I went to Brightblack Morning Light’s November 17 set at Le Poisson Rouge with a certain amount of anticipation. The New Mexico-based band, whose slow, even ambient Americana-influenced work has gained at least a niche following among fans of independent music, has been a favorite of mine since high school, when age limitations at local venues prevented me from seeing them live.
At this show, I was excited by the possibility of seeing them at all, and curious as to whether their distinctive sound could be reproduced even in as intimate a setting as LPR’s.
Although Brightblack Morning Light’s music is characterized by its slow pace—indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a band so accepting of pop conventions and instrumentation playing any slower than they do—they are hardly easy listening. At least superficially, their gospel and folk-influenced compositions are predictable and straightforward. Almost none of their songs have solos or bridges, and vocal reverb is so high on most of their studio work that their lyrics are barely a factor in understanding their songs. Their music never seems to be building towards anything, and very little of it does: formally, a BBML song will consist of a single, repetitive synth line augmenting a wandering rhythm guitar whose monitors are on frustratingly low. There will be reverberating vocals and contributions from difficult-to-identify brass instruments, but nothing in the way of choruses, verses or other immediately obvious formal reference points.