Saturday, January 27, 2007

Brooklyn vs. DC

I managed to foist a ticket to Deerhoof last night from my compatriot in Pub, J. Seroff of Tofu Hut. Its good to know people in internet places.

Unfortunately I missed the first show by the as of now unsigned band Proton Proton, who, my other compatriot in pub, Grace, assured me was one of her favorite unsigned bands from Brooklyn. Afterwards she gave me the Proton Proton EP being sold at the show, a dischordant mess that swirls and discharges and reunifies all within the same song.

I, like the David Karesh I am, lead you into the compound where Proton Proton offers their riff driven punch. Plates begins with overdriven harmonics and an
ex models-esque guitar zapcrunch on the alternating beats, and, like I said, starts and stops on several dimes.

Sand seems to be more the direction Proton Proton wants to go, and, though it is a sloppier song in its construction, it seems like they are a bit more confident in the performance itself. The two guitars jump back and forth between speakers answering each other until it breaks down into an all out riff jam in the middle.

Proton Proton - Plates

Proton Proton - Sand

But wait there's more!

I do not mention Proton Proton because I think they are particularly awesome. I do indeed think they are going somewhere smart, but only in the ephemeral way I once wondered at the couple who attained "most likely to succeed" status in highschool. Nay, I bring up Proton Proton because they are indicative of this sound coming out of Brooklyn. A dischordant mish-mash, and I do not use dischordant lightly.

DC is the king of Dischord for obvious reasons. Fugazi not being the least of them. but, as of late, Dischord has been a bit lacking in the, well, dischord. I've seen The Aquarium several times because they happened to play several shows with a friend's band. Not Dischordant. The Evens, Ian Mackaye's political acouso-folk band is kind of a bore (search your feelings, you know it to be true). Also not dischordant. In fact, the only band not atypically Dischord to come out recently, Antelope (former members of el guapo, the song is called goggles, I kinda like it don't you?), sounds like Fugazi w/ nutri-sweet and a lime.

So what is the summation of all of these links and proclamations? Well, I'm not claiming that the DC music scene is dead or anything even remotely like that, its just...going through some phases, some changes, growing little budding bosoms. And who can blame them? DC's BMOC, MacKaye is reaching his mid forties(!!!). He's no longer the virile young hellian he once was. Who's going to take over, Dave Smalley? The Former singer of Dag Nasty? The guy who runs and has a fucking hummer?? yeah. sure.

So, the gap. Is there a gap? Probably not. At least none big enough that anyone would care about filling it. Brooklyn certainly doesn't claim to fill it, and I'm not claiming that Brooklyn does, but there is a definite analogousness between the DC sound and the Brooklyn sound of bands like Ex Models, Excepter, Proton Proton, Pterodactyl and even Grizzly Bear.

Its the discordance, the flippant lack-of-structure, and a splash of darkness. But there is something else that differentiates the two. perhaps its the direct, or indirect, political nature of DC's scene. and the lack thereof in Brooklyn. but that focus, though important, is not a specifically aesthetic one.

Fascinating, then, that New York does not have the same consistency maker as a single, and singular, label, run, basically, by the creators of the scene and the sound(i.e. Fugazi).

Actually, very much like their counterpart cities, Brooklyn's indie scene swirls and changes with a dark, spacious, but fluid sound and DC's is more angular, more visceral, more immediate. The overall spacious, dark, fluidity of New York's streets seem to tug it's gaudy, bleak, barge-like art scene behind them. and Brooklyn watches and waits, a little to the side, and describes that in it's music. DC is small, jagged, easy to get lost in, and full of laws (both in action in the city, and in utero for the country).

Of course, these comparisons rely upon the flimsy, one dimensional pyramid of speculation. I wish it were that easy to describe a scene in a few words, and there are clear omissions. but hey, I can always fall back on the notion that nobody actually reads all of my posts all the way through! I'm golden!

-cap'n guthrie out


Alex said...

Apart from what we talked about earlier in person, for once, I think the logical problem with this is that 90s Dischord is as easily comparable with 00s Brooklyn as 70s Cleveland as 90s-00s Providence. Dig hard enough, and the aesthetics you mention could very easily cross lots of geographies, U.S. and otherwise. Unless of course you are leaning harder on the song structure angle than the others, in which case I have nothing of substance to say cos I know shit about song structure.

An interesting way to approach this question would be to see where these bands grew up, what they were listening to, how they came to know each other, etc. If you did something like that, you would probably have a really interesting article to pitch! (You might need something a little more solid than an inkling of similar aesthetics, but all great articles start with a hunch, amirite?)(Also, the problem of taking DC as this Ur-text of a musical style, when in fact DC itself would need to be historicized in relation to what produced that sound at that time. This is turning into more and more of a dissertation, but that's all I'm good for these days.)

Cap'n Guthrie said...

I have a problem with posing my poetic notions (ie music analogous to city) as some sort of argument. Its not. I suppose this is more of an allegory for my transition from one sphere of music to another. also: I'm not really making an argument for anything here in this post, I'm just talking similarities and for all intents and purposes the similarities are ones that I see that others may not.

trying to determine the so-called "source" of a scene is chaos theory, there are so many variables going into it that it would probably end up as a ten volume book, and then simply comparing brooklyn to DC is idiotic in concept.

Alex said...

Dude, I didn't pose yr poetic notions as an argument - you did! If this entry was supposed to be an allegory for yr transition from one city to another, you should've written that.

Also, you can trace how a sound comes to a place (see: Jeff Chang), or how a place puts together so many different things to make a sound, if you actually did a broad historical study. It isn't chaos theory, although it is a huge task. And of course I don't expect you to have that knowledge on hand, which is why I wrote that all great articles start with a hunch - a statement that is ENCOURAGING. By the end of my last paragraph I'm not putting you down so much as trying to add another angle to the argument. So the question remains, for me anyway, why the reflex defensiveness?

Cap'n Guthrie said...

just for people who don't live with us, I didn't mean it defensively I meant I have a problem, not I have a problem with people doing that.

if only I weren't such a lazy writer...

Alex said...

Okay, okay, I see what you are saying, but I'm still not coming out of my room.

Cap'n Guthrie said...

we're pitiful

bassguy180 said...

I should've commented on this post back when it was relevant, but i've been lazy in my blog-viewing. I don't think you're way off base or anything, but I do have a small caveat:

You neglected to mention two important DC bands: Medications and Beauty Pill. There are definitely other awesome DC artists active right now as well (The Evens and The Aquarium included... I really dig their stuff, though it's perhaps not as exciting as Fugazi or whatever), but both Medications and Beauty Pill do some pretty "dischordant" work. Medications have a kind of math-prog bent, and Beauty Pill have a very art-song-meets-DC-aggression feel. Both are putting out records and touring and such (and sharing members) and are definitely legitimate players in the scene. Also, Travis Morrison's new record comes out in March; it promises to be strange and delightful as well.

Basically, I think there's still a legitimately "off-kilter" or "dischordant" scene in DC. Maybe it's not what it was in the 90's, and maybe it's not as vibrant as Brooklyn is right now, but I don't think it can be quite so easily dismissed. That's all!

Ryan said...

I dunno why that last comment was displayed as being from "bassguy180." it's just me. ryan. from fredericksburg.