We Saw This: Marshstepper

By Beverly Hames

Thursday night, Saint Vitus played host to a five-band bill, headlined by Marshstepper, of Tempe, Arizona. It was a stellar night with writhing bodies, groping couples, arcing guitars, heavy feedback, and black leather.

Soren Roi opened the show with a minimal techno set. Soren’s been performing solo since the demise of the exceptional RØSENKØPF. He’s only played out a handful of times, and it’s exciting to see where he is going musically, with the promise of his previous efforts spurring him on. He is definitely someone to watch.

Next up was Foreplay, a newish duo from NY Noise’s power couple Jane Chardiet and Chris Hansell of Warthog. I missed their NYC debut at Weird and majorly regretted it, but better late than never. This show served as a cassette release for this seething industrial noise duo. Their set was filled with anxious sexual tension and a simultaneously hot and uncomfortable (but mostly hot) boy-on-girl groping session. In other words, it was highly enjoyable in that special comforting/uncomfortable way that only a good noise set can provide.

Noah Anthony, aka Profligate, unfortunately left an important adaptor back in Philadelphia and was forced to play an amended set on the fly. Having never seen Profligate, I didn’t know what to expect, but assumed I was in for some harsh noise by the seething face of Anthony on stage. However I was proven wrong when the set veered into solid pulsating dance-industrial territory. The crowd was moving during the succinct (and I’m assuming truncated, due to the missing equipment) set. I definitely wanted more, as did everybody else.

Brooklyn band YOU has slowly morphed from a two-piece to a four-piece, and the transition has been nothing short of brilliant. Conceived by frontman Trever Millay, the band started as a purely electronic project with Millay and artist Brad Taormina. Recently, the band saw the addition of ESP TV’s Scott Kiernan on guitar and photographer Joseph Jagos on bass. They aren’t an art band per se, even though the majority of the members are artists, just as they aren’t a Detroit band, even though three out of four members hail from there. YOU is an amorphous ever evolving group that gracefully bridges the gap between minimal synth and post punk. The new sound is denser but still has an overarching tone of cold sparseness that is similar but slightly more complex than that of recent tour mates Black Marble. Having seen them several times, I’ll say that live, the fuller lineup has the additional benefit of allowing Trever Millay to step out from behind the synth and emerge as a true frontman.

The collective carries a dry austerity from the Sonoran Desert digs of Tempe-based members J. S. Aurelius, N. Nappa, and D. Pupillo. The music has a deeply meditative trance-inducing quality that would make it a suitable backdrop for a psychedelic journey in remote climes. Through the muttered chants of the vocals and the worshipful restraint, it’s easy to imagine the sounds of crackling flames from a giant bonfire, until a forceful undercurrent breaks through bringing a tense urgency. I was tempted to close my eyes during the performance to separate the music from what was going on around me, but live, Marshstepper directs the audience’s vision quest for them in a ritual of desecration.

It’s important to remember that this performance took place on the floor of Saint Vitus in a darkened room, underneath the shroud of a smoke machine. The only lights were a dim red glare emanating from the stage behind them and the portable lights attached to the performers. I felt a little guilty intruding with my flash. I’m not going to give a play-by-play of what happened, it’s best seen in person, but hopefully these photos will be enticing enough.

Viewing the photos with a soundtrack of the Chondritic Sound release streaming is recommended. 

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