CMJ Day Two: Gospel Music, Cloud Nothings, Widowspeak, Cubic Zirconia, Mux Mool, Teen Daze
Better than: Walking around in the drizzle-cum-actual rain without an umbrella.
Gospel Music had the best T-shirt of the day at Cake Shop yesterday afternoon—maybe of CMJ, period: “Fuck you, I’m from Florida.” Playing third on a daylong showcase for the bicoastal publicity company Terrorbird Media, the quintet sounded far more Olympia (they’re on Kill Rock Stars, which was formed in Washington’s capital), which means slapdash on purpose, not to mention cute and indie and pop. But there wasn’t quite enough charm to stick, not even in the boy-girl duets that didn’t dominate the set but are clearly the band’s draw.
I missed the beginning of Cloud Nothings’ set: only one editor cared that I was covering CMJ, and work is work. So maybe they blasted off and I didn’t hear it, but the first two songs I heard inspired the words “squalling rave-up” and “OK, more saddos.” Then the singer dedicated a song to his nephew and things picked up considerably, tempo-wise, and by the end he was moaning less and yowling more. Widowspeak, who followed, were shoegazier: guitars pretty enough, mumbled vocals less so.
Shortly before the next group began, the DJ slipped from Sly & the Family Stone’s “Running Away” to the original 45 version of the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star,” an encouraging sign. “We’re Cubic Zirconia from, like, a couple blocks away,” keyboardist Nick Hook drolly began, and the quartet was off, with Hook, synth player/percussionist Daoud Sturdivant, and drummer Justin Tyson bubbling fearsomely away before Tiombe Lockhart joined them. The band’s au courant club-music leanings gave the material a sheen that cut through the heavy percussion: a slinky “neon” synth here, harp-glissando samples over a hard, steady kick drum there. Lockhart even managed to make her entreaties about the stage mix work as part of the music, chanting, “What’s wrong with our sound? Ho’s come out at night/ Too many ho’s!”
CZ’s electronic elements segued nicely into Brooklyn’s Mux Mool (born Brian Lindgren), who set up a sequencer, an AKAI MPD32, and a MacBook Pro and went to town. His set was sharp-lined and electro-heavy, aided about two minutes in by his discovery of the volume switch. At one point, he felt compelled to explain away all the crouching he was doing: “This table is really low. I don’t usually look this awkward, I swear.” His selections got busier as they went; a snatch of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” peeked through at one point, not to particularly great effect. The slow-drawling Southern rap vocal he used for his final selection worked a lot better.
Vancouver’s Teen Daze had basically the same setup as Mux Mool, but to very different effect. He makes indie-friendly instrumental house heavily marked by mid-’00s Kompakt: shimmery, glossy, poppy, like someone who saw the light via the first Gui Boratto album. “I know it’s annoying, but if you feel like dancing, give in,” he said not long before he was done; right afterward, five people left. The “remix” of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove” that he finished with didn’t do much for me, either. (It sounded like a fuzzier version of something from a Hed Kandi comp.) But most of it was decent enough dinner music, even if it was unfortunately timed for everyone else’s dinner.
Critical bias: I like the electronic stuff Terrorbird sends me more than the indie stuff.
Overheard: [During Teen Daze] “So, what do you call this stuff, exactly?” (Answer: house music, more or less.)
Random notebook dump: No, bar sign, “TIPS” can’t be an acronym for “to insure proper service,” because you’re actually ensuring it. (Allegedly.)