Show of summer

So far, Kinski-headlined show at Off Limits is tops

GOING APE <br>Chris Martin of Kinski gets simian on it.

Chris Martin of Kinski gets simian on it.

Photo by Tom Angel

Kinski, West By Swan, Sleepyhead & Lott Lyzzyrd Off Limits Sat., July 16

Seattle’s instrumental four-piece Kinski is known for its musical explorations, not so much in the rhythm-twisting vein of jazz, but more in the realm of playing with tones, dramatic volume shifts and guitar effects. So, as the full house at south Chico’s Off Limits stood before the 20-plus effects pedals arced around the front of the stage, there seemed to be no reason to expect anything less than another grand, noisy, spacey soundtrack.

It came as more than a surprise, then, to hear not only vocals coming out of guitarist Chris Martin’s mouth for the set’s opener, but in fact the classic “one-two-three-four” vocals of the Ramones’ “I’m Against It.” (I could swear he was singing, “I’m in Kinski!") Though not one more lyric would be uttered until the two-song encore ("Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin'” and an obscure Japanese song, I was told), the energetic thrust of Ramones rock established the set’s tone.

Harnessing the powers gained by spending so many years experimenting with all the possibilities their equipment can offer, Kinski has decided with its new album Alpine Static (and with this night’s show) to funnel down its sonic arsenal into laser-tight rock riffs that move like a Freightliner crashing through the bar wall. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of the hooks; it’s just that they’re so packed full of sound and volume that they have unstoppable inertia.

The band’s wall-of-sound approach to fast-moving rock was thrilling in its own right, but when left-field dynamics were folded in, the effect was downright startling. The fast and heavy “Hot Stenographer” seemed to end on a long sustained note, only to return to hurry the original progression to the finish line after the half-minute break. The psychedelic “The Party Which You Know Will Be Heavy” dropped off into a dark, rhythm-less hole where guitars popped and tweaked as Lucy Atkinson ran a bow over her black bass erratically before the whole band returned in stride to the rockin'-out freakout.

The red blood was actually first spilt earlier in the evening, when new Chico rockers Lott Lyzzyrd promptly kicked off the four-band bill at 9:30 p.m. While I will try here to put any biases aside—L.L. sports an all-CN&R rhythm section of Josh Indar on drums (and some vocals) and Mark Lore on bass—this is the rawk that bars (and garages and back yards) were built for. The Lyzzyrds smashed through an energized set of fun, fast and loose poppy-punk (the hit-song “Yuschenko"), swampy garage-punk (the “Pablo Picasso"-ish “Cabbage Fire") and the final moody garage rock of set-closer “Cholo Divider.”

Guitarist and lead vocalist Scott Derr’s hook-friendly songwriting is the stuff of a rich history of great ‘70s and ‘80s garage bands, with chord progressions broken up by spiky riffs and even a couple of noisy feedback breakdowns.

Marking the beginning of the night’s effects-pedal competition, Sleepyhead laid down three slabs mounted with a few dozen gadgets and proceeded to make some serious and impressive noise that was a little too space-jammy in just a few spots, only to be followed by West By Swan and its own array of overdrives and loop stations. Tonight’s standout was the new Swan song, “String Theory,” with its anthemic, chunka-chunka, muted-string dynamics and noise-freakout breaks—a fresh breath of loose fun before the Kinski monster busted out.