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St. Vitus Live Report: Wolf Eyes, Weeping Icon, and Martin Bisi

Wolf Eyes are a band that continually searches for that outer moon. Live, the legendary Detroit outfit is indifferent and totally uncompromising. The band’s approach is always from the inner-bow, as if they were passing through audiences while en route, simply making a quick gesture, offering but a glimpse. The group’s newest material, including 2017’s Undertow, is their best yet. They’ve produced insane amounts of recordings, but nothing feels like the new stuff. Dubbed “trip metal” by instrumentalist and vocalist Nate Young, their current sound is like desert acid and jazz, and late 1960s weirdo vibes. A sound far removed from the early noise days. The trio stopped into Brooklyn’s St. Vitus Bar on Saturday night with special guest MV Carbon. The lights of infinity flashed and fluttered.

It took me insane hours to get to Saint Vitus because of train maintenance (note: do not go anywhere in NYC on the weekends), so I missed the opening acts Nicholas John Stevens and Bentley Anderson, which was a huge fucking bummer. Luckily, I got there in time to see the legendary producer and musician Martin Bisi. Bisi has produced some of the coolest bands out there (Sonic Youth, Swans, John Zorn, Helmet, Boredoms, Herbie Hancock), and his approach this night was surreal. The songs were kaleidoscopic and punk: teetering the line between abstraction and chorus. Bisi worked repetition like a wizard and managed to distance the complete sound the band forged, while circling back repeatedly, making something like a kite, or a boomerang. You’d get lost, but he’d bring you back with a memorable rocker hidden beneath the clouds.

Weeping Icon is a really killer experimental punk band whose members have played with acts like ADVAETA, Lutkie, Water Temples, and Warcries. The group’s set was blistering, dark, and lush. There was a certain continual extension the four women brought that was eerily familiar, yet distantly unrecognizable. It’s charm that glues their songs together and total abrasion that widens each to completeness. There was fury and looseness, and noise; sounds that sprung sharp and direct. The passion was twofold: an energy that was pertinent, and a sort of irony that was hard to figure. The mixture of the band’s electronic and traditional variations forged into a post-modern stew. I was pulled linearly throughout and anticipated continuous breakthroughs.

Wolf Eyes eased into their set with a plea from Young to slow down and listen, which was cool. Imagine a St. Vitus gig where the lead singer says something to that effect. That’s Wolf Eyes: an imagination grown large and complex. You do have to slow down to be able to move freely into the group’s new material, the portal being essentially invisible, but most assuredly there. Saxophonist John Olson is the cyborg punk version of Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef: a mirage of force and art. Guitarist Jim Baljo is the Naked Lunch version of axe shredders. His approach is on rewind, with bursts of mimic and feel. MV Carbon brought her versatility, swimming with a strange cello like an abstract dancer, accentuating and aiding. Young was the madcap-noise Jim Morrison: moving wistfully in slow-mo. Midway through the set, an audience member yelled “psycho jazz man, Sun Ra!” to which Young replied, “hey man, we’re here for ourselves man, nobody else.”

Wolf Eyes are never directed by anything but their art and their purpose, which is why they can achieve near abstraction in a live performance. It’s almost like they can read the audience’s collective mind, and then go directly in the opposite direction because that’s what’s important: never to be taken advantage of, and always striving for something original and indifferent. There’s no band like Wolf Eyes, and they always prove it.

— Christopher Harrington

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