Two of the premier purveyors of droning avant-rock played New York over the last few days—metal-noise extremists Lightning Bolt and British electro-transcendentalists F— Buttons. The two groups have a lot in common—both dispense with discernible lyrics in favor of having a dude growl into a mic that’s inserted halfway down his throat; both are experimental duos intent on maximizing a song’s visceral impact.
Cult favorites Lightning Bolt (somewhat visible in the picture above) brought their ear-shredding noise-rock to Brooklyn this Halloween weekend, playing Brooklyn’s DIY concert venue—Above the Auto Parts Store—and inciting their willing, wriggling fan base into the throes of thrash-passion.
Lightning Bolt’s music is easy to describe in one sense—it’s loud and not something most people tend to enjoy, lacking in melodies and oftentimes even recognizable guitar riffs. But for those who seek more of a head-trip than typical alternative bands can provide, Lightning Bolt have been the reigning champions of guitar-based sonic explosions for the better part of this decade—and they don’t let up on their recently-released Earthly Delights.
Their apocalyptic live shows are responsible much of their legend—halfway through the set, everyone within ten feet of the stage was soaked in each others’ sweat, and before the evening was over, anyone who could take their shirt off without being indecent had done so.
Relative newcomers (and Time Inc. unprintables) F— Buttons (currently touring behind their second album Tarot Sport) use the same repetitive, Philip Glass-esque approach to music, but pushes their fans toward dancing and meditative head-bobbing instead of moshing. For example, check out their “Surf Solar” video, directed by the duo’s own Andrew Hung:
The Bristol-based two-piece played Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom last night, setting up a mess of synths, keyboards and wires on a folding table that was probably once used by a Catholic church for bingo night. Instead of facing the audience they face each other, bobbing up and down and locking eyes to keep their mouse-squeak synths, looped samples and keyboard playing in sync. They even employ a well-worn Gameboy on a few songs for twitchy accompaniment.
Seeing these two fantastic underground bands so close together brought to mind their aesthetic differences, and how that reflects the direction experimental music is moving in. Rhode Island’s 15-years-running Lightning Bolt take hard rock to its natural (apocalypse!) conclusion, and in ways they feel like part of the millennial “we’re all going to die” aesthetic with their catastrophic, mind-shattering drone.
The Bristol-based F— Buttons, in comparison, seem more reflective of the burgeoning “Era of Hope”: a global 21st-century culture in which everything is melded together: their music evokes a bustling metropolis, a distant supernova and an ancient tribal celebration, often within the same song. Whether they will be remembered as a quaint reflection of the late 2000s zeitgeist or a projection of things to come remains to be seen.
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