Monday, March 13, 2006

From Dust 'til Dee

In the days of my youth I'd often be out on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday nights until 3 or 4 the next morning. As I've gotten older, it's begun to take longer to recover from these outings; not because of drinking but because of lack of sleep. So I've pretty much curtailed this approach to things. Sure, I'll make a long night of it now and again, but it's no longer a standard practice, especially for Sundays, as it's a school night. I do have to say, however, that I'm glad I made an exception last night, catching a show at Tonic.

Now Tonic is definitely one of my favorite venues in the city. Add to that the fact that Derek's band, Dream Into Dust, was opening and I had myself a serious case of the screamin' gotta-be-theres.

The core of Dream Into Dust is Derek Rush and Bryin Dall. Derek plays acoustic guitar and provides the vox while Bryin plays... Geez, how do you describe it. "Dark ambient guitar"? Lots of spooky rumblings and layers of sound. This combined with Derek's melancholic vocals and plaintive strumming makes for quite a startling combination. Sometimes the band plays as a quartet, adding a keyboarist and bassist, but in all honesty, I believe that the duo was better suited for the show last night.

Since they were the opening band (and on a Sunday, no less), attendance was rather sparse. However, I was glad of this because I didn't have to worry about hearing everything over the sounds of a crowd. Sure, there was a couple in front of me who would not shut up, but it wasn't completely distracting.

It was a beautiful set.

At times, Bryin's guitar growled and stalked around the edges of the room. Certainly Derek's vocals kept the listener's eyes on the stage, but there was a sense that something was lurking out there at the edges of the spotlight. Spooky stuff. At other times, Derek's guitar provided the primary focus, with Bryin adding a sparse effect here and there. Equally effective, in my opinion.

There's a delicateness to Dream Into Dust's sound that floats above the shuddering noise and darkness that Bryin provides. It’s as if the listener is hanging onto a slender thread above a churning ocean. But this thread is deceptively strong and will never break, so while there's a certain amount of apprehension and fear in the music, there is also a sense that things will be alright. Difficult, but alright.

As I said, it was beautiful.

They played for about half a hour, performing some songs that I knew and some I was unfamiliar with. To end the set, however, they did a frighteningly effective cover of "Man In Black". Using sparse instrumentation, they really drove home the song's message, which I believe is particularly apt given the present situation in this country. Near the end of the piece, they opted to drop out the guitars completely. Derek's naked vocals lay there for all to see.

"And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side."

Powerful stuff.

Dream In Dust finished slightly after nine o'clock. I was planning on dropping off a demo to the Wrecking Ball guys (an on-again, off-again breakcore night) over at the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg, but that show wasn't scheduled to start until 10pm, so I decided to stay and catch Baby Dee. I'd never heard her perform before, nor ever heard her music.

I'm awfully glad I stayed.

Baby Dee performs solo, playing piano, accordion, or harp. While Dream Into Dust's sound is dark and epic, her's is more fairytale in nature. Her vocals are very much in a tin pan alley style; in fact, at times it's almost vaudevillian. However, with the exception of a few comedic numbers ("The Song Of Self Acceptance" is side-splittingly hilarious), most of the tunes sound like lullabies. Folky and gentle, with Dee's vocals delicately crooning. Warm and open, yet intensely private, like your mother stroking your hair when you were a kid. There's an innocence to Dee's music that is simultaneously joyful and heartbreaking. It makes you smile with a tear in your eye because you can celebrate that joy while at the same time mourning the loss of it; you see that childlike innocence and realize how much you miss it.

In short, Dee's performance was very much a sharp contrast to Dream Into Dust's. Yet for me, this drew both performances into stark relief, making me realize how much I love almost every color in music's palette and how fortunate I am to be able to see people who are truly masters of their craft.

More masters, some unmentioned:

Baby Dee - Live In Turin
(having heard, I had to buy)

4th Sign Of The Apocalypse - Lost Hour World
(another face of Bryin Dall; another very dark face)

Miles Davis - The Essential Miles Davis
(an excellent collection of some of the musings of Miles)

Koordinate Of Wonders - Koordinate Of Wonders
(when are we gonna hear more from these guys?)

Various - DJ Abstract 9: The Gossamer Mix
(glory to some of the gods of glitch)


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