Father Murphy, Yamantaka// Sonic Titan, Xiu Xiu @ The Biltmore Cabaret May 28 – Review

Father Murphy are a trio from Treviso, Italy who began by tuning their instruments for a prolonged time – or were these priestly musicians actually playing music?

Father Murphy kicked-in hard like a 30 gram dose of peyote and peanut butter, and while I stood on the chilly wooden dance floor, I began to enjoy Father Murphy’s strange but appealing groove.  Chiara Lee’s spare, intense keyboards, and interspersed bell percussions blended quite nicely with Demarin’s unpredictable beats, which looped around Freddie’s challenging vocals.

Father Murphy’s hard driving chaos sometimes transformed into a Joy Division post punk ethic, with shades of The Velvet Undergound’s darkest, most sincere moments.  Father Murphy also reminded me of the some great rebel electronic-instrumentalist bands I used to listen to while living in Nanaimo, such as Gabriola Island’s Was Paradise Greater.

I was privileged to hear the collective’s Yamantaka//Sonic Titan song on CITR’s Exploding Head Movies prior to attending the Biltmore. This particular selection, also played at tonight’s gig, had a dreamy, melancholic feel – imagine being chased by some beautiful, satanic Ninja zombies while strolling through a forest under a heavy January snowfall.  Yamantaka// Sonic Titan’s desolate theatrical sensibilities are the definition of Noh Wave. Essentially, this collective is an east meets west act – a rock band mixing the diverse elements of Japanese Noh theatre, melancholic electronica, and Iroquois-power metal into one decisive package.

Sometimes this creative and energetic band entranced the audience with the melodic side of Aphex Twin, and other times the band played late 70s rock reminiscent of Kiss, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper. Although Yamantaka// Sonic Titan’s sound was perhaps more organized and accessible than Father Murphy, the band’s music was no less original in concept.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan – a five member collective from Montreal and Toronto – are a theatrical band who performed in scary white Alice Cooper death mask make-up. Ruby Kato Attwood, and Ange Loft’s lead vocals were throbbing and unforgettable, and they were backed with appropriately taunting and horrific instrumentals, and a light show.

Bring us the child, a drunken idiot yelled from behind.

While I stood on the floor and watched Yamantaka// Sonic Youth perform, I often thought this band might be capable of giving me nightmares, however Attwood’s gentle fan dance at the end of the collective’s set somewhat helped to ease my paranoia.

Xiu Xiu are a Californian avant-garde act from San Jose, and they rounded-off this impressive roster of underground rock pioneers. Jamie Stewart is the grounding member of this band, which has existed in various forms since 2002. Jamie Stewart currently performs with Angela Seo, but Xiu Xiu has gone through several personal changes. Xiu Xiu, named after the 1998 Chinese film, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, performed uncomfortable and bold electronic music with no discernible reference points.  Xiu Xiu plays the sort of music which could scare the bedbugs and mould off your bedroom walls. Scraping, annoying, but strangely exhilarating – the sound of Xiu Xiu are too interesting, which means they will never belong to CBC radio’s meat and potato adult alternative programming lists. Well, maybe Strombo might play them.

Xiu Xiu are one of the few modern acts to condemn America’s so-called war on terror. One of their songs, Gul Mudin, tells the story of an Afghani teenage boy who is killed by American soldiers just for the hell of it. In these days of post 911-disinformation and market-dictatorships, there aren’t too many bands who are challenging the status quo, so I tip my hat to Xiu Xiu.

I recommend watching Xiu Xiu’s intriguing videos on the Internet to get a gist of this act’s brilliant artistic and humorous edge. Beauty Towne, produced with amazing black and white psychedelic graphics, is a standout favourite.