Marshstepper, Sewn Leather, Jock Club - The Marsh - 5/10/2013

The Marsh is a house venue whose main room's dimensions I estimate to be around 16 x 20. In this room, there is an alcove where some lights that change color are installed.

There is a fog machine somewhere that, in conjunction with the lights, is intermittently successful in creating the illusion that you are not in someone's house, but at a posh dance club, possibly in Europe. The venue sporadically hosts shows, often involving artists affiliated with Ascetic House and usually exhibiting the kind of experimental projects they are known for supporting.

Last night, I attended one of these shows.

Jock Club, a local solo EDM project, opened as probably the least abrasive and most palatable performer of the evening. I got a strong acid-house vibe from it. At one point, a person in the crowd said "that was pretty dope," and I completely agreed.

L.A.'s Sewn Leather followed with a set that started off with some harsh noise that transitioned nicely into some really aggressive electronic music. It was kind of like a more hardcore, punk-influenced Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, but without the really dance-heavy stuff you'd find in an Atari Teenage Riot song.

It may have gotten too aggro for my tastes as soon as its sole member started flailing around into members of the audience -- this kind of shtick doesn't turn out very impressive. No one is going to think, "That guy making music on complex and expensive equipment gets CRAZY when he bumps into people every now and then while not at the helm of the aforementioned equipment." I think most people above age 19 should want art to feel threatening outside the context of catching an elbow to the face. Maybe Sewn Leather can make art like this, or else it should strive to out-elbow the competition (Hoax, Hatebreed, etc.)

Shifting away from outright aggression to more mysterious territories, the closing set of the night by Marshstepper solidified my opinion that it is a band that needs to be seen live to be understood. Several cassette tapes and videos of them, distributed sometimes by their own Ascetic House label, are floating around, but these documents offer only a limited perspective.

Last night's performance featured two members in musical roles, and one taking on the part of a masked shaman-like figure. With stained-glass lamps strewn about the floor around what looked like a large plant pot being used as a font for holy water (or some more malevolent admixture), the scene looked like a homemade black mass. As the shaman went around blessing people and performing esoteric rituals, the noise, reverb-y screams, verse readings, and sampling found in Marshstepper's music aligned with it, creating a kind of DIY theater performance that felt funny but also surprisingly tasteful.

The level of execution felt like a step above DIY amateurism, while at the same time reveling in DIY amateurism. It is an interesting contradiction that the cassettes and videos can't really capture; it has to be experienced directly.

It was a good night for weird electronic music at the Marsh. I walked away not only with an interest in fog machines and light fixtures, but, more importantly, a better understanding of what is going on in a seemingly mysterious corner of the scene.

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Mike Bogumill
Contact: Mike Bogumill