Young Prisms, Rhythm Room, 11/19/12

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Young Prisms @ Rhythm Room|11/19/12

The best shoegaze achieves what I think of as negative guitar momentum: distorted or whorled chord effects that, even when paired with hard and steady rhythms, are capable of washing out the meter to give the feeling of moving backwards.

It's related to the weird serenity of seeing black metal guitarists shredding so rapidly they have to freeze in place to maintain concentration; a conflict between the suggested momentum of their riffs and the stasis of their bodies. The effect even renders soft the deep volume of the distortion sheets. I used to fall asleep to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless cranked to capacity on headphones.

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Last night at Rhythm Room, San Francisco's Young Prisms were relatively quiet for this style of guitar rock, but their occasional moments of all-encompassing warble were melodically induced instead of narcotically amplified. In true shoegaze form, however, the members basically remained motionless: the drummer keeping a focused eye on the ride cymbal through the high-tempo pulse, singer Stefanie Hodapp clinging to her mic stand when her hands weren't in her pockets. Though the band's volume was moderate, it was a shame that her breathy vocals were only scarcely heard in the mix.

Their set was still something worth getting lost inside. The guitarist played a beautiful-sounding Fender Jaguar through a maze of pedals, managing the heavy chord lifting while also easing into sweet moments through picked Cure-like single note leads. Still, it would have been great to get a little more of a disembodying push. Even on a small scale, Young Prisms' shimmery songs have cavernous demands. It's the kind of thing that would be monumentally enhanced by a simple stage-lighting scheme.

Distinct guitar roles were the theme of the evening. Among the two local openers were Tempe's Otro Mundo, who slashed and burned through a set of tight grunge-gaze psych numbers. Singer Alex Jarson's reverbed shrieks vaulted the band's quiet verse/loud chorus structures to enjoyable heights while guitarist Andrew Jarson threw in some highly pyrotechnic guitar leads over the simple fuzz backdrop, an element more punk-tinged bands are rightfully embracing alongside the usual power chords. For Phoenix post-punks Sleep Money, the guitar acted as a secondary distorted backdrop to melodic bass leads and maniacally monotone vocal phrases. Just two of the many ways one might skin a cat.

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