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Live Report: Krallice, Yautja & Pyrrhon @ H0l0

Krallice

What are the limits of control? How much power can you exert over an audience before they are simply incapable of responding? I imagine people don’t like to think of music this way, but live performances are a low level form of hypnotism. A group of musicians, through volume, tone, and rhythm, will force you to move through the world according to their rules until they step off stage.

H0l0, a hip, literally underground nightclub in Ridgewood, New York, isn’t subtle in corralling its patrons. A sign hanging near the bathrooms reads “put away your phones,” and the room’s array of pillars forces crowd to bunch and bump into each other. Even the prickly, self-selecting “smart folks” who come to see “brainy” technical metal bands were quickly forced to be social. That is, until they could scowl in semi-darkness when the music started.

Pyrrhon, a Brooklyn/Philly death metal band that have received plenty of love in these parts, seem to relish walking the thin line between control and chaos. Their music is incredibly specific: eters change rapidly and without warning, songs spiral out into blistering noise at the drop of a hat. Whether by design or happenstance, just as they have you believing you’re lost in the weeds, these weirdos always snap into recognizable patterns. As their music defies any conventional physical reaction, vocalist Doug Moore’s confrontational stage presence is essential to the band’s live performance. Without someone reaffirming the music’s relation to human life, Pyrrhon would be almost unbearably obtuse. Instead, they nail a very specific emotion; they are music for when the rational gives way to instinctual aggression. This is fight-or-flight death metal, and Moore forces physical aggression. Of course, trying to ride the band’s nonstop rhythmic fuckery is half the fun. Pyrrhon create a space where giving yourself over to madness isn’t just accepted, it’s encouraged.

Yautja, while equally proficient as musicians, take a much different tact. No matter how far they stretch into the unknown, drummer Tyler Coburn keeps the band locked into to an unerring grid. Coburn, much like with Cloud Rat’s Brandon Hill and Sumac’s Nick Yacyshyn, is one of the best metal drummers of the ’10s. You could set your clock to him, even when he leaves wide open spaces in Yautja’s music, he re-enters so precisely you’d think he has a metronome running into his monitor. Don’t be mistaken, however, H0l0 is far from providing in-ear monitors to its performers. Quite the opposite, Yautja suffered from a case of “disappearing soundman,” leaving their pleas for more stage lighting (“We’re not that mysterious”) to fall on deaf ears. They also dealt with a malfunctioning snare drum which stubbornly refused to get in tune, and instead got stuck at a Candiria-esque high pitched clang. While this was doubtlessly frustrating to the performers themselves, it added a throwback charm to their hyper-technical and undeniably groovy approach to modern grind.

The show’s final act, Krallice, also had specific demands for their lightning. Not too bright, not too dark. They didn’t want you to worry about showmanship or presentation, the only thing that mattered was the music itself. No mysticism necessary, no transportation needed. Either you were going to pick up on the nuances of their compositions, or you were going to be left in the dust. Fresh off the release of their new Loüm EP, the hometown avant-metal act had no interest in pleasing their audience by doing anything other than playing on their own terms. The quartet has grown increasingly thorny over the last few years starting with the release of Ygg Huur. By now any hint of their early penchant for long form melodies appears only in glimpses. Their masterful use of repetition has been replaced with constant change and instability. They’ve always been cerebral, but their early material used those composition smarts to build tension and release, developing clear motifs over time and rewarding their listeners for their patience. Now their songs have gotten shorter, the long vines of their music now overlaid so tightly that seeing to the root of the material is nearly impossible.

Krallice have only become more adept at controlling themselves, but in the process have sacrificed some of their ability to control a room. While undeniably impressive, their music is quickly approaching the point of pleasing few but those in the business of making music themselves. Members of Yautja and Pyrrhon exchanged “holy shit” glances throughout the set, but the rest of the room slowly emptied during their set. At nearly a decade old, Krallice may have found the limit to their immense power. The spell only works on itself.

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