Sunday, March 21, 2010

Night and the Sea

The Night, The Eastern Sea
Annie's West, 3/19

Two Austin bands at different stages of their development, I enjoyed myself immensely watching both The Night and The Eastern Sea back on Friday night. The Night, as discussed some Demo Sweats previously, have a heavy Joy Division jones. When I first listened to their recordings, I didn't think they were entirely without merit. They've picked a difficult style to play in effectively, and although not original their early songs were intelligently written. They had chorus hooks and lyrics that related to the music well, enhancing the feeling of wee-hours mixed exhaustion and elation that's key to this lean, speedy style. As a live band they're a few steps further along the path than I expected they would be. First of all, they're really solidly together as a band. Zafer Hamza is exceptionally good at playing the bass (with his fingers!) and singing at the same time. He doesn't just pound the rhythm, but he often provides the principal melodies while keeping meter too. Drummer Nick Welp deserves praise for both his technique and his willingness to play very simply but for just the right moments. In getting to hear a whole set's worth of music, I started to hear some different, non-Mancunian influences creeping in, particularly in Troy Hooper's guitar playing. Not a lot of fingerpicking on Joy Division's records. They should nurture those seeds to be sure.

The Eastern Sea don't need to worry so much about originality. Their songwriter Matt Hines just has it -- I'm pretty sure he gets appreciably cooler every time I see him in person. As a band the Sea follow his lead, with a confident sense of their ability to change styles, volume levels, and intensity. Their two EP's get deeper with every listen, not so much because of an overabundance of instruments but because the choices each one makes are so right on. Augmented on stage with horns and violins, I was eager to see what they'd do. At this point regretfully they're not making as much out of the extra players as they could, relying on them more for single-tone drones to add mass rather than new rhythms and tunes. Perhaps my standards for them are too high. In any event, the show was memorable for seeing the group make their best effort to maintain their high energy on a stage that was cozy for five.

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