A sudden, crashing intro kicked off the night's 4 band lineup. A guitarist sat in a chair surrounded by the drum kit, a bassist in a short summer dress, and a rack of keyboards - what's this gonna be? Phantasy Of Mirage, a completely new band to me, revealed themselves as able players in this island's ever-growing instrumental post-rock brigade.
Having gotten our attention with their loud big bang, guitarist 阿淵 changed directions with a sensitive, soft melody that, staying true to the genre, repeats and grows more sinister and emotive. Loud, quiet, loud, quiet, loud... Bassist Moto power-chorded the band towards violent outbursts, and keyboardist 詩仙 filled the gaps with his own riffs and melodies. 阿淵 demonstrated you can indeed rock out while sitting down but literally rose to the occasion as the music pounded forth. I found myself hoping they'd take more risks with their compositions, but that's just my opinion. Phantasy of Mirage's mood swings nonetheless hold power and promise.
Only a year old, synth-pop trio Parabox followed with a very different approach, as laptops and keyboards competed for space. It seemed that the drummer behind his kit had the most room to relax. But the music, not the spacing, is the point, and the music was good. Fun, bouncy tones and catchy beats set Parabox in motion. I'm glad they play with live drums - it always feels best to hear some rhythms getting beat out in real time, and it always gives the songs more oomph.
Unlike Phantasy of Mirage, I had some prior knowledge of Parabox, catching their set a month ago at Underworld, and having enjoyed hearing a few of their demos on tw.streetvoice.com. It was therefore a little frustrating as sound issues interfered with the vocals, muffling and muting singer Laura's voice more often than not. The second song of their set was a lighthearted, twee-like number, recalling early Tizzy Bac in parts. Donnie, the drummer, accompanied Laura on vocals, and somehow that managed better clarity in the mix. Keyboardist Ian had some really nice sounds coming out of his machine throughout their set, a set that infused their electronic devices with passions and feelings. Despite ending with the declaration, \"我不是 rocker!\" Parabox's finale 舞台 was in fact their most rock tune. However they choose to play, I feel this is a band that can do good things in the near future.
There's no one like The Okay Cars in Taipei - a foreign duo experimenting with sound, and to a lesser extent, vision. Lars mans the buttons, beats, & knobs, and Brad provides the guitar and vocals, delivered in a dry Pavement-y way. There's a definite playful undercurrent to these fellows, be it Brad's vocal phrasings, Lar's between song one-liners, or the choice of random slice-of-life images projected behind them.
The latter, the use of an old slide projector (and the yellowing memories of what I guess to be a 1972 summer in Saskatchawan) to accompany drum machines and modern synthesizers is a seemingly bizarre mix. Old School vs. New School technologies. But this contradiction is, I think, deliberate and makes sense somehow. In a world of planned obsolescence, nostalgia is only a day away. The band seems intent on reconciling these lost and soon-to-be-lost legacies with the here and now.
Musically, they teeter between the familiar and the unknown. I'm never really sure when a song has started (or ended) as they all begin with a tinkering of gear, an alignment of samples, and hiccups from the guitar. The Okay Cars require, if not embrace, a touch of chaos, it seems. They put the idea out there, and for this listener, it can be both compelling and, occasionally, puzzling. Either way, I'm curious to know what's next.
A prime example of the dichotomy between their stability and disarray is their rendition of L.A. by The Fall. A refreshingly pulsing bass fell into turmoil then returned like an ex-lover, only to abandon us once again. A little later in the set, violinist Kaivin Chen joined forces, yet another unexpected twist. For me, this was the missing ingredient, as the songs became rounder and fuller. But who would think to add a jamming fiddle to the equation? Such is the idiosyncratic behavior of The Okay Cars, a swerving vehicle that never crashes, but straddles the shoulder of convention.
Fresh with new songs and a new drummer - John Stephenson from Roxymoron - bandleader Huang Yu Ching told me this was OCD Girl's official debut. The band has appeared several times already in 2011, as noted in prior GigGuide.tw reviews, but she sees this as an opportunity to push the reset button.
At their other, now non-official debut in January, I noted their energy and aggression, and that remains true for OCD Girl 2.0. Without a doubt, OCD Girl hit you straight in the face with a raw punk spirit. The surfy, plucky bass, John's brawny drums, and the screaming vocals slapped the crowd around, who responded with proper enthusiasm. The quirky keyboards also remain. My favorite keyboard moment was a song that alternates a drunken whale moan with a rowdy punk rock guitar. How the fuck do you come up with that? I dunno, but I sure am glad they shared it with us. As a fan of Yu Ching's music (she gave us the band Space Cake not so long ago), I look forward to this new project tightening the screws and thrashing me around some more.
On the whole, it was a bit of an uneven night, yet with an eye to the future, it was also a reassuring one. Stylistically, the lineup felt a bit arbitrary. I personally prefer a show of fewer bands that more closely complement one another's sound and feel. On the other hand, this did allow me a nice sampling of what some newer groups are creating. Despite performances that were a little rough around the edges and a sound system that endured a few struggles, I enjoyed the good potential within each band. It's the DJ's curse that my schedule causes me to miss out on too many shows. But this Thursday night event at Revolver, Taipei's popular new venue, allowed me just such an opportunity to get back to the basics, that is, digging some new music with good friends.