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Enraptured in a Basement: Small Shows to See This Week 

Wednesday, Jan 29 2014
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At most experimental music happenings, I just close my eyes and focus on the amorphous sounds' spatial presence around my skull. Watching some sweaty nob-twister (or, worse, bespectacled face) aglow in laptop luminescence often distracts from the otherworldly or confounding swathes of noise and hidden tonality.

For the local experimental ensemble known as Thomas Carnacki, however, the visual aspect actually enhances the experience. Common objects like bicycle wheels and children's toys are miked, bowed, or otherwise amplified to reveal their musical potential. After you witness a Thomas Carnacki performance, the incidental sounds of your everyday chores and the tedious uses of common objects change into a sort of symphony. Then, experimental music doesn't seem so strange and esoteric. We make it all the time. Though usually a trio, Thomas Carnacki's show on Friday, Jan. 31, at the Temescal Arts Center has the outfit expanded to a sextet. It marks the record release for Carnacki's recent split release with Vulcanus 68, a project of long-time Evangelista member Dominic Cramp, who is also performing.

Have you considered veganism? Sobriety? Might furious bursts of hardcore music, with its rapid rat-tat-tats, burly breakdowns, and guttural shouts, persuade you? It happens all the time. Consider Punch, a local hardcore group whose encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices has amassed a devout following internationally. Punk music often touts some sort of ideology to stylize and distinguish the band. Loose alignment with countercultural icons or armed radical factions does come to mind, though Punch's ideological tenets figure so prominently that the music feels primarily like a vessel for the message. If you're already converted, the live show is a devotional. If not, Punch will certainly make a forceful argument on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 924 Gilman.

There's comforting reliability when stylistically similar groups populate a single bill, but it fatigues listeners and encourages their fashionable tardiness. Rather than building niche solidarity among bands in like company, it makes performers insecure of their skills relative to similar stylists. With a bored audience and paranoid players, passive-aggression and thin lies ensue. Friends of the band purposefully smoke cigarettes through others' sets, and/or deal stock compliments: "You guys are way tighter, the last song was great." Or, one guitarist flatly tells another, "Nice tone," but worries internally, "Are their downstrokes steadier than mine?"

So diverse bills are better. Two or more seemingly opposing groups create a balanced whole, like the pairing of CCR Headcleaner and Michael Beach. Raucous destructo-deviants meet the erudite songwriting power trio (featuring Comets on Fire drummer Utrillo Kushner) in Vacation's basement on Saturday, Feb. 1. Basically, CCR Headcleaner eats garbage. A standout Michael Beach ballad casts Henry Miller and Jesus Christ in an ill-fated road trip. The eclecticism will enrapture, start to finish, and mitigate the need for lies.

About The Author

Sam Lefebvre

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