Restiform Bodies: Live at Bottom of the Hill
Ordinarily I don't get too drunk before I roll out to a show (my goal is to, you know, remember the shit I want to write in my review), but Tuesday was the night of the presidential debate, and it took five beers over the course of those ninety minutes for me to be able to tolerate the sight of John McCain's 72-year-old chin trying to flip up to contain the bullshit that spills out of his mouth. So when I showed up at Bottom of the Hill, I was a little more, uh, outgoing than usual, ready to make friends at the door. Turns out this was the right attitude because the venue, though only about half populated at its peak, bristled like a fucking Cheers episode. Everyone knew someone – I met a trio at the door who were friends with the Restiform guys, and I ended up hanging out with five of the six performers over the course of the night. (Don't think I met LL from Lazer Sword. Sorry dude. You guys were ill enough that I'll probably see you at Rickshaw on the 23rd., so it's all good.) It was one of those refreshing deals where none of the acts took themselves too seriously – they were all genuinely stoked on the show and they wanted to get to know the people that came out. Side note to artists: even if your music sucks, this is the way to make your live show An Enjoyable Experience. Be cool, be humble, and everyone walks away feeling all hunky dory and shit.
Fortunately for this review, though, the music didn't suck. Here's the rundown:
Bleachy Bleachy Bleach: Run into these girls at a show and you are going to listen to them whether you want to or not. A psycho noise duo from right around the Bay Area, and even if you're not into vicious drum machines and synthesizers grinding up through eight distortion boxes and a whole lot of static, you have to admire an energetic performance when you see one. These girls just let the laptop roll through their whole set, and took the liberty of running around the whole venue growling their lyrics and moshing with everyone. It was so intense that I was kind of surprised I didn't get an accidental kick to the stomach by the end of the set, even in my sissy position off to the side of the stage. Not for everyone but recommended if you listen to noise music and/or like to feel like the victim of an aural plummeting after a live show.
Lazer Sword: These dudes were very, very, very good at sweeping the whole electronic spectrum. Some of their hyper-dance stuff (and it was mostly dance stuff) was fiercely reminiscent of The Glitch Mob. But they also rolled down the windows and let the sound air out a little bit – some deeper hip-hop thundered in, and at one point they ratcheted it down slow enough to hit some near-dubstep vibrations (a girl from the aforementioned group at the door pointed this out – I fully credit her with the observation that Lazer Sword's slower, dirtier shit was still a little more spastic than authentic dub). It's easy to lose interest in a straight dance set, but they threw enough variation in – and looked wild and comfortable enough behind the knobs – that the killer rush of energy from the first five minutes never let up.
Restiform Bodies: I was stoked to catch this after two of their tracks landed on our site (one original and a killer Tobacco remix). Their strength is throwing the standards of hip hop all out of balance, speeding shit up and slowing it down, pushing Dave Bryant into verses twice as long as the standard 16 bars, then throwing it back to beat-maker Matt Valerio for an extended break featuring two or three tweaks in a row. Blissfully, you don't ever really get what you expect. There's a lot in the delivery of this project that reminds me of Aesop Rock's dense, hyper-ordained style, maybe if that style was wearing baggy clothes and sunglasses because it didn't want to be recognized in public. One: the beats have their own erratic and shifting charm that Restiform Bodies could easily hold its weight as an instrumental outfit (this was especially apparent in the portions of the show where the beats and glitches went long-form). Two: Dave's lyrics alternate between biting condemnation of consumer culture and coy self-depreciation; he delivers everything with a smirk, and that smirk wears a smirk of its own. (Go on, picture it.) Since everything's packed tightly, some of the particular details dropped out during their set – Dave's at his best when he gets into a long midtempo swing, usually in the refrains that close down most tracks ("fuck like you mean it, Lori / fuck you mean it, Barry / fuck like you got a reputation e'erybody..."). But his voice always layers on the beat like another instrument, and even when we couldn't pick out the words, the music still moves like a twitchy sprinting beast. All in all a damn satisfying show from an electrorap outfit that's about to burst – not too crowded, not too tense, pulsing with all the right sorts of energy.