Johnstown, Pennsylvania, avant sound duo Stage Hands will be playing at JJ's Bohemia Thursday with Chattanooga post-rock explorers S W O O N, electronic singer-songwriter The One and Only Matt Miller and noisemaker Otto Rollo.
With the recent release of Stage Hand's new self-titled debut record, the band (composed of multimedia artist/producer Brandon Locher—who recently collaborated on a visual project with Ghostly International—and drummer/producer Gerald Mattis) has taken their skewed electronic compositions and created a swirling mass of circuits, tones and some of the most curiously affecting melodies you'll hear all year. And although only one of the tracks on the album has words—that being "#unabomber," sung by The One and Only Matt Miller—each track sets its own atmosphere as if telling a distinct story.
The record is full of synths, broken electronics and bursts of synthetic percussion, which allows Locher and Mattis the ability to weave these complicated and occasionally minimal bouts of jazz and ambient-inflected rhythms seemingly without effort. The record is alternately busy and languid, as if the songs were unspooling and rebuilding themselves as they're being performed. And despite the rather impermeable nature of some of the sounds here, there's never a sense that the listener is being held at an arm's distance. These songs invite exploration as much as they resist explanation. It's an odd dichotomy that only heightens their already-elusive appearance.
If you're curious as to how these songs will sound live (and you really should be), make sure you're front and center at JJ's on the 16th. This is a show you do not want to miss.
Also sharing the stage will be Chattanooga rockers S W O O N, whose Facebook page describes their music as "new wave/shoegaze/trance"—and though I might throw in a touch of post-rock as well, that's not a bad description of the music they play. The band's influences are clearly defined—you can hear traces of Explosions in the Sky, Slowdive and an elastic pop aesthetic—but they are not bound by the preconceived ideas of what those genres entail. Their music is full of swirling rhythms and amorphous melodies, all bound together by a series of cacophonous and memorable musical threads.
The music of The One and Only Matt Miller can be difficult to describe. There's certainly an aspect of electronic manipulation, but the songs are still founded on a determined pop underpinning. His songs have a tendency to evoke a hazy, formless past, a time when memories were being made and the present felt like it would last forever. His songs have a knack for displaying a rather impressive rhythmic expansion. The music ebbs and flows in movements designed to latch onto our subconscious and elicit a particularly insistent melodic nostalgia.
For experimental hip-hop artist Otto Rollo (AKA David Seeber), music is more than just a series of interconnected sounds—it's the life and breath of the world around us. In the ambient rhythms and stark beats that fill out his songs, he explores and experiences the minute events that make up the day. Originally from Chattanooga but now living in Chicago, Seeber concocts a warbling and unstable mixture of off-kilter rhythms and unorthodox production that feels somewhat alien but also not that unfamiliar. His music forgets about any sort of borders between genres and casually saunters between them in a continual holding pattern.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.