Balam Acab w/ Memoryhouse
By Kaylen Hann | 21 November 2011
Not knowing what to expect when I’m not expecting but have decided to go to a show has never been a problem for me, with the exception of a Round Robin performance art/concert I accidentally dragged a similarly unknowing friend to; sure, while the girl dancing around with a stuffed octopus on her head wasn’t what I’d call a pivotal moment in live-music-making, I wouldn’t write it off as a bad time either. So as usual, I was ultimately comfortable deciding last-minute to ditch my plans and the people I had plans with to just slump around the Empty Bottle stage, soaking up some cheap beer and live music all by my glorious lonesome, whoever might be on the bill. But on the bill? Memoryhouse and headliner Balam Acab, the latter’s third show on his first live tour ever.
Openers Memoryhouse offered nothing short of a cornucopia of pleasantries. Pleasant of face, pleasant of demeanor, they played songs which floated quite buoyantly down the uninterrupted current of such pleasantries. And it would have been by and large un-monumental, or even not-exactly-memorable, except for the bass on the synths and kick-drums, which sent the Bottle’s new hardwood floor into deep drives of reverberation. Though I was in thick-heeled boots, the first bass notes popped my eyes wide; I had to sneak a look around to see if anyone else was getting the, well, distinct sensation of having a vibrator set to “BOOM” between their legs. It seems like inappropriate hyperbole I’m plunking in here, but I have very honestly never struggled so arduously not to…have an orgasm in public like that. Memoryhouse seemed reputably nice, either because they’re Canadians or because they were potentially giving me an orgasm. Either way, thanks for that?
I only knew Balam Acab, after listening through my headphones and having some personal, saturated experience care of Alec Koone’s music that is the kind conducive to saturated, half-conscious experiences—drippy synths and lush, melting turntable work drawn like water that seeps into, submerges, and drowns and Opheliaesque strain of vocals—as the artist behind “Gooey…Underwater cave paintings,” as Goerner once nailed in his descriptions. It was altogether a different story with the person I saw live. While my brain was submerged in a throbbing dance room, dark and luxurious, more glitzy than a handful of Ke$ha-tears, what was happening on stage—it kind of reminded me of these commercials I used to write and record with my little brother when I was thirteen. Balam Acab, for running off the ears like pure liquid bliss, looked…not anything like that.
It should be noted, part of the reason I often plunge into the venue-fray alone, without impression or supposition is: I just don’t put much emphasis on “stage presence.” Considering it one of the definitive characteristics separating me from the people who really, really like Arcade Fire, I’ve never been one to demand much from artists once they’re churning out nice things for my ears. Phil Elverum plunking down on stage cross-legged for a quiet, sit-down set or Wild Flag kicking and slithering around on their backs—it doesn’t really make or break a show for me. Actually, during the only Animal Collective event I remember enjoying, the trio were practically drilled into their isolated stations, prop-less, remote and cowled by hoodies and practically operating the nobs and nubbins on their sound-stations with their nose-tips. I think I saw as much of them as Tim Allen sees of his Home Improvement neighbor, Wilson. Watching people make music I like, live, is as much entertainment as I need.
A small, wrung-out and homespun-looking boy with running shoes like my mom’d pick out, sporting a t-shirt as limp as his stringy and untrimmed dude-tresses, Alec Koone took the stage and slouched over his laptop, taking turns adjusting the rich splooshes of sound and pushing his painfully un-hip glasses up his nose. Like, these are glasses that would never deign to impress upon the audience that he might be able to curate a gallery or that he might have an architecture degree under his belt. Lord, but he bopped his gooey-synth-orchestrating heart out while his kimono-shirt-ed lady vocalist and cohort crooned into the mic. I made “my hand is a saucer flying out the open car window” gestures to enunciate each emotive dip and enchanting ululation in the vocal runs.
It was a strong disconnect, that, while it held a nerdy charm all its own, also sobered me to the performance in a way that I, in all my non-preparation, wasn’t prepared for. In which case: Balam Acab is a blissfully executed and endearing live show that I almost recommend attending with closed eyes or a handful of E. Either way, I recommend it.