In The Flat Field, A Post-Punk/Goth Music And Arts Experience At The Hi Hat, Saturday April 14th 2018
In the Flat Field may be Bauhaus’ debut studio album, but it was also the title of a mini festival at the Hi Hat on Saturday evening, a post-punk/goth music and arts experience featuring many LA bands embracing their inner darkness in a post-punk collective movement. We may live in a very sunny place, but there’s no shortage of musicians who seem to ignore our sunny beachy weather.
Since I was only familiar with one of the 7 bands playing (Band Aparte), I had plenty to discover, and it all started with Jade Moon, a trio from Pomona which played a very agitated music with dark reverb vocals and plenty of abrupt detours. They had a chaotic and complex style, almost experimental at times, led by the gloomy vibe coming from frontman Andrew Martinez’s monochord voice, whereas the music could be quite adventurous, with smashing drums and fast bass lines. If I heard echoes of Interpol during a segment, their thorny songs didn’t really sound like anything I had heard before.
WVM, a one man band, played a very cinematic and charismatic music. Part industrial, part dark electro-pop, the result became even more interesting when David Deckard stepped from behind his two-level keyboard, to sing while holding the mic. It was barely a surprise to read that he has worked with Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray, The Knife), and that his debut album, ‘The End Is Only the Beginning’, was mixed by Sean Beavan, who has worked with Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, while featuring Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Tweaker) and Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle) on drums.Just like his enigmatic acronym moniker, there was a large part of mystery in the music which was played with the coldness of a cyborg and sung with a real human passion.
The next band Warsaw Pact was once again drawing influences from cold-wave and post-punk and UK groups like New Order… as these roses featured on their Facebook avatar may not be a coincidence. The guitars eventually had a running-in-circles ringing brilliance of something from Interpol and the music had the aggressive coldness of many ‘80s bands in the past, while a few others were a bit more upbeat, while keeping this same icy delivery.
Ghost Noise had a smoother Smiths-meet New Order theme in their row of synths. Members John Casey Connolly, Gawby Weinstein and Josh Dean all played synths and occasional guitars, while sharing vocals in a sort of male-female dialogue with electronic effects and additional beats. Standing behind the neon silhouette of a ghost glued to the front of their synths, they had a few songs which brought soaring pop harmonies, and you could have sung along to these choruses, a rare moment during the entire night.
Killjoi was another trio coming this time from the Coachella valley (yes, during the festival weekend), and if darkness was present in the music, they had a much more aggressive side, as distorted guitars had replaced the synths. Their set was much more leaning toward a rock structure, and the music was all fuzz and distortion pedals with mysterious landscapes and the dynamic texture of a noir western, unfolding thanks to Dillion Domingues’ high pitched and throbbing vocals.
Cruel Reflections, a young dorm room project by UCLA students Julio Cesar Francisco Garcia-Solares, Satchel Solis and Christian Mayorga, had an anxious tempo mixing danceable tracks with low-key and emotional vocals. The guitar could be quite upbeat with melodic lines brightly piercing above the music, while the tone of the music appropriately stayed in the dark post-punk-new-wave era. Some of their songs were quite catchy and even made me think about the Drums!
Band Aparte was the only band I knew in this lineup, and their sound, a blend of dark new-wave and sad dance floors reminiscent of the Cure or the Smiths, was in complete continuity with the rest of the night. Frontman Brian Mendoza has always a great energy on stage, and if he didn’t do too many eccentricities this time – he is known for crazy antics involving at one point a human skull, a ladder or a mirror – he gave us some mad, fearless and unpredictable dance moves in front of his keyboard, with his emotive vocals à la Robert Smith. They had a new drummer this time, while they only had a drum machines the previous times I saw them, and this made their sound even more powerful, but every time I try to describe their music in an attempt to pigeonhole them into a simple formula, the band’s uniqueness seems to get lost between the easy comparisons, as Band Aparte has obviously absorbed a whole wealth of sonic influences. ‘They are so good, they are gonna be famous!’ screamed a girl at my ear while dancing. Hopefully it will be the case, after all, the ambient gloominess and the country’s existential crisis should logically revive a great load of dark/cold wave music.