Real Live Action


w/ Animal Bodies, Watermelon, and Freak Heat Waves

Pat’s Pub; April 20, 2013

by Jonathan Kew

The cover of Koban’s debut LP, Null, features a submissive figure writhing under the weight of manifold cords: a victim of some industrial nightmare, the symbols of which drive onto, into, and over the human body, threatening total erasure. It’s a beautiful analogue for the techno-macabre of their post-punk. However, the release party for Null, held on Record Store Night at Pat’s Pub, was nevertheless host to a series of gregarious, inviting performances—all still imparting a sense of their respective, heavy affects.

Operating with hypnotic repetition, Freak Heat Waves’ considerate melodies were transformed by Pat’s throbbing amplification into nigh-monomaniacal treatises. Songs resolved into epiphanic release or thoughtful deviation, but always interestingly and elusively drifting. Dreamlike tangents waited to transform in their throbbing hum. Capturing both the dreary and the innervating, they established a disposition that fit the night well.

Watermelon’s similarly oneiric concerns were broached in intriguing dream pop, compulsive grooves and beguiling guitar lines. While perhaps the most affected of the night’s acts, the band’s surf rock melodies teased out an eerie underside, a pulling back of the curtain presiding in every impassioned howl. They were a total pleasure and I doubt few, if anyone, minded their going overtime.

Exchanging one series of nostalgic referents for another, Watermelon’s pop was displaced by Animal Bodies’ grimy dystopia. The duo imparted a wall of sound, pairing a towering barrage of unrelenting electronic stimulation cloaked by fuzzy guitar. It was overpowering; even the vocalist seemed trapped, issuing howls that fought amongst a vacuum. The atmosphere they cultivated was undeniable: an absolutely effective tonal shift.

Interesting then, Koban eschewed the brooding introspection of disillusioned post-punk for a frenzied interplay. Gothic hooks that lashed outwards became something else in a live setting. It wasn’t that their dark-wave effects were absent: the technological furor that only drum machines provided, and the tone of hazard that barely withdrew. Yet Koban proved to be invigorating. They affirmed their dark style, translating it into considerable performative rapport with an eager audience.

As melancholic a tone as Koban and Animal Bodies conjured up that night, it was one of celebration. For Koban, that celebration was a deeply personal one. And in a sense, all four took material that set one towards introspection, channeling it instead towards the spirit that a release party conduces.