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22Feb/102

Ashes, Ashes

Saturday night, some friends and I went to a show at Cake Shop. Ostensibly, we went there to see Zola Jesus, but ended up leaving before her set – in fact, I felt a little bad as we put on our coats pretty much two feet away from where she was waiting to use the bathroom. I'm not completely familiar with her work, but I wanted to see her live as she was one third of the quasi-supergroup Former Ghosts, whose debut album was one of my favorites this year. She'll be opening for Xiu Xiu when I see them in April, however, so no big loss.

The band I want to speak about is White Ring, composed of Bryan Kurkimilis and Kendra Malia. According to the band playing after them, this was their first live set ever. Their set-up was pretty bare-bones: Malia was on the mic, with enough reverb to make it sound as if she were in a hallway nested matreshka-style within a dozen other hallways. Kurkimilis had a Yamaha (?) and a Macbook. The synth drum-beats (offsetting the drones) were incredibly, almost insultingly simple and her lyrics were incomprehensible. This didn't affect my enjoyment of the group at all. They got their dark, minimalist-gothic ambience just right. The simplicity and complete artificiality of the set was a conscious departure from both dissonant and untuned folk-Goth on one end and dramatic synth-dance productions on the other.


Image, edited, co. White Ring.

Two aspects of their set stuck out for me – the use of gun samples and the shrieking. I don't usually hear samples of guns cocking (chick-chick) and shooting (boom) outside of hip-hop, but their presence, played to the beat of the music and simultaneously creating their own, was not only attention-grabbing, but genuinely interesting and novel. Malia's shrieks and screams were also well-placed, bringing the rising tempo and mumbling lyrics to a head.

An aside: as someone with crippling stage-fright for even the most inconsequential of presentations, I'd like to commend Bryan Kurkimilis on keeping his own in check. The dude was scared and it showed, but it didn't affect the quality of the show at all. On the other hand (and equally likely), if intense fear is part of his stage persona, I'd like to congratulate him on his successful wholesale embodiment of the emotion.

Here's one of their newer tracks, entitled “Roses” and set, inexplicably, to either the opening or ending scene of Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. I'm not sure if this is a fan video or not, but it's notable that the creator of the video kept the gunshots in from the original soundtrack. I've been told that White Ring will be releasing an EP this spring:

UPDATE
Courtesy of Pendu Magazine, here's a video of Saturday night's set:

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Opinions are funny things. I found the drum programming repellent and the vocals nothing short of pathetic. The gun cocking was just embarrassing. For a group that appropriates runes, pentagrams and other visual cues in their overall aesthetic, it was an odd sight to see white people bobbing their heads to this music like they were at a Lil Jon show. That said, if they ditched the drums and worked on the vocals, it may make for an interesting second coming. Interesting blog by the way.

  2. Well, as a member of the fraternity of head-bobbing white people (we meet on Thursdays at the mall to practice,) I don’t think the beats were crunk-quality, but they still had an infectious quality that variations on beats which came with the synthesizer tend to. I will agree on the fact that the vocal mixing was way off, though. As far as their aesthetic goes, I think music-imagery is long past the point where a band can just display that stuff as its own without at least a bit of a sense of humor behind it. They’re overtly using pagan both cult imagery and southern hip-hop production techniques, so this isn’t Mayhem we’re talking about. Have you listened to their recorded stuff? It wasn’t until I did that the quality points of the show really started shining through for me.

    Also: you’re the first person to post a well-reasoned/written comment of disagreement w/r/t a music review. That is awesome.


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