Pete Nolan keeps busy. I’ve seen him several times as drummer for The Magik Markers, backing up Elisa Ambrogio’s cacophonous guitar in kind, and know him to be involved in GHQ, Wooden Wand, and at least one Jandek performance. Spectre Folk, his solo-ish songwriting vehicle with releases via three lobed recordings and Static Records, however, was new to me until now. While Nolan apparently records all the studio material himself, for the live performance he relinquished his usual place at the drum set to take over guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals, while additional recruits cover percussion and keyboard duties. Familiar with the Markers’ frequent use of purely improvisational noise, I was surprised by the level of organization evident within Spectre Folk’s hazily psychedelic sound. There was certainly a loose flexibility to Nolan’s guitar work, as he rounded out repeating phrases with noisy shifts, but the keyboard bass and surprisingly steady drums held the songs into a sort of shambling forward progress throughout. Until, at least, the slow-burn of the last song, which felt like a sort of pay-off, all the careful arrangement of the rest of the set splintering into a several-minute cascade of noise.
Ecstatic Sunshine followed with a quick set sadly truncated by technical problems. Fortunately, this was not before they delivered a few solid examples of what they do so well, twin guitar lines wrapping around and through each other in tight coordination. The results are folky and vaguely rustic, perhaps channeling a bit of blue-grass’ rapid finger-plucking, while at the same time electric, with alternating crisp clarity and noise. The band seemed to be trying out a new approach, as well, occasionally letting songs nearly disappear into a swirl of reverb, ascending bass notes lancing up through the processed cloud of sound for a result evocative of their recent Whartscape bill-mates Growing. Indeed, this was music that seemed to speak simultaneously of time-lapse growth and a kind of utopian industry.
Effi Briest closed the stage-standing bands for the night. Their ten-minute psych journeys may push off from a familiarly trippy Americana shore, but tend never to look back, with sturdy, dissonant guitar lines slowly mutating above pouting bass lines and cauterwauling sing-screams and, well… I’m not gonna get an adjective nor gerund in on all the noise going down in an Effi Briest show; the volatile chemistry experiment also combined accordion, clarinet, violin, acoustic guitar, bongos, castanets, drum set, loops, cymbal crashes, repeat. It’s sort of surprising there’s no keyboards in the mix, but I’m sort of grateful they’ve kept that sort of wash out of an already deep pool of noise. The band features members of both the Psychic Ills and the defunct Occasion, but while their sound may be familiar to fans of either band, Effi Briest is entirely its own life force.
Dave Longstreth and two of his Dirty Projector band mates closed out the night standing on a table or something similarly precarious doing electric guitar “acoustic” versions of much of the material from their upcoming Rise Above, the LP-length tribute to the Black Flag album Damaged. While there’s no shortage of Dirty Projector appearances in Brooklyn these days, Saturday night will remain memorable, even as Longstreth continues his band’s successful career through a relationship with Rough Trade and the inevitable pull his strange, alien-toned sounds will have on the gravity of popular music. On Saturday we were privy to its “stripped-down” essence, in which the vocal harmonizations of he and his two ladies, Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, were given the freedom to fill a room without the intervention of guitar/bass/drum complexities. It was haunting, sparse, and for the hour or so that they played, completely hushed throughout Death by Audio.