On Thursday night I trekked up to Baltimore to see Spectrum perform on the side stage at SONAR. After witnessing their transcendent show at the Velvet Lounge last year, how could I resist this opportunity to see them again? Based on the strength of their previous show (and my soul-crushing fear of being alone), I talked a friend into coming along for the ride. To get him to tag along, I really talked this show up; an easy task considering how impressive Spectrum was last year. Unfortunately due to problems both technical and olfactory, this experience was very different than last year. Instead of seeing an easy contender for show of the year, we watched as the band plowed through a glitch-riddled set while pinching our noses and breathing through our shirt collars.
courtesy of Spectrum.
It was a psychedelic throw-down at the Velvet Lounge on Thursday night when Spectrum dropped in to kick-off their current U.S. tour. In what is easily the best live set I have personally seen performed at the Velvet Lounge, the equipment heavy 4-man unit turned the tiny stage into their own personal sound laboratory and dazzled the small but dedicated crowd with an explosive evening of controlled feedback and groovy repetition.
For the uninitiated Spectrum is the most traditional of the many music projects led by Peter Kember aka Sonic Boom. Sonic Boom was one of the members of the hypnotically brilliant Spacemen 3, a legendary UK guitar band from the 80’s underground. Since Spacemen 3’s demise in the early 90’s, Sonic Boom has been pushing the envelope with experimental projects like Experimental Audio Research and Spectrum. The material Sonic Boom records as Spectrum began with a sound very similar to his former band but quickly evolved away from guitars and for many years became based around vintage keyboards and organs. His music has always maintained a ‘head’ music atmosphere even with the move away from guitars and feedback into tone drones and synth symphonies. On Spectrum’s latest EP, “War Sucks“, the band’s sound seems to be cycling back into guitar freak-out territory. I first saw Spectum at All Tomorrow’s Parties NY in 2008. The set was an equal mix of keyboard and guitar manipulations that also featured a nice dose of Spacemen 3 songs. The whole 2008 set was a laid-back fuzz-fest. So it was with the new EP and the 2008 show in mind that I went into Thursday night figuring the concert could go either way. In other words I didn’t really know what to expect.