October 7, 2009

Live Review: The N.E.C., Living Rooms and Roman Photos

529 // East Atlanta, GA // Sept. 21, 2009

A legendary rainstorm battered Atlanta on the night of the show. It was catastrophic, inasmuch as the city’s recent severe drought officially ended in a flash flood. Despite the torrential downpour throughout the day, the thunder and lighting subsided just long enough for Double Phantom Records’ three bands being showcased to draw a crowd and dominate their ears. Packed into the venue and nowhere else to go, the crowd looked to Roman Photos first to alleviate the stir-crazy vibe permeating throughout the club.

Roman Photo’s unique brand of post-punk and electronica set an early funky tone. The heavy bass lines and layered synths created an ambient, yet oddly melodic backdrop to the sparse, shouting and somewhat preachy vocals. The bass player’s sporadic yelps into the microphone at times contributed to the art fa├žade the band oozed on stage. At one point during their set the band even distributed various percussion instruments to the crowd – who at that point were more than happy to oblige them with their participation. Upon the completion of their set I couldn’t help but wonder how the band would sound if given time to mature. Their sound was definitely innovative and truly undefined, thus making me anxious to see what these gentlemen might come up with the next time I hear them. And there most definitely will be a next time.

Living Rooms continued the trend of the night as a band comprised mostly of members playing synthesizers or electric gadgets. Nonetheless, I found myself taken back and the music critic in me knocked down a peg or two. When the three gentlemen started to play it was slow, ambient and didn’t exactly spark my attention. I started to walk away and ignore it – shamefully searching for a spare cigarette to bum from a friend. Then as I was walking to the front door the drum machine and guitar player kicked in. I was shocked. The payoff, climax or peak – whatever you want to call it – Living Rooms created was staggering. The post-rock crescendo the band builds are masterfully executed, and I found myself putting the cigarette behind my ear and anxiously listening to the rest of their set. I judged them before they even finished a song, and now I’m ashamed because of it. Living Room was fresh, artistic and dramatic, but most of all the sort of serendipity that makes good shows great.

After the “art kids” finished their respective sets, rock 'n' roll came down just like the monsoon outside when The N.E.C. took the stage. The traditional form of a drummer, two guitarists and a bass player returned to the 529, but it played a set that was just as experimental and unique as the bands that preceded them. The loud tremolo-picking guitars created a wall of sound that was only accentuated by the hard and jarring rhythm section. The psychedelic vocals gave way to the more shoegaze-like atmospheric tones the instruments created, albeit in a manner similar to putting your head against a speaker on full volume while in the midst of a euphoric acid trip. The simple roots of their songs come out of the amps as chaotic, primal and blood-thirsty rites of passage and if you survived them, they welcomed you into the tribe with the still-dripping flesh of your enemies. The N.E.C’s songs were brutal, yet somehow still gave you the impression like they were leading you somewhere and trying to give you direction – who the fuck knows where – but all I could imagine was listening to a warlord lead his troops into battle. The set ended with a cacophony of noise and dramatic guitar detuning. It was almost as if the militaristic rape of your ears was actually the systematic destruction and rehabilitation of your medulla oblongata. I left feeling as if I’d been reprogrammed to pray, obey and of course kill. It was simply awesome. This band has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best bands in the city, and after tonight it's been totally legitimized in my mind.
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-Review and video by Albert Opraseuth


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