You think you're at a show, but as you walk in, you're greeted by a "doctor," who takes your cover charge. You're whisked away from your friends and led into another room, guarded by two "nurses," who begin to ask you a series of rapid-fire questions: "Do you go through chronic mood swings? Do you feel upset where you're at in life? Do you feel unfulfilled?"
Next, these nurses give you a "diagnosis." Schizophrenia. Depression. Mania. Narcissism. In the last room, where the stages are, you can hear a female voice giving guided meditation over the PA system. "I want you to breathe deep in time with the universe . . . you are a liquid." But then the voice maybe says, "I want you to breathe in and . . . don't let them take you, don't let them take your baby."
Have you finally lost it? Nah. You've just wandered into the mind of Dane Jarvie, one of the architects behind NüDek Productions and Senteons, Tempe's experimental progressive rock quintet. Started in the shadows a little over a year ago, Senteons have been quietly putting on some of the stranger gigs in the Valley.
Senteons' debut EP, Blackwood, is lush with dark piano flourishes and guitar crescendos that would fit comfortably alongside A Perfect Circle or Porcupine Tree. A video for the album's opener, "Phantoms," directed by Shanice Johnson, takes place in a swamp inhabited by evil queens with vacant eyes who demand sacrifice, where intoxicating pink bog gases overlay runes, and pale figures emerge from frigid water. Such landscapes, including the Sonoran Desert, are what inspire Jarvie, who is originally from Chicago. Partially as a response to the minimalistic, indie climate pervading Arizona's music scene, Senteons wants to create more introspective art that emphasizes the subconscious mind and burrows within the listener.
"[The] aesthetic that's kind of been popular lately has been really anti-subconscious mind. They want the imagery of the lyrics to be very direct, to the point, free of metaphor," Jarvie says. "We just wanted to create art that was opposite of that . . . It reveals itself to you slowly over time. It leaves more to desired."
To Jarvie, Senteons is more than just music -- it's an outlet for aggression, for expressing love, and even somewhat of a religion. "Through my art and through my music, I create my own myths, I create my own symbol, and I create my own ritual," Jarvie says.
Jarvie tries to embody that through all his productions, whether it's performance art, dancing, stage plays, or music. NüDek's avant-garde shows, such as the aforementioned "Institutionalized" gig at Tempe Woman's Center in April, is a perfect example of this combination.
Through these events, NüDek hopes to create "radically immersive aesthetic experience[s] by engaging audiences via theatrical and musical performances within the thematic frame of psychiatry, institutionalization, and clinical reductions of human experience."
""It's all connected," Jarvie says. "You have the artist, the film dude, the writer, the dancers. It's . . . where everyone comes together and makes something bigger than themselves . . . Look at any big band, like Nirvana. They didn't become big just because they were Nirvana. They had an entire movement in the Seattle scene, helping support them . . . Arizona has potential to have a very strong regional identity and a strong force in the artistic community. I think a lot of people who embody a lot of different roles make it something special."
Jarvie adds that he's not trying to come across as contrived, but instead honest. "What I'm trying to say is not that minimal indie is bad by any means. I enjoy it. I think it was just time for something else to respond to that."
Senteons is scheduled to perform a house show Thursday, August 7, at 707 W. 19th Street in Tempe.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.