Gowns continue to be one of the most innovative, original bands in Los Angeles. As they showed last night at the Echo, performancewise they just can't be touched.

Erika Anderson shreds a guitar, sings, emotes–and now also raps!–like a woman possessed. The spirits of young Courtney Love and Patti Smith pass through her, alternately spitting and delicately singing lines like “They say love to turns to rot and I'm going to give him everything I got.”

But the striking Anderson is only one piece to this wall of sound that builds and breaks and drones with modular intensity called Gowns.

(More on Gowns' show at the Echo, plus bonus video of the band in action at the Emeryville Hotel last February, after the jump)

Ezra Buchla wails on his violin in rapt unison with Anderson's guitar until the whole thing sounds like an angry ocean. Each word that Buchla and Anderson spew flows so painfully from their mouths, the audience is left wondering if they are witnessing a group exorcism, as if the songs themselves are being ripped from the performers' guts by some outside force until the whole thing collapses in an orgasm of sound.

Gowns were recently included on the scene-defining Live At the Smell DVD where even there they stood apart from the pack. Rather than film a live performance the band came into the club on a weekday during the afternoon hours and filmed an entire ten minute song in the front room.

Gowns have been around since 2004 and are one of the few acts that is still mainly–though widely–known by word of mouth. Former The Mai Shi expat Buchla, guitar virtuoso Anderson, and on-and-off-again drummer Corey Fogel, they have managed to somehow achieve that rare gift of critical acclaim–their 2005 album Red State might be remembered as one of the great contemporary anti-war albums–while still maintaining the safety of relative anonymity. This distance allows them to evolve and experiment, changing things up at their own pace and avoiding creative stagnation.

After the Smell DV and Anderson's recent run opening for industrial gods Throbbing Gristle, it can't be long until the good folk at Pitchfork start sniffing around and the lid finally blows off on Gowns. In the meantime they are still one of the great, truly unique–and wholly LA bands playing. You can later tell your friends you read about them on West Coast Sound first!

Gowns playing “Marks” at the Emery Hotel last February:

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