Who: Pictureplane, oOoOO, Javelin, Babe Rainbow, Hollagramz
Where: Check Yo' Ponytail 2 @ The Echoplex
When: August 16, 2011
Better than… Tumbling psychedelic druid gifs all night.
With the increasing amount of references to witch house– be it in supermodel photos marked with upside down crosses, psychedelic druid gifs, band names spelled with symbols, or songs that sound like a cross between shoegaze, hip-hop and industrial– we were expecting Tuesday night's installment of Check Yo Ponytail 2 at the Echoplex to be sold out. After all Pictureplane — aka Travis Egedy, the person frequently credited as having coined the term witch house — was headlining, sharing the bill with buzzworthy artist oOoOO and others.
The crowd, though, was smaller than we'd expected. That's not to say it was a dead night. It wasn't. However, you could walk from the bar to the patio without really bumping into anyone, and there was ample dancing and seating space in the back. The bulk of the crowd huddled together in front of the stage and remained there from our time of arrival until after Pictureplane left the stage.
We caught four of the five artists on the bill: Pictureplane, oOoOO, Javelin and Babe Rainbow. Collectively, they reminded us of two sorely underrated albums that were released twenty years ago.
In 1991 Coil — the duo of John Balance and Peter Christopherson — released Love's Secret Domain. Like Christopherson's previous project, Throbbing Gristle, Coil was extremely influential in the development industrial music. Love's Secret Domain, though, was their “rave” album, heavily influenced by acid house, but still as dark as their prior work.
Meanwhile, Current 93, the long-running experimental music project of David Tibet, had released Island, a collection of recordings made in Iceland that comes complete with a cameo appearance from one Bjork Gudmundsdottir. Save for the inclusion of a newer mix of “Crowleymass” (Tibet's stab at hip-hop that was initially released as a single several years prior) it's not a dance album, but rather electronic and ethereal in a way that foresees the progression of electronic music by the end of the decade.
Both of those albums encapsulated the '90s and set the stage for this new music movement in a strange way. They were made by artists with a penchant for experimentation who may have in some way been influenced by rave culture, but the works proved monumentally influential in the goth/darkwave scene of the 1990s. They may have contained some of the most accessible music the artists ever made, but they were inaccessible due to the fact that they were ridiculously difficult to find.
All four of the artists we saw last night were riding the line between experimental and accessible sounds. Pictureplane sticks to no particular style of electronic music. He may let you think he's going to bust out a house tune, but thirty seconds in, you'll realize that you're trying to catch a dubstep rhythm. Towards the middle of his set, he brought Tearist's engaging singer, Yasmine Kittles, on stage for “Body Mod,” a straight up drum n' bass track with the added punk edge of Kittles vocals. Later on, when he said, “I wish I could play 'Sandstorm' right now,” referring to Darude's turn of the century trance hit, he may not have been joking. There seems to be nothing separating the underground from the mainstream for Pictureplane right now.
oOoOO has a difficult stage name (it's just “Oh”), but his work with singer Butterclock — who joined him on stage last night — is so gorgeous that we can't imagine anyone really disliking them. The two put on a stronger performance than the solid one they did at Killing Spree earlier this summer.
Before those acts, Javelin won over the crowd by mixing samples and live instruments into super energetic dance tracks. Warp Records artist Babe Rainbow brought back the IDM vibe with a sound that fits perfectly in the Warp family.
More often than not, though, it's the crowd that can give you an idea of where artists are heading. Though this audience wasn't massive, it was passionate and it didn't seem wedded to any specific genre. When Pictureplane asked if there were any ravers in the venue, he was met with cheers. While mingling, I ran into a good handful of people I knew from L.A.'s goth and industrial clubs. It wasn't a “scene” sort of crowd, so much as it was a bunch of people who really love music that's a little outside the norm, and that's something that's both rare and amazing in L.A.
Setlist: I went up towards the stage after Pictureplane's set, but didn't see a setlist. However, make sure you check out the mixes that both Pictureplane and Javelin made for Check Yo' Ponytail. It will give you a good idea of the artist's musical roots and where they're heading.
Personal Bias: I occasionally get kind of nerdy about Coil and Current 93. Sorry.
Notebook Dump: The “Real Is a Feeling” banner felt poignant tonight, for more reasons than the fact that it's the title of Pictureplane's single.