Pharmakon / Haxan Cloak @ The Church On York; Los Angeles, CA
It was warm in Los Angeles this week. On my days off this past “weekend” (Wednesday/Thursday) temperatures in my neighborhood topped 100 degrees. It was warm enough that at 4pm on Thursday I needed to be reminded that I had tickets to a show that night. I’d become so comfortable on my couch with the fan running at full blast I was content to stay put for the night. Until I remembered the show featured Pharmakon and Haxan Cloak.
Yeah, I couldn’t pass that up to sit on my ass and watch Netflix in the cool confines of my house.
The show was held in the church basement, which meant if it was 100 degrees outside it was 120 degrees inside. Also, the fog machine was in full effect through the evening so if your idea of a good time includes sweating profusely in a sweltering, humid confined space…this would be like, nirvana for you. Pharmakon took me slightly by surprise. I really like Abandon but all I’ve ever read about her online is that she’s this young, pixie-ish blonde girl from New York who can throw down with the harshest, most brutal noise creators around. I feel like seeing her live instead of listening to studio recordings would provide better insight into her art than… you know… reading more about how she’s this cute chick making noise. Bathed in deep red light and obscured by fog, the power electronics and that unnerving scream made for a harrowing listening experience. As she stalked through the cloud, glaring dead-eyed at audience members as she wailed against the wall of screeching and pummeling noise she’d orchestrated on stage a moment earlier, all that is forgotten and all you can focus on is the performer and her sonic assault. I had to attempt to snap a photo for the purpose of this review but I don’t think a single person in the crowd felt compelled to hold up their phones and capture some memories of the set. Everyone was just kind of transfixed and connected and enjoying it. 25 minutes was a bit too short for me, but…I get it.
Haxan Cloak. Oh man. After being hipped to the self-titled debut and Excavation by Ian I hurried to obtain copies of his available LPs. I would listen to his terrifying minimalist compositions and revel in the darkness. It’s no wonder I ranked Excavation the 2nd best album of last year (Abandon was #8, for what it’s worth). It would literally transport me when I listened to it, and I enjoyed that harrowing and discomforting place. I had no idea what to expect of Haxan Cloak in a live setting, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting and intense performances I’ve seen in years. In that sweltering space, all light was removed save for two faint strobes flickering through the fog. The set began with a quiet, meandering drone. Very quiet. When the bass kicked in, holy shit. It hit at the exact same time as the first bright strobe flash, and probably half the crowd jumped from fright. I don’t know if they thought they were witnessing an explosion or what, but it was kinda funny to watch. From that moment on…I can’t describe the intensity of the set. The strobes picked up. The bass was absolutely pummeling. Every pulse sent a vibration through my body. As he built up these almost dance-y beats, the mood remained eerie and foreboding, and the strobes began flashing brighter and longer, until the climax of the set when the room was bathed in blinding white light and an immense wall of noise. It was, for lack of a better term, a full-body high. A purely physical sensual intensity that is not just uncommon in a live music setting…it’s downright scarce. I can think of maybe one or two shows that have ever taken me to such a place. It was… it was pretty impressive.
The Haxan Cloak – Miste [MP3]
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