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Mono, Kinski, World's End Girlfriend, the Drift
Date:
  April

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Last Night: Mono, Kinski, World's End Girlfriend, and the Drift at Neumo's

Oh, sweet noise.


Click the photo for an audio slideshow. Or click here to download an iPod-ready version.

Mono, Kinski, World's End Girlfriend, the Drift
Date:
  April 25, 2007
Venue:  Neumo's

My ears are still ringing like crazy (at 37, I still haven't smartened up enough to wear earplugs), and I feel completely drained, like I ran a marathon last night.  That's because for more than four hours I was blasted with sheets of absolutely stunning, gorgeous noise -- and occasionally soothed by quiet passages of delicate, tear-inducing beauty -- from four instrumental, experimental space-rock outfits, in what for me was one of the most phenomenal evenings of music I've ever experienced. And all the people around me at the half-filled Neumo's seemed equally enthralled.

I'd already known enough about Japanese foursome Mono (not to be confused with the defunct British trip-hop band of the same name) and local quartet Kinski to expect great things from their sets, and they certainly delivered (more on them shortly) but I was completely unfamiliar with opening acts World's End Girlfriend (also from Japan) and San Francisco's the Drift.  The latter kicked things off with a fairly mellow -- at least compared to what followed them -- set of ambient, jazzy, dubby shoegaze that lived up to the band's name, with woozy guitar shapes intersecting with keyboard drones, trumpet, upright bass, and laid-back drumming (at one point the drummer used a bow on his crash cymbals to spooky cool effect).  These guys are definitely fans of Miles Davis's fusion period, that's for sure.


I'm not sure I can even put into words how absolutely magnificent, riveting, emotional, and completely absorbing the performance was by World's End Girlfriend, which is just one guy:  Katsuhiko Maeda, who -- as one fan behind me who'd come to the show specifically to see him, informed me -- has collaborated in the studio with Mono and has his own deep catalog of recordings.  Seated in front of a formidable row of stomp boxes, and with a laptop, sampler, and other effects boxes on a table to his right, he played for nearly an hour straight through, using his guitar to create exquisite swells, noise tsunamis, and subdued, devastatingly melancholy passages that quite literally had me tearing up (and that rarely happens to me at shows), all the while mixing in glitchy beats and sampled voices and noises from time to time.  Listening to his dense, skillfully composed music was fantastic, but watching him as he made it happen all by himself was fascinating -- even when the volume and pace turned furious and frantic, he was a model of total focus and control, deftly manning all of his gear as if he had 10 hands, and triggering his foot pedals with the grace of a dancer.  If you ever have the opportunity to see World's End Girlfriend live, please do not pass it up.


After that, I wasn't sure how Kinski could be anything other than a let-down -- no matter how much I like their music -- but they were gratifyingly explosive and dynamic as they unveiled a handful of new tunes during their 45-minute set. Their combination of classic shoegazer mood-makin', a powerful punch that lands in a psych/garage/metal kinda way, the Krautrock pulse that keeps their songs on a steady path, their use of flutes, keyboards, and bowed instruments to augment the twin-guitar attack, and all the leaping and bounding around the stage made for a really engaging performance.


And then Mono, which took the stage just after 11:30 p.m. to much applause, and proceeded to launch into a 90-minute set in which fragile, sorrowful passages built up into volcanic, eardrum-shattering detonations of sound, then fell away into delicate near-silence, then blew up again -- those crescendos a thing of wonder, even if you're a Mogwai/Explosions in the Sky fan who's heard this kind of stuff plenty of times before.  Standing at center stage, slender and cool in a billowy red dress and locking into drummer Yasunori Takada's insistent thumps, bassist Tamaki was the rock while the guitarists that flanked her -- Yoda and sweat-bucket Takaakira Goto, who were alternately standing, seated, or writhing around on the floor -- literally threw themselves into every massive wall of sound they coaxed from their amps.  Meanwhile, at the side of the stage, bathed in one lightbulb, an artist began painting on a huge canvas (which had already been painted with dozens of colorful origami cranes, possibly from the previous night's performance) right when Mono struck its first notes of the set, and 90 minutes later he had created his own work of art comprising flowers and bees, and received hugs from the band as they departed the stage.  Having a visual treat at the end of the night was sweet, since I doubt that by then anyone in the room could hear a damn thing. Not that anyone was complaining.

 
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