Real Live Action

Secret Pyramid

w/ Waters, and Anju Singh

Remington Gallery; April 6, 2013

Real Live Review by Fraser Dobbs

For the last of its three-show tenure as a temporary hub for drone and noise, the Remington art gallery was a shelter for those escaping a rainy night and the persecution of having missed out on Nick Cave tickets. Even with a phenomenal lineup, it was disheartening to see so few new faces at an event that should have been at the centre of every experimental music fan’s calendar. Maybe Nick Cave tickets weren’t as rare as we thought.

Anju Singh is nothing if not prolific. The curator of the recent re-launch of the Vancouver Noise Fest has never played the same show twice, preferring instead to keep her audience off-guard and uncomfortable. This time, with longtime collaborator Graham Christofferson, the two unleashed a torrent of white noise and not much else. Despite an impressive rig with two massive amp cabs behind them, the bass and guitar combo didn’t prove to be much more than the sum of their parts: unlimited distortion, the occasional tangible chord change, and static. It might have been just what the noise nerds in the audience were after, but caught the rest of the mellow space off-kilter.

Waters | photo by Steve Louie

Waters is such a mesmerizing project that it has been difficult to notice Lindsey Hampton and Andrew Lee’s gradual cocoon-and-curl into something brilliant and new in the past year. Together, the pair’s music chimed crystalline, the sound of mermaids singing to lure sailors into the depths. Comparisons to Grouper can’t be avoided, but the heavy layering of chasmic guitar tremolo and electronic wizardry pushed Waters toward breathtaking and original territory. Hampton’s swirling siren song vocals were equal parts glacial and haunting.

It’s a crime that Secret Pyramid (Amir Abbey) only appears on a bill twice a year or so, but maybe that’s the point. His rare performances are that much more rewarding. The start of Abbey’s performance saw him manipulating a sample pad and a handful of pedals to create pulsating space-drone ebb and flow with a distinct cassette tape feel familiar to fans of Boards Of Canada, albeit on a much slower setting. Secret Pyramid was a captivating but anti-social performance. Abbey’s back faced the crowd much of the time, leaving plenty of room for those assembled to find their own way to enjoy the heavy drone orbiting. Some were content to sit, observe, and ponder while others lay down, closed their eyes, and seemed to fall off the edge of their own consciousness. Secret Pyramid was a ladder of continual sonic bliss as Abbey traded off gadgets for a guitar, amplifier, waves of tonal shifts, and rainy, room-filling major chords that added to, then enveloped, his previous loops. His performance stopped with a final crash of harmonically overloaded echo and wash that soaked the gallery in unseen electricity.

Even though the incredible Aerosol Constellations were just getting set up to close, Abbey’s set was as fatiguing as it was fulfilling to my droned-out bones. With remorse, I parted ways with the awesome Remington before my system gave out.