Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: electronic

METZ at Smiling Buddha – 6/22/14 (Review, Photos, Video)

METZ XXVII

The last full bill to get taken in during the Toronto trip wasn’t part of a festival but it was at the venue that housed several of the best NXNE shows: Smiling Buddha. Up to bat for the all-ages isolated bill this time around was Pleasure Leftists, Holy Fuck, and noise-punk titans METZ. Pleasure Leftists had already torn apart Soybomb HQ the night before, in what was easily the most stacked non-festival bill to take place all week and were more than poised to take Smiling Buddha over in the exact same fashion: fearlessly and without pause. Once again, vocalist Haley Morris proved to be as spellbinding as the music pouring out of the cabs behind her. Frantically shifting from side to side, Morris commanded attention and channeled the relative bleakness of the increasingly spectacular songs into something entrancing and indefinable. There’s a certain spirit permeating throughout Pleasure Leftists’ work and presentation that so many bands are trying to do but failing miserably in their attempts. It’s an intangible element and it resonates throughout all of their songs to an absurd degree. Moments of nervousness, dread, tension, fear, anger, and the unknown all get emphasized in one way or another through Pleasure Leftists’ songs and the band, time and time again, manages to find a way to harness it. Both of their performances were unforgettable affairs but the masterfully mixed levels at Smiling Buddha put their second performance just a notch above the first. Both outings proved that the band has found the perfect balancing point between the graceful and the intimidating. Both times it was extraordinary.

Toronto noise/electronic/experimental trio Holy Fuck graced the stage after Pleasure Leftists’ set left a few more uninitiated attendees completely stunned. If there was any trepidation over how well Holy Fuck’s set, a relative outlier, the band eased those doubts within a few songs. Being one of the few acts playing their brand of music to feature live drums on a full drumkit worked out to the band’s advantage in more ways than one. Did it make them a more suitable fit for the bill? Yes. Absolutely. Was it beneficial during the band’s early sound problems? Undoubtedly. Each member of the trio attacked their instruments with unbridled passion, clearly loving every moment of their time on stage. While the drums were being pounded into oblivion, both multi-instrumentalists set about utilizing everything in their arsenal to its maximum potential. Their audience ate it up; people were headbanging, dancing, and attempting to project as much energy onto the band as the band was projecting onto them. What some assumed would be an unmitigated booking disaster instead wound up presenting a clearly-loved contrast (or reprieve) from the moodiness exhibited by both Pleasure Leftists and METZ. Holy Fuck kept things going for as long as they could, smiling all the way through. At set’s end, they were all drenched in sweat, still smiling, and looking at an entire venue smiling right back at them.

After delivering an insane set last year in a very small room of an arts center in Champaign-Urbana, IL as part of the Pygmalion Festival, expectations were considerably lofty for METZ- especially considering the fact they were playing to a hometown crowd. They didn’t disappoint. They didn’t even come close. METZ didn’t even manage to make it through their first few songs before the crowd had tipped over into verging-on-volatile, killing the stage flood lights completely. Instead of getting hung up on an understandable technical issue, the trio subverted expectations in a way only they can, pleading with the photographers present to use their brightest flashes to create a natural strobe light effect. All of them obliged. What followed from that point forward was an exercise in endurance for both the audience, a constantly shifting heaving mass of bodies, and the band themselves, who each managed to turn their clothes a few shades darker via profuse, hard-earned, sweat. The band’s self-titled Sub Pop LP is still their defining achievement and most of it was played- but they did manage to throw in a crowd-assisted cover of “Neat Neat Neat” as well as a new song or two, while providing discography balance wherever they could. Audience members were actively encouraged to climb onstage and hang out for a song or two while also being given the standard reminder that “if you see anyone fall down in the pit, pick their ass back up, give them a kiss on the cheek, and keep going”. No one gets hurt at a METZ show and everyone looks out for each other. No matter how much screeching feedback, pure chaos, total noise, and unrelenting darkness there was, it never felt too dangerous. METZ refused to let it get too dangerous, even though they know exactly how to walk right up to the border. That underlying humanism is part of what makes a METZ show feel so enlightening; this is outstanding music being made by genuinely great people- and it’s worthy of being celebrated on all accounts.

Follow the link provided below to see a photo gallery of this show. Beneath that is a video of Pleasure Leftists’ set hitting its stride.

Smiling Buddha: Pleasure Leftists, Holy Fuck, METZ (Photo Gallery)

Sleep Party People – In Another World (Stream)

SLEEP PARTY PEOPLE - In Another World

Very rarely has Heartbreaking Bravery stepped outside the confines of the DIY punk community. Even the bigger acts that have been celebrated in this space have had ties to the basements that birthed this continuously-evolving faceless collective. Usually when there’s an interloper it’s an artist that has some inclinations towards a fierceness characteristic of that community or that fierceness is an inherent part of their work. There’s a reason for this- Heartbreaking Bravery has a conscious identity primarily revolving around the bands that deserve to be celebrated in their early stages and no scene seemed to embody that spirit more than the one that’s most frequently covered here. Every once in a while, though, there comes a band, video, or song that’s good enough to challenge or infiltrate that identity. Sleep Party People is one of those bands and “In Another World” is certainly one of those songs.

Sleep Party People’s We Were Drifting On A Sad Song, an enticing mixture of ambient, pop, electronica, psychedelia, and moments of transcendental heaviness, was one of 2013’s more challenging records just by virtue of being so fearlessly unique. One of the most prominent features of that record came in the form of Brian Batz’s strangely unnerving electronically-manipulated vocals.  That the Copenhagen artists vocals appear to be relatively unfiltered throughout “In Another World” instantly make them more arresting, if only because the move is so unexpected. Batz’s vocals aren’t the first attention-catching thing here, though. “In Another World” (the first track to be teased from the upcoming floating starts with a haunted acoustic guitar medley underneath a warm phonograph crackle before being joined by a hypnotic drum part, ultimately winding up in peak DangerMouse/Gorillaz territory.

Shortly after that soundbed’s established, a creeping sense of uncertainty sets in as Batz gently lays his falsetto over the noise as additional production (courtesy of Mikael Johnston and Jeff Saltzman) creeps in and out of the mix- sometimes quite literally, as the brilliant sound design has it panning from left speaker to right, fluctuating in volume. It’s an experience that’s impossible to pull away from- its entrails reach out and surround in a foreboding paralytic embrace. Piano lines appear and vanish, the bass rises and falls with frightening conviction, the vocals remain disconcertingly calm and what should wind up being a vaguely nightmarish experience somehow becomes one of quiet catharsis.

This is music that matters and doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. Listen to it below and stare forever at the obscenely gorgeous cover art.