Published Nov 09, 2009Opening the show was Valet, the current moniker of Portland, OR experimental musician and sometimes live Atlas Sound member Honey Owens. Playing echo-laden, bluesy dirges reminiscent of fellow Portlander Liz Harris (aka Grouper), Valet crooned and mumbled softly behind her one-woman wall of sound, lulling the sizable audience into hushed appreciation.
Next up was Sinoia Caves, the side-project of Black Mountain's Jeremy Schmidt. A solo act featuring an impressive collection of analog synths, the set was unfortunately a step down, energy wise, from Valet's performance. Sinoia Caves' sound recalls a bygone era when guys like Jean Michel Jarre were pumped about the expressive possibilities of the synthesizer, but despite a promising start, the performance didn't have enough variety to warrant the nearly hour-long set time. And since Schmidt twiddled his knobs in almost complete darkness, there wasn't much visual appeal, either.
The surprise of the night was the headliners, San Francisco's Jonas Reinhardt. Featuring guitarist Phil Manley (from Trans Am and Oneida) and synth ace Jesse Reiner (of prog pop weirdos Crime in Choir), the band's eponymous 2008 debut for Kranky is composed mostly of synth pop experimentalism, tending toward soundscapes rather than songs. Live, however, Jonas Reinhardt became a kind of mutant Krautrock/space disco hybrid, jacked up with classic funk guitar riffs and muscular bass lines. The synth washes from the album remained, but were forged into tight, focused dance jams by a surprisingly capable rhythm section.
Unexpected but strangely alluring, the set found the audience of mostly demure psych/drone fans, settled in and ready to spend the rest of the evening gravely stroking their beards, suddenly dancing, shocked out of the ambient reverie wrought by the previous acts.