A noise cafe
A study in volume at fun, eclectic Café Coda show
Before her band’s set at Café Coda last Thursday night, Levator guitarist/vocalist Sky Lynn announced that there was a jar on the back table of the café with free earplugs. The Seattle three-piece then eased into the song “Red Room,” which featured Lynn quietly playing guitar and singing dreamily as her vocals went through a delay/looping pedal and floated out as sustained harmonies.
It wasn’t till halfway through the first song that the earplug offer made sense when, after a brief build up, Lynn, bassist Nick Arthur and drummer Thom Geibel filled up the room with a controlled wall of lush, fuzzy noise that eventually crumpled back down as the song circled back to Lynn and her ghostly voices.
Maybe there were a couple of spots during their set where ear protection was warranted, but the effect of Levator’s loudness was achieved most often in contrast to the pretty parts. Although the noisy parts were also pretty in their own way—heavily reverbed guitars and droning bass contributing to lush soundscapes and stoney psychedelic fun. It’s the kind of approach to composing with feedback and distortion (and other effects) that sends reviewers digging for new descriptors (“drowsy drowned in distortion” was one of my favorites) and band comparisons (I’d go with two: My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain), and Levator does it exceptionally well.
In addition to the full spectrum of atmosphere Lynn coaxed from her guitar, her seamless use of the vocal delay was impressive. The mesmerizing effect created beautiful background harmonies as well as surprising little chirps and accents that would appear and quickly float away.
Levator has played Chico several times over the past several years, and it’s amazing to me that we still get to hear them at a place with only a five-buck cover charge.
This was my first time witnessing locals Cold Blue Mountain since they added vocals to their previously all-instrumental noise. I have been listening to the metal-ish five-piece’s self-titled debut since summer and digging the hectic and huge new sound they put to tape with Makai and Amarok vocalist Brandon Squyres and guitarist/back-up vocalist Sesar Sanchez (Teeph) joining the mix.
And on Thursday they played my current fave from that album, the dynamic “Branch Davidian Compound,” a constantly shifting sonic assault with a sinister opening riff, wild vocals, sludgy breakdown and all kinds of wailing guitar nastiness. Unfortunately, on this night inside tiny Café Coda, most of the hectic goodness of that song and the rest of their set was compressed into one impenetrable wall of sound.
Being huge and heavy is, of course, the point with CBM, and their spirited commitment to that mission was fun to bob my head along with. I just would’ve liked to have been invigorated by the whole range of their powers, rather than worn down by the their absence.
Whatever, that’s just constructive bitching. They brought the pain, for sure. And there were glimmers that broke through, including Sanchez’s lead riffs here and there, especially on the tentatively titled “Will,” which was my favorite song of the set.
Last, I have to give apologies to openers Star Thistle Wall. I caught only their encore song (wait, the openers played an encore?), “Empty Bottles.” Though I’d seen the band live only once before, the rockin’ tune was the best version of this young local crew I’ve heard yet—a more muscular kind of pop-rock, supported by an equally strong new two-man horn section. Good stuff. Now, if they would just get rid of the superfluous “Wall” in their name …