have gotten up, but we were pretty much down to touch, taste, and smell as the senses that were not incapacitated by the music.
The night ended with me leaving early, just as I had arrived late. Fitting, I suppose, because time was certainly warped while the concert was going on, especially given my tendency to fall asleep. It could have been 10 minutes or an hour and I wouldnt have known the difference. The truth is, I actually dont mind listening to music in a half-waking state, as long as its good music, and as long as I have a comfy spot in which to recline. And since both of these conditions were met, I was very happy.