Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dirty Beaches and the Complexity of Sound

They were young. And they were good, a lo-fi synth-pop group that was half English and half Korean. Their set reminded me of an old indie Korean band called Zzamm, a dreamy sort of set that I felt myself slipping into. The sound was good and they played the crowd well.

It sounded good, it sounded spacey, and given my position in front of the speakers the sounds went right into me. I had a nice zone out to the nice music. When I looked up, the room was more packed, the crowd well worked up. The Editor was smiling and jamming, the Kiterunner was taking pictures, and the Irish was asleep on the bar.

Worked for me.

I jammed out through the rest of the set, very much looking forward to Dirty Beaches. The sound of the Beaches is goodit’s indie low-fi, but listenable low-fi, unlike some I’ve been on the receiving end of. Mostly, I was there because of one very specific lovely song.

I waited and chatted to the Kiterunner through the stage setup, and chatted a bit with the Editor. She was beginning to worry about the state of our poor Irishman, who seemed very much to be dying at the bar.

“I think I might go and take him with me back to Itaewon so he can rest.”

“Okay, well let me know; I have the room key.”

It was at that point that Dirty Beaches started their set. They began with the first song on their most recent album, a slow, thrumming buildup to a wall of sound. It started with almost a wavering heartbeat of rhythm, then a tick-toc-tic of guitar as it drew you into it, which slowly became crashing waves of layers of sound.

At least, that was how it sounded on the album.

Sadly the basement bar venue did not really support this. At one point I could see [Artist name] raising his hand and forcefully indicating to someone to adjust the sound. I knew why he wanted it too, and it upset me. He was too good to be playing a venue better suited for some college indie band. He needed a stage and a sound engineer. I had to be honest, SuperColorSuper had truly let me down on this show. In all fairness, their Vinyl Williams show had been awesome, but the PS show had three opening acts and I couldn’t stay for PS because of the late hour (and Thursday-night schedule), so this was the second time they had let me down.

I stayed for the second song, but the sound did not improve.

“No, let’s go; this won’t do.”

The Irish looked particularly relieved and we all piled back out into the cold and caught a cab back to Itaweon, dropping off the crew at intervals until finally the Irish and I walked into a hotel room, said hello to a dog, and then both happily collapsed and passed out in our own rented beds. It was an adventure, and a worthwhile one, but a tiring one at that.

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