A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Sometimes everything just fits.
Last night’s show at SPACE Gallery wasn’t so much a four-act bill as it was an anthology. From start to finish, the event’s individual parts seemed like a well-curated whole, with each band echoing the tone that was established early on by opener Nycterent.
Nycterent — a solo electronic project by J. Morse — builds on Morse’s earlier work as Erroraeon, particularly in showmanship. Perhaps influenced by a recent Portland appearance of Pharmakon, Nycterent’s set was an immersive experience held at audience level. Morse began by slowly, ritualistically rolling a mat onto the cement floor, laying a framed mirror on top of it, and placing a lit candle at each corner.
From there the music grew in depth and intensity, often blasting in syncopation with strobe lights set at eye level and aimed directly at the audience — an effective technique that forced listeners to close their eyes and, well, listen. As the blinding light subsided, Morse emerged from his electronics wearing padded work gloves. He crouched by the mirror, shrieked into his microphone, then abruptly and repeatedly pounded both fists into the mirror — snuffing out the four flames in an instant of brute violence.
Clearly, this was a tough act to follow.
Alas, the three remaining groups rose to the challenge, beginning with a debut performance by the excellent trio Say John Earl, who incorporated electronic backing tracks into guitar-based experimental rock, fronted by Zachary Howard, formerly of Conifer and Awaas. SJE bears more resemblance to Awaas than Conifer, but also feels more immediate and less fussed over. It’s no less serious than Awaas, but it’s buoyed by the seat-of-the-pants drumming of heavy hitter Bob Smyth, who keeps things raw and a little dangerous.
Boston veterans Sewer Goddess kept things rolling in a electronic vein with a shadowy set of nightmarish industrial metal, before turning the stage over to Portland’s Mugwort.
We’re embarrassed to admit this was the first time we’ve seen Mugwort — a Grime Studios band that had been playing opening slots throughout the fall and winter. The band describes themselves as sludge, but they also carry elements of doom with standout, intertwining bass lines and blackened dual vocals — calling to mind the call-and-response style of New Hampshire’s Ramlord.
Mugwort is a band that earned its headlining spot and is poised to leave a mark on this scene.
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