Algiers With Moon Diagrams, Sextile, At The Echoplex, Tuesday July 18th 2017
There was something completely visceral about Algiers’ show, if you were at the Echoplex last night, you probably know what I am talking about, you knew you were witnessing one of the most cathartic performances you had seen for a long time,… at least this is how I felt and because of the present political climate, because of the current racial and socio-economical injustices, a performance like this one has to resonate even more in our consciousness.
Two bands played first, Moses Archuleta aka Moon Diagrams (Deehunter’s drummer and co-founder) opened the show with his electronica solo act, and if he occasionally added dreamy vocals to his inventive swirls floating in space and time, his set was mostly ambient music, starting with a full poignant cathedral-organ-like sound, then turning into atmospheric tracks made of repetitive sonic bits, laborious and painful beats or plaintive laments. It rapidly turned into a more vaporous ambiance of pool dance party or whatever your imagination was ready to lead you to… but ending on a more upbeat and throbbing piece, with a nostalgic Samba-like vibe.
Sextile may have ‘sex’ in their moniker, but it also may refer to some astrological thing, and one thing is sure they were punk to the core of their astral sign, their frontman had tons of attitude as they immediately slayed the place with an unapologetic and very dance-y set. It was loud to the max with distortion and attitude, mixing industrial synth noise with an aggressive dance punk and morose tone, even flirting with a vibe close to nihilism. Like possessed by the rawest version of their punk heroes, they gave a knee-jerking performance with ravaged echoes of Echo and the Bunnymen or the noisiest version of Sid Vicious, and people (me included) did love their military-splashing-style drumming and their apocalyptic hypnotic drone.
Algiers took the stage with a powerful gospel-inspired song, ‘Cry of the Martyrs’, and they barely slowed down during their set of manic punk industrial gospel. Although it is not a simple and direct punk show, an Algiers performance has the mightiness of punk, and the politically-charged material of the Atlanta band makes you wonder about the power of music. While it is difficult to detach your eyes from him, frontman Franklin James Fisher is the soul and the protest spirit of the band, singing his heart out, sweating a violent dance and kneeling down many times, while screaming his soulful vocals over a kaleidoscopic powerful mess of distortion, church choirs and echoes of protest marches. Bassist Ryan Mahan, drummer Matt Tong and guitarist Lee Tesche equally feed the complex stratification of their sound, which can get very busy and extremely layered with keyboard, guitars, bass, electronics, drums and speeches or street noises. The performance keeps you breathless and spellbound from one song to the next, as you know you are probably watching something going above the simple show.
Their second album, the recently released ‘The Underside of Power’ is a call to arms and protest during these repugnant and obscene political times, and if they mixed songs of both their albums during their set, the crowd clap-along, the huge gold cross around Fisher’s neck, his church leader reverb-croon were reaching the intensity of a Harlem mass, while the titles of the songs (that I could barely read on the setlist: ‘The Underside of Power’, ‘Black Eunuch’, ‘Cleveland’) brought in mind social injustice and the victims of police brutality. Not that they were named by names, not that I understood the lyrics of the songs, the volume of the outrage and the level of rebellion was too loud for that, but at times, a bell toll, a ‘Fuck Trump’, a Black leader’s speech snippet in the background of a song intro, were all weighing on the heavy atmosphere of their sonic experimentation.
‘American mainstream is obsessed with the black creative genius – be it music, walk, or style – but at the same time, puts a low priority on the black social misery which is the very context out of which this creativity flows,’ we heard Cornel West said before a song, and that was obviously more than enough to bring me back right to the context of the Black Lives Matter movement where Algiers’ songs seem to perfectly fit. But it was not a black versus white thing, it didn’t have to be, if the lyrics and the voice of their protest comes from Franklin James Fisher, Algiers’ noise-rock experimentation is equally provided by Ryan Mahan, Matt Tong and guitarist Lee Tesche, who like a new Warren Ellis, was experimenting all kinds of things with his guitar, a bow and drums sticks. Their last song ‘Death March’ sounded like a march of infuriated cyborgs, equally aching and raging, and the very diverse Los Angeles crowd was rallying as one behind their angry loops.
Cry of the martyrs
The Underside of Power
Irony. Utility. Pretext.
And When You Fall
But She Was Not Flying