Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Show review: YAWN, Sister Crystals at Subterranean, 2/23

By Gene Wagendorf III  

Local record label FeelTrip moved the party from their South Side headquarters Saturday, taking over a packed Subterranean for a night of psychedelic pounding, spacy riffage and booty shaking. The stars of the evening were YAWN, both the label's most accomplished band and one of the most engaging and creative acts on the Chicago scene.

YAWN's promotion for the evening teased the performance of unreleased songs- and the lysergic four-piece wasted no time delivering.The new material ranged from pop-soaked jams with Phoenix-esque leanings to a punchier romp that recalled Nick Zinner's guitar filth on early Yeah Yeah Yeah's records. The urgency of those two new tunes was tempered nicely by the tropical bounce of "Indigo," from 2011's Open Season. An effervescent bass line hummed through the tune, blowing smoky guitar curls upwards while buffering the track's sugary vocals. "Keep Up," the opening number on the same record, took a more dramatic turn, propelling itself from nefarious ritual into celebratory psilocybin twinkles and fuzzy tribal beats.

YAWN's seemingly natural ability to blend genres is uncanny; the result being less the consummation of different styles and more an entirely new sound born as a result of that sonic coitus. "Ganymede," off of last year's Happy Tears EP, was a surprising highlight in a set of mostly danceable grooves. Muffled guitar fluttered around an oozing caramel bass while the drums snapped and rolled in perpetual coolness. The fragility of "Ganymede's" melody was accented by YAWN's precision, making for a blissful three minutes registering somewhere between cannabis daydream and lover's embrace. Working in direct contrast was the bacchanalian electro-pop of "Yabis," a nervous and gloomy ride with just enough dazzle to make it a club gem. The set left the room of FeelTrip acolytes glistening with sweat and charged libidos, and left YAWN in the enviable position of having a batch of crowd-tested and approved songs to haul into the studio. When I wrote about this band just over a year ago, I remarked that they were "a group of really normal looking guys." Looks have proved, as usual, to be completely fucking deceiving. The band's show at Subterranean was further evidence that what we have in YAWN is a group of remarkable individuals whose chemistry is yielding some of Chicago's most mesmerizing, pleasurable and totally abnormal music.

Sister Crystals
Dream-poppers Sister Crystals set the table for YAWN, debuting a new full-band lineup and some new songs of their own. One of those was "Light," a glammed-out tune ideal for an outer space-themed prom. Singer Lauren Whitacre has one of those sweet and ethereal voices that gushes heartbreak and sounds good against almost anything, but her band wasn't content to rest on that strength alone. Throughout their set the group mixed bits of Bowie and Sabbath, and did so without aping the sound of fellow Chicagoan's Smashing Pumpkins. Fusing an elastic wanderlust and surprising bit of muscle, Sister Crystals were as astounding in their contemplative and delicate moments as they were when the guitars got a little molten and the melodies a little angsty. Much like the band that followed them, Crystals produced plenty of evidence that their next record can't come soon enough.

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