Disturbingly alive

Ghosts, bacteria and rock: If you were standing close enough to Drug Apts. during their set last week, you probably couldn’t get away with dead-eyed stillness. At different moments, singer Whittney Kebschull shook her two black maracas at a guy in the front, as if to bless him with extroversion, backed into a gathered mass, maybe to loosen up the shy, and kissed a stranger, perhaps to thank him for enjoying himself. It was the band’s EP release show, after all.

There’s been significant underground buzz—some national—leading up to the five-piece’s debut release, and it was apparent, as some 70 people showed up on a Thursday night. For local music.

Sacramento’s Screature opened the evening. If you’ve been to the Red Museum, you’re probably aware of the cool light shows, and how the white brick wall behind the stage is accidentally primed for ghostly silhouettes. In Screature’s case, a 20-foot high giant in the shape of its organist, Sarah Scherer, loomed over the band through a psychedelic hue, her bobbing hands obscured and elongated over her keyboard like alien limbs operating a spaceship control panel—all to blackened goth rock with traces of the Doors, Joy Division and misery.

Between sets, folks could check out an awesome art display by Zac Nelson, who co-owns Zeal Kombucha in Sacramento. The art sculptures and paintings were made with the pellicles they use at the factory. The results are these paintings that look like three-dimensional bacterial growths, and sculptures that are of—well, that’s the best part. You weren’t always sure what you were looking at.

Finally, Drug Apts. The group’s set bordered on unpredictable. In one song, piercing vocal screeches sunk into a seconds-long purgatory of uncomfortable silence, then into an alarm clock of drum tantrums and a rapturous mess of curdled guitar and bass tones. Old-school punk mixed with rock ’n’ roll is one way of describing its sound. Disturbingly alive is another.

The EP was released digitally and on vinyl on November 4, but check out Drug Apts. live. The energy on display feels rare. Just remember to move if you’re standing at the front, or face the maracas.

—Mozes Zarate

Made in Japan: Two of Japan’s best prog-rock bands, Lite and Mouse on the Keys, played Harlow’s last week. And it was loud.

The guy in front of me wore large headphones to block out some sound. When he asked his girlfriend if she wanted a beer, he literally had to write “beer?” on his phone and show it to her. Yeah, that loud, but what did you expect with Japanese instrumental math rock?

Lite played the longer set of the two. The band’s sound was closer to a traditional prog-rock sound, heavy on guitars. The bassist carried songs with his perky, driving lines. There was an element of jazz permeating throughout every math chop the group played, almost like hyperjazz, with just a hint of funk. The most interesting moments were when the group steered away from the standard formula. There was some circus music and world beat influences. The closer was a Stranger Things-worthy sci-fi jam that brought the house down.

Lite had been in town a few times in the past, but this was Mouse on the Keys first show in Sacramento. The band demonstrated a lot of similar influences: math rock, jazz, synthy outer space sounds, but it was all mixed into a much more low-key, down-tempo groove. It was like a ’70s sitcom soundtrack mixed with the music from Donnie Darko. In other words, really eerie.

The band consisted of three guys, all facing one another: one drummer and two keyboardists. The members had a lighting rig projected onto their faces and the backdrop behind them. The dancing patterns constantly changed: everything from zeros, spiraling cubes to twinkling lights. It was magical to watch—anyone that wasn’t floored by the end of the night wasn’t paying attention.

—Aaron Carnes