One of my favorite aspects of music is it allows artists the opportunity to create a new personality outside of themselves. They can experiment with different types of sound sources to create something that listeners have never heard before. Tera Melos, TTNG, and Evkain all have a similar staccato intensity about them, but each act stands out as a unique voice within their genre.
Thursday was a night of experimental noise and math rock that was just as impressive as it was fun. Not only did all three performers incorporate extremely difficult musical intricacies and improvisations into their sets, they did so flawlessly and while making it look easy. Each band brought their A-game to The Echo, revealing why this underrated genre is worthwhile.
Evkain opened the show to a stirring sold-out crowd. The California natives took the stage with a hard-hitting, upbeat tune that turned every head in the room. It was hard to directly compare their sound to anything in particular, but I heard some Queens of the Stone Age and The Mars Volta, the vocals of early The Police, and the grooves of heavy funk. Their sound was loud and intense, and every head bounced and shook to the technical yet danceable rhythms. Trying to follow their drummer’s hands was like trying to count the number of times a hummingbird flaps its wings while flying by — they were an absolute blur the whole show. The bar for the night was officially set.
Before Oxford, England’s TTNG even takes a stage, their name alone leaves a mark. TTNG, or This Town Needs Guns, might be one of my new favorite band names. It has a certain punk rock quality to it that also gives an ironic statement on an issue that has been debated for years. But despite the implied violent nature of the name, TTNG was the smoothest band of the night.
With a melodic guitar sound, vocals that almost sound like those of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, and drums that ran like machinery, TTNG created a clean and moving dynamic. And yes, in the picture above the guitarist is playing two guitars, which exceeds all other levels of badass. TTNG was definitely the easiest band to digest for someone who doesn’t listen to much experimental or math rock as their sound translates to a wider audience.
I have been following the show’s headliner, Tera Melos, for years. When they started in Roseville, a small town outside Sacramento, they were an all-instrumental group that took major influence from distorted noise, improvisation, and hardcore. Over the last eight years and a few lineup changes, they have evolved to feature a more pop sensibility in their songwriting and vocals by guitarist Nick Reinhart that are reminiscent of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Blending Sonic Youth-style noise with The Mars Volta’s intensity and using surf rock as their wild card influence, Tera Melos is truly one of a kind.
Their stage setup alone is bizarre and awesome and adds to the band’s ambiance. Joining them on stage is a mock-up of Freddy Krueger, a Bart Simpson doll with an X on its forehead, and a human-sized stuffed person with a hot dog for a head. Reinhart finished the set with the hot dog man on his shoulders. It’s best not to ask questions.
Tera Melos played primarily from their two most recent albums, showing off their new material and distinguished songwriting. (If you don’t own X’ed Out, get it now; the album will defy your expectations about music as a whole.) They finished their set with what they called “a quick one,” which to the dedicated crowd’s surprise meant their 2007 instrumental EP, Drugs To The Dear Youth, a continuous piece of music that feels like a mathy, noisy Mozart movement.
Tera Melos and TTNG are both on the Sargent House label, which has a variety of artists that according to the label’s owner all have one thing in common: “They are all amazing musicians.” Thursday was the first night that TTNG actually had the opportunity to meet the label’s staff, and throughout both bands’ sets, you could see the team singing along and laughing at looks given from the bands. There was a definite sense of family, which makes any event like this feel special. This kind of music is not for everyone, but if you have an open mind and a hunger for something new, these bands and their label can give you more than you ever thought sonically possible.
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