How does one capture an experience? I struggle with this with every show I attend. The performances I witnessed at Aelter’s first gig outside of Boise gives me both frustration at my inability to thoroughly grasp the transient beauty of live music and a determination to improve upon my skills. Album reviews are easy. I can revisit a record any number of times. An experience happens once, increasing the beauty of the moment as well as the challenge of properly discussing and describing it.
The night opened with a set of layered harp and vocals from Solace, the solo project of Asia Kindred Moore. Her works in Will O’ the Wisp and as a newer member of local neofolk act Horse Cult were already familiar and well loved by me. Still, it was refreshing and inspiring to see her looping layers of her voice and harp to create walls of ethereal beauty. While the sound was focused and gentle, there was an aspect of playfulness to her delivery at times. The joy of creation was apparent and it passed on the feelings of elation to the crowd. As brief as her set was, it was well worth the experience.
Following Solace was At the Head of the Woods. As the only artist on the bill I didn’t know beforehand, I was curious to witness this set. While it began with the appearance of being simply a fellow gently playing the guitar, it developed into another layered experience. Unlike Solace’s layered harmonies, however, this was a density of loops and effects that were augmented with keyboards and pitch-shifting until the effect was a shimmering wall of bliss. It felt like the aural equivalent of a sunrise during early spring, still wet with dew and glistening with gentle sunlight despite the cool air.
For all the early morning beauty of At the Head of the Woods, Jamais Jamais brought cautionary songs of nightfall and mourning in the unsuspecting package of bleak chamber pop. Amid the somber lyrical content and soaring three-part vocal harmonies, it was almost easy to let the emotionally charged qualities of the band’s compositions to overshadow the serious musicianship on display. With two keyboards and a vibraphone serving as the driving forces, the percussive pulse of the band’s music was entrancing in its bareness. Despite the dominant gloom in the songs presented, there was a wisdom and a richness that made it a set that was familiar and human instead of tediously negative.
Rounding out the evening was Aelter, the solo project of Wolvserpent’s Blake Green recently converted into a full live band. Based on how cohesive and brilliantly realized the band’s live performance was, it’s hard to imagine that only a year ago this was a solo endeavor. All the sparse sorrow and endless melancholy of last year’s IV: Love Eternal were well presented by the fleshed out group, with an extra sense of density and volume that the album never really showed. In essence, Aelter as a live force takes brooding gothic Americana and turns it to eleven while still retaining the confessional beauty that carried along the album so brilliantly. While the throbbing of music and burning sage mingled in the air, the band’s performance felt like something more than just a concert. For the span of Aelter’s set, reality was set aside and total immersion was achieved.
Both Aelter and Solace will be performing at this year’s Thirst for Light festival, running from June 16th through June 20th in Washington. Your attendance is strongly encouraged.