Cardboard Records has a very good thing going. After catching their showcase at Cakeshop, we can attest that along with labels like Love Pump, they're putting out some of the finest new music in our fair (to middling) land land. And the kids were there last night to prove it. From the ridiculous 57-song, double disc compilation they just put out, it seems like the label, founded and run by Parts & Labor, has recruited many, many of their touring compatriots, which bodes very well. First among these, last night, was Brooklyn's lovely clatter-pop quartet Flying.
Sometimes we like our noise pretty and our prettiness noisy. Flying falls into the latter category. Their carefully-constructed songs, all low-key boy/girl duet vocals, piano tinkle, stop/start drums, and murmuring electronics are certainly noisy, but not in the usual sense of feedback and white-noise. They rely on crisp percussive stutters and dissonant melodic components, and at one point live, samples played back from a Dictaphone pointed into the mic filled out their tracks. This gives their work a peculiar ersatz delicacy, like the warbling tune of a broken music box. Flying has a new album, their second, coming out in the spring.
Big Bear was the loudest band we've seen at CMJ. THUS FAR. There is still time to show them up, other bands. (Email us!) The quintet played unabashed math rock with a tambourine shaking frontwoman. We cannot hear your tambourine, but we feel it, and we feel you.
The skronky keyboard bits and the mutilated arpeggio concepts dangled like malformed, nutritious carrots in front of the ongoing catastrophe that is Big Bear's brutal rhythm section. If you were dumb enough to stand right in front of them to film footage, you are ready to crouch in front of a moving train. Go for it!
These people are not unhappy, nor are they bored. They are battling to remain upright, and they love it.
Shooting Spires is the ever-evolving solo project of Parts & Labor's BJ Warshaw. While we've seen certain of his songs presented for solo acoustic or improvised electronic noise in the past, the current Shooting Spires live show has Warshaw assembling jolting, tumbling electronic compositions piece-by-piece with an elaborate arrangement of looper pedals, effects boxes, and a small synthesizer. Laying down backing rhythms with noisy keystrokes, Warshaw gradually layered on various keyboard buzzes and screeches and eventually, at the peak of most tracks, his own voice. The results, though with a certain home-made clumsiness that little variations in looper action can create, tended to be a seething soup of electronics, which nonetheless betrayed the same knack for anthemic melody that consistently turns up in Parts and Labor's songwriting as well (especially comparable is their incredible noise 12″Escapers One).
Gowns come off as the sorts of people who grew up practicing scales on the piano and hit their twenties wanting to make really pretty, unpretentious music. In essence, their parts aren't particularly experimental, it's more the subtlety of tone and the freeness of structure that sustains them.
It's one of those “sum of its parts” games. The long meditative sections might be impossibly slow and dangerously plodding, if they weren't the delicate bridge between a noise squall and an anthemic guitar-driven progression full of emo swagger.
The best part of Gowns is watching Ezra Buchla mess with his old school yet updated-to-the-00s analog synthesizer, twiddling nobs and peacably playing his keyboard. He seems pleased as punch, potentially looking forward to pouring vinegar and baking soda into the model volcano he has waiting at home. That's usually how we end the night too. So to speak.
While Pterodactyl blasted into their usual pop hook-laden noise-punk downstairs, Rob Barber and Mary Pearson from High Places met with IMPOSE for a quick interview crouched down amongst the CD racks at the back of Cakeshop. After working out who was sitting where in the narrow space, the pair filled us in on their origins, songwriting process, and further CMJ plans… before we ran out of tape. Still, Barber and Pearson, unassuming and friendly, were a pleasure to talk to as always.