Cult of Youth, Hive Mind, & Caustic Touch – 1/23/15

Cult of Youth flier

For the first time in quite a while, I recently found myself at a concert which I was able to review. While I’ve witnessed a couple legacy acts in the past few months (I saw Peter Hook from New Order and a partially acoustic set from X), I can’t say I felt like bringing out the writer in me for those shows. When I heard that Hive Mind was coming to town, however, I knew I needed to attend and document my experience. I also feel that when crafting a concert review, it’s important for me to acknowledge familiarity, as it totally changes the impact of each set. Coming into the show, Hive Mind was the only group whose music I knew, and my enthusiasm for this project of Chondritic Sound label head Greh Holger was strong enough to encourage me to get out and try new things.

To begin with, I arrived in the neighborhood early due to the day’s prior plans. To kill time, I enjoyed a beer at Beacon Sound‘s neighbor, Stormbreaker Brewing. This was my third visit to this young brewery (their first anniversary party is at the end of the month) and as with each prior visit, I had a fine time.  Having had their flagship ales already, I decided to go with a seasonal release, their Fall of the Iron Curtain Baltic porter. It was thick and dark with a slight sweetness, but no syrupy flavors. The beer was well made and the service was great despite a very busy evening. After dinner and the drink were finished, I ventured next door to catch the show.

Caustic Touch

Starting things off was Caustic Touch, a local artist from here in Portland. As a member of Vice Device, Andrea from Caustic Touch already has some degree of a local following. Judging by a brief conversation after the set, this project seems to be less known, yet is compelling and well-formed. Caustic Touch’s set began somewhat abruptly, but the predatory sort of electronic rhythms that filled the room had my attention immediately. Bass frequencies throbbed while noisy pulses bounced back and forth. After a few minutes of building pressure, percussive hi-hats and kick drum sounds came in, bringing a cohesion to the whole experience. The flowing sensation of Caustic Touch’s set was punctuated interestingly by the fact that it was played with such precision and focus. The few instances of vocal presence were the only sign of anything less than confident intensity, and their frailty against such a tight backdrop served as a fitting contrast, adding to the unease of the whole experience in just the right way.

Hive Mind

After a short break, Hive Mind was ready to perform. With a deliberate sense of calm, Holger took to his setup in much the way one would ease into their favorite chair. Dense waves of static flowed throughout while aggressive percussion was intermittently dropped in. There was just enough of a presence to constitute some rhythmic structure, yet the entire set seemed to be slightly improvised, a variation on a theme perhaps. Throughout the set the volume continually increased while new, more abrasive frequencies were introduced. Despite the dizzying volume and speakers that were shaking so heavily I felt my guts flopping around, Hive Mind remained a presence of pure peacefulness at the center of it all. At one point he took a moment to step back and admire projections on the wall behind him while static cascaded all around. It was great to see an artist so at home in an environment that would conventionally be considered abrasive or unpleasant. Still, the set was not without its underlying melodies that crept throughout. It was certainly more chaotic than my understanding of Hive Mind from recordings but it struck a certain part of me that clearly needed the experience.

Cult of Youth
I was unable to capture the band, but here is their pre-show setup.

Rounding out the night was Cult of Youth. I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect. I had seen the term neofolk attached to their name, yet what I witnessed was certainly removed from my prior understanding of neofolk. If anything, I witnessed the kind of folk that they’ll play after the world ends and the survivors salvage up records of the industrial and punk eras. What this five-piece act delivered was mesmerizing and brilliant, although after a bit of research after the concert, it appears their live sound differs slightly from their albums. Cult of Youth live were something so unique, it’s hard to put a finger on it. The tense, post-punk influenced rhythm section collided with psychedelic guitar scree and beautifully played cello, all serving as a backdrop for alternating crooning and screaming. Seemingly contradictory elements fused together brilliantly, although the sound in the room swelled to a point where it became hard to discern at times. I’ve noticed in bands with both bass and cello that there is often a redundancy, as if one member is a prop. Cult of Youth managed to allow each of its members to shine and really add something without giving the feeling that they were trying too hard. The completeness of the performance was entrancing and I’m definitely a convert to the cause.

The final word on this show: Beacon Sound is both a venue and a record store. Their commitment to providing a space for creative and unconventional music is a delight, and Past Haunts (who arranged the show) has now graced my site twice. After witnessing the complementary billing of bands and the strong sense of friendliness and community from both attendees and artists alike, I have a feeling I’ll be seeing more shows put on by these folks in the months to come.