This article appears on page 12 of the August 25 print edition of Ace.
BY RAJ RANADE
Are the organizers of Boomslang making a play for regional music dominance? Lexington’s premier indie music festival is scheduled for the fourth weekend in September – which happens to be when Cincinnati’s (much larger) premier indie event, the Midpoint Music Festival, is taking place. That could just be a scheduling oversight, but maybe the wealth of local concerts leading up to that regional music tete-a-tete has given local organizers confidence in their own scene. Here’s some of what local music fans have to look forward to this fall:
(Cosmic Charlie’s August 25)
Atlanta indie rockers Deerhunter blend together nostalgic yesteryear pop with harsher sounds of the modern: sunny melodies and Bradford Cox’s ethereal vocals mix together with electronic percussion, swirling guitar squalls, and ambient drones. There’s a heady intellectual bent to the way this group pieces together a musical atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a punch-in-the-gut kick to their live performances. The band’s latest album, Halcyon Digest, lets the versatile Cox show off different musical personalities on stage, from dreamy softness on a electronically pulsing ballad like “Helicopter” to arena-rock swagger on a stomper like “Coronado.” Setting the mood for the show will be locally-based Casino vs Japan, an IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) artist who creates complex sample-based grooves.
YouTube This: “Revival” “Helicopter”
The War on Drugs
(Cosmic Charlie’s, August 31)
Like Deerhunter, The War on Drugs mix together nostalgic old styles with experimental new ones, but their approach is more focused: the band takes good-old-fashioned rock and roll Americana and pushes its boundaries into something newer and weirder. The title of their latest album Slave Ambient is a clue — ambient electronic music focuses on the hypnotic effect of repetition, and the rock songs of The War on Drugs are less about huge catchy choruses than they are about slowly layering grooves and sonic textures into a massive, mesmerizing wall of sound. Over this backdrop, lead singer Adam Granduciel worships at the altars of Dylan and Springsteen, borrowing heavily from both vocal influences as he sings songs about rambling through the freeways, farms, and ruins of the heartland. The War on Drugs may not yet have reached the level of fame that Kurt Vile, the indie rocker who left the band a few years ago, has achieved, but their music might be even stronger. Similarly retro-minded rockers Caveman will be opening.
YouTube This: “Baby Missiles” “Come to the City”
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
(Buster’s September 2)
As a former member of the Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell is responsible for some of that band’s most memorable songs, like the cinematic family feud epic “Decoration Day” or the haunting tribute to The Band of “Danko/Manuel.” As a solo artist, Isbell has unfortunately abandoned some of his grander storytelling impulses, but the small-scale portraits that he writes with backing band The 400 Unit are still packed with far more nuance and detail than what most modern country artists can come up with. Songs like “Codeine,” about a breakup with a pill-popping barfly, and “Soldiers Get Strange,” about a soldier’s struggle as he tries to return to simple married life, are gorgeously sad character sketches that certainly would do his past band proud. Locally based country-rockers Fifth on the Floor will be starting off the night.
YouTube This: “Decoration Day” “Alabama Pines”
Black Moth Super Rainbow
(Cosmic Charlie’s, September 17)
It’s not clear what exactly the stance of The War on Drugs is on illicit substances, but it’s fair to say that an alternate name for Black Moth Super Rainbow might be TheWar for Drugs – this Pittsburgh foursome makes deeply trippy synthesizer rock that sounds like androids trying to cover LSD-fueled psychedelic pop. Not much is known about where the band came from – the four members go by the names of Tobacco, d.kyler, Ryan Graveface, and, uh, The Seven Fields of Aphelion (on keyboards, of course). But those weird personalities make awfully accessible music – the latest album, Eating Us combines classic rock song structures and percussion with vocoder-dominated vocals and chunky synthesizer lines. The result is pretty irresistible – there’s more than enough bubble-gum choruses and sugary melodies to justify album track names like “Tooth Decay.”
YouTube This: “Born On A Day The Sun Didn’t Rise” “Forever Heavy”