Review: A Place To Bury Strangers, Grooms, Dirty Spells @ the Cobalt, Sept 10th 2015
Vancouver’s sonic sensibilities were put to the test by the blistering volume of New York trio A Place To Bury Strangers at the Cobalt, an intimate bar and one of the city’s favourite drinking holes. Playing in support were Grooms and local Vancouver threesome Dirty Spells.
At their first appearance, Dirty Spells distinguished themselves with a masked rhythm section. The pair of broad headed skull masks didn’t seem to slow down the bass or drum work. The undead duo provided great support for the group’s third component, Emily Bach, who commanded the upper end of the sonic spectrum with an electrified violin. With their not-so-common arrangement of instruments, the band made a powerful impression with their journey-like instrumentals. Dirty Spells set a fine mood for the evening’s sonic carnage.
Up next were Grooms, a New York three piece with a rock attack encompassing pop and punk styles with a dash of abstract sound textures. Grooms performed a solid set of rock, tying unusual genres together from a broad set of influences; it sounds like these guys like the work of Thurston Moore.
Following in the traditions of artistic ‘80s psych and shoe gaze acts like My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, APTBS surf the wave of heavy volume with ease and occasionally pouring out a ferocious, tidal-waved sized wall of sound. The band, simply put, are LOUD.
Guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackermann and bassist Dion Lunadon have been mastering their brand of impassioned, take-no-prisoners space rock for years; their fifth album, titled Transfixiation shows further development of their sound. The sheer energy of a APTBS concert is enormous. After setting up on the darkened stage, Ackermann needed all of two seconds to get his guitar feed backing into a wall of sound. Twisting the guitar above his head and shifting his broad leg stance, Ackermann’s playing warranted comparison to the wildness of Lee Ranaldo ‘s guitar work and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Sheildesque textures.
The stage was cross targeted by four separate projectors positioned around the band’s drums and amplifiers. A few smoke machines provided a misty cover in which Dion and Ackermann weaved in and out of at their leisure. Drummer Robi Gonzalez’s tight, snapping rhythms anchored the musical onslaught though he was often unseen due to the thickness of the stage smoke and colourful projections. With their wild and elaborate projections, heavy smoke, and ecstatic stage movements, APTBS have distinguished themselves as artistic leaders; few musicians have lately earned such bold accolades towards their song-craft, sonic experiments and the sheer searing adventure of their live performance.
Suddenly, Dion leaped from the stage, bass in hand, and headed towards the back of the club to a set of amplifiers and musical electronics. Ackermann continued to wield guitar feedback onstage until sound could be heard from across the dim and darkened bar. The trio had reunited on the floor of the venue, cranking out a stripped down but still savage mesh of broad, buzzing tones and bass lines. The audience, with elated faces, circled the auditory assault in front of them on the floor. The floor was packed and it was hard to tell exactly what sort of instruments were playing, but it was wild.
A Place To Bury Strangers, as their name suggests, are proven masters of the loud, unrelenting, psychedelic sonic attack. Their performance is an all-out-assault upon the senses, an experience that one must witness to truly understand.