If the name didn’t intrigue you, there may be no hope for you. Neon Napalm’s “Omnidimensional Pathos Factory” Saturday night at Ampersand was just that as all three floors offered a different sensory experience. With a musical lineup of psych rockers Kyle, atonal rompers Unicycle Escape Pod, progressive professors Culture Vulture and the atmospheric doom of Blackrune rounding out the night, the third floor interactive art gallery was icing on an already delicious cake. After viewing a curious promotional video, we knew we just had to check this one out.
On the main floor, with its upscale cocktail lounge vibe, local painters Melissa Hagerty and Lauren Schwind were watercoloring on a canvas in the corner, inviting people to collaborate and paint along with them. This served as an introduction to the third floor, which had been completely set up to showcase local fine art. As one walked up the stairs, lasers on each step chimed a different tone as their streams were broken, resulting in a musical staircase. At the top of the stairs was what could only be described as a video feedback birth canal – folded layers of cloth onto which were projected images from a video camera pointed at the cloth, then run through various video feedback lops to create a truly strange visual sensation. After birthing, we walked through the open loft area, its walls covered with paintings, sketches and photographs.
Of particular note were pieces by Meg Reiley, Danielle Sperandeo, Conrad Loomis and Ty Derousseau, who would later perform with Unicycle Escape Pod,. Also among the prints was a curious video chamber designed for the observer to sit inside and watch ambient videos. The gallery tended to fill up in between the bands, which were located on the second floor.
The lights during the music were truly spectacular, thanks solely to the wizardry of Planetary Projections, a virtually one-man operation run by Simon Ross. His method of utilizing digital video manipulation alongside analog liquid light techniques creates a truly psychedelic experience, and he performs almost alongside the musicians, oscillating color and contrast with the music. This was apparent from the first notes of Kyle’s set. This guitar/drums/synth three-piece instrumental group put on an impressive showing of time-changing harmonically dense indie math rock. The heavily effected guitar work wove intricate patterns over savage pocket drums, with the group’s frontman playing sound effects and melodic noise through the synth. Their mantra “we are Kyle, you are Kyle” was at one point chanted by the crowd, and the group generally introduced the next song as being named “Kyle.” A nightmare for archival purposes, perhaps, but a rowdy live show.
Performing next was Unicycle Escape Pod, a bass, drums and guitar group with a love of noise. Last spring they were playing shows as a post-hardcore band, rife with intense guttural vocals and heavily chuggy guitar. Though they’ve opted for a more nuanced approach of late, the band is still characterized by dissonant chords, abrupt time changes, and an infectious sense of humor. Art rock at its most indulgent, and unapologetically so.
The highlight of the night was three-piece instrumental group Culture Vulture. Started in 2012, the band has settled into an incredibly tight groove. They utilize the characteristics of progressive rock (time changes, modal movement, intricate arrangements), yet their unique instrumentation gives them a tinge of the unexplainable. Drummer Mathew Pelton rolls relentlessly through the sprawling compositions, playing with feel and precision. Guitarist James Webber has impressive control of his syrupy Les Paul tone, and his chord voicings and arpeggios indicate his heavy jazz influence. Nick Gilbert fills out the band on trombone (an atypical instrument in rock), and what he does with it is ingenious. With a small microphone on the bell, he runs the instrument through a series of effects generally used for guitar, and the result is a rich horn section sound, with octaves and various intervals weaving through the music. Any group that can cover Chick Corea and get the audience to crowd surf at the same time is worth paying attention to.
Blackrune ended the evening, though after 4 hours of sensory saturation we left before their set. Events like this are truly memorable, and we’re happy to see places like Ampersand hosting such a bold happening. Thanks to Sara Clash for taking photos.