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March 30, 2010   A Place to Bury Strangers, The Big Pink @ Webster Hall, NY

A Place to Bury Strangers:

Brooklyn’s volume knob maximalist trio A Place to Bury Strangers is an experience in noise. They played Webster Hall last night, March 30th and made me believe the hype that they are New York City’s “loudest band.”

Their sound — an obvious nod to 80’s post-punk, noise-rock like My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen (but louder) — is a heavy, atmospheric wall-of-sound-influenced blend of psychedelic and shoegaze, only slightly veiled under a blanket of intense feedback. While noisy, APTBS is not just loud for the sake of being loud. Beneath the distortion, the band spills out some really intricate melody-driven songs rooted in an overwhelming array of textures that are really mesmerizing to listen to when you let them wash over you.

Performing most of the set either buried in darkness and smoke, or exposed by scorchingly bright white strobe light effects, they create the perfect vibe that disorients and intensifies the experience. Silhouettes emerge in and out of the layers of smoke, as the band wastes no time getting passionately loud.  “In Your Heart,” plays out like the album version, verging upon a more aggressive Joy Division track, while the more gritty “I Live My Life To Stand In The Shadow Of Your Heart” is a total sonic experience. After splitting open the song, the band launched into an extended noise jam, thrashing and swinging instruments around to create all kinds of manic feedback. It was a sonic barrage for the audience.

Between the sheer volume, darkness and smoke, I wasn’t sure whether Oliver Akermann had broken his guitar trashing around, unplugged it in protest or was just haphazardly fiddling with effects. But by the time they brilliantly convulsed back into the melody, flawlessly timed and executed,  it became increasingly obvious: these are no happy accidents to cultivating this kind of sound; these are bona fide sound architects at work. Akermann’s Stage performance is really compelling to watch, and it’s not a put-on. He rips into his guitar, spitting bitter lyrics and reverb-drenched guitar hooks, and exploring effects pedals while convening a penetrating sense of dread and isolation without the least bit of self-awareness or even acknowledgement of the audience that’s witnessing this sonorous copulation. And by performing his craft un-self-consciously and with such passion, he transcends most loud, hardcore rockers and is infinitely more interesting to watch. Jay Space’s relentless, synthier 80’s drum machine beats and Jono Mofo’s heavy bass complete the trio, making it hard to believe only three guys are able to propagate this kind of noise. The performance, like their music, is dark, loud, and reckless. A throwback to New York’s grittier, post-punk basement clubs only louder, where volume and thrashing through a sweat- soaked crowd can get you as fucked as the booze. They didn’t perform an encore, but there was no need. They poured every ounce of proverbial sweat into the performance and had said everything there was for them to say.



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The Big Pink:


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