M.E.L.T. #9 @ Club Garibaldi
July 28, 2011
A monthly showcase for ambitious electronic music that places a high premium on cerebral sounds and boundary pushing, M.E.L.T. is a perfect fit for WMSE's eclectic Radio Summer Camp festival. Reflective of the station's crusade to bring non-mainstream music to a larger audience, the event, personally curated by local artist The Demix, brings much needed attention to acts that flourish on the web and on record but may have trouble drawing a crowd to their gigs. Unfortunately, at last night's event, that larger audience failed to show up.
The crowd that did deign to appear—if "crowd" is even applicable here—spent the show lurking in the shadows at the back of the room, leaning on the pool tables that had been pushed out of the way to open up a dance floor of sorts. The reasons for the weak turnout are a bit hard to grasp. There were a lot of other shows going on that night, but the emptiness of the room was still disconcerting, especially since the music was quite exceptional.
Starting things off was The Demix himself, who twists beats and samples into darkly evocative soundscapes. There is a common misconception that just because he's working with a laptop, sampler and mixer, that this kind of music is somehow easy—it's not, there is plenty of free software online if you feel like being frustrated—but watching him, you can't help but note the inherent lack of performance, of something to look at, that is an unfortunate byproduct of electronic artists taking center stage, instead of being off in some corner keeping a crowd moving.
Following The Demix was Corsican Syndrome, a duo that ably plays off of each other's contributions to the mix. More kinetic with their rhythms than The Demix, they set many heads to nodding, but stopped short of inspiring any dancing. This is head music after all, not body music—the kind of electronica that often, somewhat arrogantly, labels itself as "intelligent" in an effort to be seen as something other than the soundtrack to all night partying (which, to be fair, often packs in it's own quota of complexity between grooves.)
Probably the most widely accessible act of the night, Zerobeat, another duo, bends traditional instrumentation to suit its funky, futuristic purposes. Running a drum kit through a laptop and a guitar through a midi controller, Zerobeat came closest to getting a party started—they would have succeeded, if any party people had shown up. Still, they were impressive, coming off like the perfect opening act for a Chromeo show.
Capping things off was a special, all-electronic set from regional post-rock group All Tiny Creatures. Performing an all-electronic alternative to their regular stage show (which they'll play tonight at Club Garibaldi), the band coaxed an engrossingly rich, ethereal sonic tapestry from a battery of samplers, laptops and synthesizers, drawing from a varied palette of otherworldly sounds only to send them all pinging off of each other. The only real drawback here was that their set was too short. It would have been the perfect coda to a night of quality music, if only there had been a few more people there to appreciate it.