Hawnay Troof + Urxed + Vivian Girls + City Center at Death by Audio, Williamsburg BK

Post Author: Nate Dorr

As part of the new crop of savvy Brooklyners engaged in finding spaces for their favorite bands to fill with exciting noises, this week saw the third show from Strength in Numbers.

Kicked off just a month ago by the efforts of one Karen Soskin (already a familiar face at DIY spots certainly no stranger to setting up good bills — she was involved in the Ms. Bea’s free day shows at this year’s SXSW) Strength in Numbers seems to be joining the capable ranks of E4E1 and Sleep When Dead in keeping you keeping you off the streets but well into music-based trouble. This time around, off the streets and airjabbing your fists and shouting along with new songs by Hawnay Troof. Vice Cooler (of teen noise legends xBxRx) was at his dapper, galvanizing hip-hop best despite the traditional Death by Audio summer swelter, and despite the fact that his live show remains firmly in the “laptop karaoke” tradition of hitting play and letting microphone-swinging charisma and vocal strength be enough. And it was enough. More than.

Incidentally, though Cooler remains Oakland-based, the night had the distinction of being his new album release show. If you’re wondering, the album, Islands of Ayle, is turning out to be a very decent slice of glitched-out party groove. There was also a new Cooler-made art-book on offer, filled with altered photos and vivid scribbles. I’m a sucker for this stuff already, but beyond that the book drew the attention of fellow G-train passengers on my way home afterwards, who shared their brown-bagged Stellas.

The Hawnay Troof set was definitely the central attraction of the evening, but the bill was competently filled out with a couple other electronic sets of a somewhat more live-played variety, and an incongruous but welcome blast of blissed-out static from the guitars and heavily verbed voices of the Vivian Girls.

Urxed, these days sounding fittingly like a more lushly electronic, mostly-instrumental High Places (fittingly as in it is the solo moniker of HP’s Rob Barber), wove heavy rhythmic nets around pulsingly exotic snatches of melody, and distorted vocals into extra synth lines. Insight into Urxed lyrics via an old interview fragment from last fall, which I still find hilarious:

Rob Barber: I make it up on the spot. So if I’m like feeling something–
High Places bandmate Mary Pearson: But you just put really weird effects on your voice so you’re like, “BLEAH WEAH WEH… WEARGH!”
RB: I’ll be like–
MP: Isn’t that what you do? [laughing]
RB: And then sometimes I’ll be like, “I don’t know what I want to sing about on this song.” And I’ll be like, “This song is a Discharge cover.” And it’ll be a Discharge cover but it doesn’t sound like one.

So we may have been hearing Discharge covers. We may never know. As for the fuller sound this time around than at the last Urxed show I caught, opening for Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Barber offered this (paraphrased) explanation: “That was the time the PA fell over and I had no treble.” Oh. Well it’s even better with treble.

Opening opener duties were handled by City Center the new solo jittery-electronic-gizmo-tweaking project of Fred Thomas, who surprised me by sounding a lot like Everything Ecstatic-era Four Tet, complete with a full compliment of real-time sample manipulations. Watch his hands: just one exacting twist of a knob and the drums ricochet wildly, faster and faster, until they break orbit. Fingers jab a few buttons and the melody slurs into infinity. Suddenly another knob spin and everything drops smoothly back into place. So yeah, it’s not the most kinetic experience to be sure, but still a thoroughly impressive command of esoteric hardware.