Published Sep 12, 2011The parking lot beside the Waldorf was reaching peak heat by the time the V. Vecker Ensemble began their 20-minute set for this year's New Forms Festival. Dressed all in black, Keith Wecker, the afternoon's maestro, sat centre stage with his back towards the audience while conducting two drummers, two guitarists, two bass players and a Persian santoor player (which is basically a hammered dulcimer), all while playing a vintage Hammond organ. Though earlier performances of the ensemble were rooted in Glenn Branca-influenced guitar symphonies (Wecker once played with Branca), this newest incarnation was more of a post-punk take on the formula.
The piece was built up from discordant guitar interplay and steady rhythms from the bass and drums, then eventually hit a clanging climax before settling into a calming solo from the santoor player. With Wecker throwing out hand signals to the ensemble, it was built back up and reached a squealing, almost terrifying apex built out of sheer volume and intensity. Though the group's shows are rare -- this was only their fourth in over a year -- V. Vecker Ensemble have proven themselves as one of the city's must-see acts.
Though Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw lives just down Vancouver's coast line, this marked his first appearance in the city since his 2008 inception. With the release of his latest opus, the sprawling double album Ancient Romans, Stallones recently enlisted the help of two other L.A.-based musicians to help flesh out his dense recordings in the live setting. The Sun Araw Band featured Alex Gray, also of Deep Magic, on guitar and MPC, alongside Barrett Avner, who played a monotron and a shahi baaja, a type of Indian zither.
Rather than attempt to immaculately recreate the music as heard on Sun Araw's many releases, the trio relied heavily on improvisation. Older songs meshed easily with newer ones, with most starting off improvised before eventually landing in territory familiar to the ears of the many eager fans. Stallones switched back and forth between a few synths and his wah-heavy guitar workouts, while his two new bandmates jammed incessantly within the aquatic and tropical psych excursions. A beating-hot day in the Waldorf's parking lot was maybe not the best location for a show like this, but the transcendental nature of their performance sure helped transport the mind elsewhere.