Brooklyn’s eminent and uniquely indefinable experimental noise-rockers by the name of Parlor Walls delivered one hell of an avant-garde party celebrating the release of their debut full-length album Opposites on the Northern Lights label. I fully admit, I’ve been a huge fan of lead singer, guitarist, and brainchild Alyse Lamb since her previous band EULA tore up the scene several years back. I’m so happy to see that instead of taking her sound in an increasingly commercial direction after that project, she has instead pioneered the radical road less traveled and came out the other side with something bravely new and original with her latest group. Alyse Lamb is a powerhouse creative talent and tour de force artist who brings together elements from across the artistic spectrum to make her music and shows work. From nimble ballet movements and performance art prominence making her fascinating to watch on stage, to the album art and stage visuals overloading the eyeballs, to the immensely diverse elements of the music itself, the entire canvas comes into focus in an entirely beautiful and unique way.
It all went down at one of my favorite Brooklyn venues, Sunnyvale, which teeters on the Queens border in East Williamsburg. This fab pad has managed to bring together some of my favorite aspects of a classic DIY venue in a far more reputable setting. Artist Preston Spurlock, who many of us remember for doing art for Aviv and Death by Audio, created some brain-shattering projected video art to add to the visionary setting of the show.
Clearly, it was going to be a night of surreal music, starting with an experimental super trio called Shafiee/Frye/Stardrum; who are Arian Shafiee (the guitarist from Guerilla Toss), Justin Frye (guitarist and cassette tape feedback aficionado of PC Worship), and drummer Booker Stardrum. They sat facing each other as they morphed into the colorful light show projections and largely ignored the audience in a ninja circling the wagons fashion. They spun a metallically minimalistic crush, rusting sound collage, and an expansive wall of sonic distress reminiscent of John Cale, Brian Eno, instrumental Nine Inch Nails stuff, and even a bit of Throbbing Gristle and Einstürzende Neubauten. However, they managed to sound wholly unique. It was amazing to witness the ebb and flow of their improvisation, paired with the contrasts and compliments of composition flowing from those three on stage.
Next up was The Dreebs, who were a big fixture of the experimentalist scene several years back. They broke up in 2014, but now they seem to be back at it again, stronger and stranger than ever. They have close connections to the PC Worship, Guerilla Toss, and Northern Lights teams, with a clear tangent connecting these cutting-edge sounds. Their set fit snuggly between these two symphonies of absurdist surrealism, and yet set its own alien tone, as it merged into the evening’s continually abstracting composition. The trio fills a perfectly expanding swell of eccentricity, as Adam Markiewicz shreds off squealing tones on his violin and darkly alluring, growling vocals, while Jordan Bernstein creates thunderous bass tones breaking open the skies, and Shannon Sigley’s stunning drumming pierces the heart of the Earth to find the Devil and replace him as ruler of the Underworld with each epic opus. I hope these three keep going at it, as really I want to see them every chance I can before I meet my maker.
Parlor Walls experienced a rather huge and unexpected change in personnel just before their big record premiere. Saxophonist Kate Mohanty, who had been with the band since the later EULA days, suddenly left to work on her solo career, leaving the band in a strange spot. However, since strange places is just where the molten power of Alyse Lamb and drummer Chris Mulligan derive their supernatural powers, and they managed to pull off an amazing musical magnum opus nonetheless. “Our vision was always to have a changing cast of musicians playing with Chris and I,” Alyse confided in me. Thusly, Sarah Lutkenhaus of Lutkie performed stunning electronics on the first couple songs, while Jason Shelton played clarinet/loops on a number of others, and Zach Fisher and Alex Nelson from Oracle Room helped out on the song “Teach Me Where To Roam,” and toward the end of the set, an abrupt two person performance art piece broke out in the middle of the crowd with geometric costumes designed by artist Uta Brauser.
The new Parlor Walls album Opposites is such an artistic revolution, I can’t get myself to put it down since picking it up that night. The mystical musical brew bubbling from within is so anxiety-producing, it puts Talking Heads, 80’s King Crimson, and even Joy Division’s schizophrenia to shame. The distillation of classically loose, unhinged jazz casts a spell shifting between 70’s Soft Machine, 80’s Laurie Anderson or Lydia Lunch, as well as 90’s PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth. But once again, it all comes out the other side feeling paranormally unique. Buy this album ASAP, as it may very well be exactly the kind of new powder keg music we need in these deeply troubling times of uncertainty, fear, and doubt, and may very well blow your mind too.
Article: Dean Keim