Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Forth and Back

The Fever Dreams, Lean Hounds
The Parish, 5/29

One of the first shows Anna and I went to after arriving in Austin featured Haunting Oboe Music and the Fever Dreams. The headliner that night was Red Leaves. Saturday at the Parish, the Fever Dreams and Red Leaves played with Lean Hounds, which is the new project for half of Haunting Oboe Music. I'm glad to see these local acts demonstrating loyalty, but I won't be rushing to a show featuring these same three bands again. There are plenty of other experimental/psychedelic acts available in the region, and many of them are better than the Red Leaves.

The Fever Dreams are still one of my favorites when it comes to the inventiveness of their songwriting, which doesn't force-feed parts into strange time signatures or unnatural changes. They can play some odd styles indeed, but musicianship and strong arranging prevail. This wasn't the best I'd seen them. It was a big stage for the band, who have sounded best to me in tight spaces with low ceilings. With a lot of PA power to play with, I felt as if the drummer was overstating his case the whole show. It's impressive that he can accent every pattern being played by every other instrument in the band... but it's also totally unnecessary. Normally the Fever Dreams make me want to dance with abandon but the drum overkill of their show on Saturday gave me a headache. It was a letdown. I'll see them again, and hopefully the drummer will leave some space for the rest of the instruments.

Lean Hounds are all about space -- their songs begin with rhythm loops, center around live drums, and vocals, guitars, and keyboards seem added for more appearance's sake than anything else. I like their basic sound but they have been a band long enough that they should have some more finished-sounding songs by this time. They don't. There's a lot of grim circling between a root and a fifth from the guitars and basses, and a striking absence of catchy parts from any instruments besides the drums. Haunting Oboe Music became unmanageable because they had more ideas than they could conceivably realize on stage, but Lean Hounds are in danger of not having enough. They should start writing backwards, beginning with vocals and trying to make drum loops fit to melodic parts. The old project was substantial enough for the idea of an "unplugged" show to not sound crazy. Without their bells and whistles, Lean Hounds wouldn't have anything at all. I think they're better musicians than that and I expect to hear livelier material from them in future.

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