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December 04, 2011

Glowing Abstractions from the Basement

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Blevin Blectum
Area C
tfo

The Salon
Providence, RI
Dec. 2

Friday I went to The Salon to see Area C, Blevin Blectum and tfo do their thing.

Maybe “see” is the wrong word: the Salon’s subterranean music space is dark and cavelike. But the vibe is friendly, the drinks are delicious (The Bushwick, I’m looking at you) and the acoustics surprisingly sharp.

The show turned out to be a refreshing hybrid of extended DJ set and traditional concert, where each group’s music flowed fairly seamlessly into the next. Tonally it’s well-orchestrated, upending the usual ascend-to-the-crescendo cliché by being alternatively high-energy and reflective.

As one half of barmy SF acid-techno duo Blectum from Blechdom, Blevin Blectum’s OG persona was Gidget-Goes-Psych-Out, but these days, with her stick-straight black hair and pale, painted face, she’s affecting a more intense pagan techno goddess vibe. I half expect dry ice and fog.

Tonight she unveils “Beast 6,” a trippy, collagist mashup of medieval Tolkein mythos, absinthe-soaked visuals and snakelike beats. Billed as a “MixedMediaMultiMonsterMusicMonstrosity for light, sound, people, & shadow,” it lives up to its billing as a wild, enthralling ride — equally chaotic, surreal and hypnotic.

I find it a lot more thoughtfully-paced and palatable than what little I’ve heard of Blevin from Blectum —which I describe to a friend as “like being stuck in a centrifuge with a bunch of ping pong balls.”

Erik Carlson’s solo project Area C is unhurried and pastoral. Using just a beat-up old Rickenbacker and a slew of effects pedals, he fills the room with beautiful sound textures —fitting, given that his day job encompasses sound and installation art. It’s lovely.

Providence DJ-and-everything-but-the-kitchen sink duo tfo’s closing set continues the soundscape vibe, with the eerie, almost human tonalities of violin subbing in for Area C’s guitar abstractions.

The two have been doing a lot of soundtrack work lately (including the monumental 12-hour score for Gus van Sant’s Endless Idaho), so it makes sense that 1) they’ve built such a level of trust that they leave a lot of room for one another to maneuver and 2) this is primarily a mood piece that amplifies the spectral qualities of the violin to great effect.

But overall it’s uplifting, not spooky —ending the evening on a resolutely optimistic note.

PHOTO BY A. FELDMAN | DESIGN MUSEUM, LONDON