Last night I was able to attend a concert I’d been anticipating for weeks. Friends and readers probably know I’m slightly obsessed with Body of Light, and I’ve been hooked on Some Ember since receiving their cassette as part of Ascetic House‘s January Program. To be honest, I never really thought I’d see either band live. Seeing both in the crowded basement area of East End here in Portland was a real treat. While the show’s starting hour of nine rolled around with hardly an attendee in sight, by nine-thirty the place filled up nicely, just in time for Window’s opening set, starting the evening off with what felt like a perfectly planned trajectory from chaos into peace.
While I’d expected something a bit subdued from Dylan Travis of Some Ember and Reuben Sawyer of Blood Bright Star & Hollow Sunshine, their collaboration as Window was gripping and violent despite its relative brevity. Percussive static set the framework around which Travis built crumbling melodies while Sawyer lunged at and through the audience, howling madly. Occasional flourishes of beauty only came into place long enough to be destroyed or altered beyond recognition. It was an unexpectedly violent start to the night and I felt right at home. The closing fury of “Salvation” still lingers in my mind as one of the evening’s highlights, and I hadn’t even heard the band before. This pair is decidedly absent from the internet, but keep your eyes open for music from these guys. I scored a tape at the show and I have a feeling more great things will come soon.
Following the aggression of Window is a challenge, but Body of Light met and exceeded any expectations I’d held prior to witnessing their live spectacle. While the audience had spent most of Window’s set forming a circle around the spasms of Sawyer, they became a mass of dancing energy for Body of Light’s set. The only moment without pure energy was the swirling ambiance generated by Andrew Jarson for the opening of their set’s first song, “Is it Lost.” Once the drum machine and heavy synths kicked in, everybody that I could see was moving until the end of the set. Aside from a new song and “Fall” from the Volonta di Amore album, the set featured every song (save for noisy outro “To Destroy Sin”) from the recent Limits of Reason tape from the Ascetic House January Program. Given that Limits of Reason is one of the year’s strongest releases so far, this was an exciting and engaging set. Singer Alex Jarson was pitch-perfect and the entire thing flowed together brilliantly. While I could’ve happily endured another thirty minutes of material from older releases to complement the tunes performed, I felt the set was a solid display of Body of Light’s current sound.
Up next was Dylan Travis’s second performance of the night, joining Nina Chase to perform as Some Ember. This set was intriguing to witness. There was a strong sense of familiarity and emotional warmth despite the overall coldness and slower pace of Some Ember’s set. The mix sounded a bit off for part of Some Ember’s set, but after a couple of songs everything was well sorted and I was able to bask in the beauty and tension created. I enjoyed watching Travis and Chase trade microphones and synths a few times, as it lent a sense of understanding that transcended merely playing the same thing over and over. It was evident that these two didn’t just play the songs, but truly felt and understood them. It was great seeing artists connect with their own music to the degree that Some Ember clearly did. The soothing synths paired beautifully with Travis’s soaring voice, bringing me to a place of true contentment. I got a tape from the band and will definitely be keeping a closer eye on Some Ember from here on out.
Wrapping things up were locals Warm Hands, who are listed as a trio on their Facebook page but performed as a duo. After a night of gradually slowing music, Warm Hands’ sparse, pulsing music was the only logical conclusion. As with Some Ember, Warm Hands’ first two songs seemed to suffer from vocals that were softer than the rest of the instruments, although the atmosphere was all on point. The third song, however, instantly had my attention. There was a sense of desolation, like waves slowly coming ashore on a place yet to be discovered by humanity, perhaps on another planet. Peaceful emptiness seemed to resonate through Warm Hands’ set, leading to two slightly more upbeat songs closing it out, ending on a nice high note. While these folks have been at it for a while, it was my introduction to their music and I look forward to seeing them live again, since they seem to gig regularly in this area.