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Lili Haydn’s magical contradiction

Thursday, Oct 23 2003
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Photo by Dorit Thies

LILI HAYDN at Temple Bar, October 16

Her live band doesn’t rise to the level of the collaborators on her fresh new record, Light Blue Sun; her songs at core divert little from electronica-pop fusion; and — except for a ballad, “Denied,” penned by her much-missed mother, Lotus Weinstock — her lyrics reduce the world to sweetness and longing, with little room for points below or between. But the particulars are merely frame and structure within which Lili Haydn can confide, testify, and lay into her violin as if it’s a wild animal only she can bring to heel. The effect is an emotional magic show, with Haydn and sidekick DJ Sherlock (Steve Nalepa) transforming limited resources into a party of sound. After years as an alluring curiosity on the fringes of various L.A. music cultures — most recently as the “fairy princess” of a certain electronic-dance segment — Haydn has finally come into her own as a bandleader and stage presence: She’s a generous performer, courageously intimate with her audience, and her soprano, though ethereal, has heft — just as the weight she throws into her expressive sawing (black curls flying, face contorted) confounds expectations of what might come from such a tiny being. With Leroy Ball on bass, Christoph Bull on keyboards, Corky James on guitar, Satnam Ramgotra on tablas and drums, and CC White singing backup, “Denied” moved Haydn’s fans to silence, and her meticulously constructed new single, “Anything,” gained in raw sincerity what it inevitably lost in live reproduction (on the record, with strings set down by the Dakah Hip-Hop Orchestra’s Geoffrey Gallegos, it’s a plaintive dance-pop symphony). By encore time, it was clear that those spare elements were what mattered: an electronica beat, lyrical strings, and words that, however slight and sometimes predictable, still resonate in the battered chamber of the human soul.

RICHARD DIVINE, PHOENECIA, OTTO VON SCHIRACH, DJ AURA at What Bar, October 17

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If the IDM genre is guilty of being labored, Otto Von Schirach pushed it into overtime tonight. In the shadows of a vast recycling complex in west Glendale, Schirach’s garbage-disposal aesthetic was oddly appropriate. In addition to offering his usual Mach-1 fractals, he abused the microphone with salacious taunts, even sported a few wigs. Yet the more the self-styled clown prince of PowerBooks piled on the gimmicks, the less provocative he became.

Coming out of the gate with the 808, Phoenecia’s Josh Kay and Romulo Del Castillo couldn’t hide the ghetto-tech influence of their Miami roots. But instead of cranking up the party, they etched some unintelligible language throbbing with secret meaning. The uneasy duality of a Phoenecia set — gossamer and ambient on the surface, twitchy and erratic inside — makes you want to rub the pair’s shoulders, tell ’em everything’s okay. DJ Aura, mouse-clicking interstitially throughout the evening, brought the sort of tricky tempos and vicious clacks you wouldn’t expect from a jock playing the role of connective tissue. Then again, a 10-year Schematic Records veteran is bound to have learned a few tricks along the way. (Pick up his El Tour de Los Guapos mix if you can find it.)

Whatever you do, don’t call Richard Divine a nerd. He might have more gigabytes than your average gearwhore, but this suburban punk’s all about headbanging. Per usual, the tracks were dizzyingly stratified, and since Divine’s chops are as tight as a nanobot’s poop chute — the new Asect: Dsect makes the previous Aleamapper seem like amateur hour — he gets away with such mandarin intricacy. Here, though, technique took a back seat to an expanded emotional range that careened from grim to sinister to just plain evil. (Andrew Lentz)

THE BLOOD BROTHERS at the Echo, October 10

Punk is hormonally charged noisemaking — sublimated sex for really white, really suburban boys. It’s also been a conceptual vehicle for certain artistes (Nation of Ulysses, Fugazi, At the Drive-In) to expose twisted, wonderful ideas. Only the latter make the genre palatable to older folks.

Not just punks but also oldsters in suede blazers packed the Echo in hot expectation of Seattle’s Blood Brothers, five campy youths straight from the progressive-punk underground with lotsa buzz and four records’ worth of subversive screamo therapy to their name. In spite of what their latest title (Burn Piano Island, Burn) might suggest, the Bros are cute, lanky vegan kids whose stage patter was virtually all concerned with thanking tourmates, club staff, the audience. No wonder the crowd was throwing roses at them. Which is not to say that things weren’t rough in the right places. Front men Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie energetically screamed (there’s no acceptable synonym) through a repertoire of mini-operettas replete with goofy, occasionally poignant stream-of-consciousness verse: “This party’s dying, so guitar me!”; “She’s shaking like a revolution”; “Skull equals noise nest,” etc. Songs did eventually begin to blur into each other a bit, but the sound, anchored by mean guitar riffage and chaotic drumming, was never less than solid, with stretches of David Bowie/English music-hall prettiness. Jazzy interludes kept things interesting: At one juncture, a Wurlitzer organ was wheeled out for Whitney to pounce on before vocal duty called (screamed?) again.

Funny how sensory overload purposefully designed to make ears bleed translated live into something rather sexy, which may have accounted for the ladies’ languid looks and heaving bosoms. As for the dudes, they were of course moshing (politely) into each other while the Bros taunted them, “Can you inject love’s tender touch back into the gang bang?” Apparently you can. (Sorina Diaconescu)

Reach the writer at judith.lewis@laweekly.com

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