After a long and eventful weekend, which was taking a hearty toll on my constitution, there were few and far between things that could have drug me out of recovery and into a blustery Sunday evening. The Brooklyn concrete gritted band Orphan, however, was on that very short list. And with the promise of seeing spastic noise grinders Child Abuse as well, it was more than a done deal.
Beyond randomly stumbling across their album on an Aquarius Records new arrival list, and becoming an instant fan, I had joined a united front of followers who have lauded them again and again.
Everyone from Vice Magazine, who recently used one of their tracks, “Alcoholica”, in a Vice TV bit about building skate ramps, to art critic Bob Nickas, (who not only put out their Debut Album, Aborted by Birth, on his From the Nursery label, but also plans to put out a Melvins record as a follow up), has membership in this coterie.
Meeting with Speck, Orphan’s drum crusher, I wandered through the catacombs of the Black Cat to find Brendan, the other half, slash-axe-wielder, slash-poison-bard of the group. By the looks of it, we had all had a grueling, but successful weekend. Still and all, they were gracious enough to share a few moments of their time to talk about the mini-tour, putting out a new album, metal, Quix*O*Tic, and everything in between.
You’ll note that it takes about two minutes before all of the mental pistons begin to fire in sync, for the parties involved. Also, my deepest apologies to Joel Hutcheson for somehow not being able to remember Static Age Records in the moment, but instead, hopping onto a waffle buffet.
With their quiet and somber approach to the stage, Orphan was saving the fury for that first moment a chord was hit and drum was struck. Launching straight into one of their new tracks, the two hammered away in a much more furious direction than they’ve previously been known for. Brendan let forth harsh cries as Speck thundered the time beside him.
The duo continued to serpentine through a barrage of dirty, downtuned sludge. Saying virtually nothing, the band slid through a cross section of both new tracks, and favorites from the Aborted by Birth LP.
Though the fire had raged in size and heat, Majewski and Brown went out by dropping the floor into the deep and haunting caverns below. As Brown gently shook a rack of bells, Brendan began a low and hypnotic riff. The crowd swayed like the tide coming in and out, as sharp cries flowed over the system.
Just as the entire space had risen like a pyramid of secret rights, the crest gently touched down returning all involved back to the Black Cat, allowing a breath and applause.
Afterwards I was taken next door to meet the curious trio that is Child Abuse. They are, by typical standards, (though not by mine), an odd band to be blinking more and more into the harshness of the spotlight. Their sound is not new, but is vexing critics and fans alike for a succinct description.
What all can agree on, however, is a union of the music they shoot out like eclectic venom, and the swing of the pendulum towards this type of sound.
Combining everything from harsh noise, to prog, to, yes, even jazz, Child Abuse tore through a snarling set that overpowered the Black Cat’s backstage. Luke Calzonetti, beyond carrying the vocal growls, and the hail of electronic nails, also lead the charge of charismatic attitude so crucial to band like this. It’s the idea that you can never tell when you’re in on the joke, or have become the joke yourself.
In between ferociously focused moments of assault on the mic, Calzonetti, would apathetically lean back and let his hands, (and even his face, at times), haphazardly fall onto the keyboard. All the while, bassist Tim Dahl hobbled back and forth across the stage like an epileptic android, while churning out both chaos and complexity.
To finish the equation, drummer Oran Canfield sat in the back looking as though he had been cut and pasted out of a jazz band, playing somewhere else, with mystic dreams of Davis and Monk in floating through his head.
Every once in a while, a single moment in a show can sum up the entire visceral idea. Such was the move Luke made after grabbing the mic off of the stand, (it had been electrocuting him off and on the entire set) and beelining up and onto an unsecured monitor, which betrayed him.
Both toppled headlong onto the cold dirty tile floor. If you take nothing else away from all of this, it should be that moment of purposeful, nihilistic, expressive destruction.
I was lucky enough to tap vocalist/keyboardist, Luke Calzonetti, on the shoulder, and into a few questions.
What started off as a straightforward interview, quickly morphed into a casual, but in-depth discussion of deep musicology, rife with name- dropping and jargon tossing across the spectrum.
It’s refreshing, not only to see bands like this rise is prominence from the convolusion of the music world, but even more to see shows like this happening again in DC.
With 2010 promising to be the “Return of Rock,” more and more bills of this caliber will be creeping in through back doors of clubs across the district.