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Tail Spins

Temp Sound Solutions, the Sheath, Sand Cats, Eats Tapes, and Ponytail, Talking Head, Aug. 24

Jefferson Jackson Steele
HAIR APPARENT: Ponytail's Molly Siegel shakes it and jiggles it

By Jess Harvell | Posted 8/30/2006

"Electronica" is justifiably buried in a shallow grave, but one of its positive upshots is that the kids are no longer afraid of things that go blip-blorp in the night, resulting in multiband bills like the one at the Talking Head last Thursday--even if the lone rock band ended up not just stealing the show but kidnapping it and making the ransom call from an undisclosed location up the block.

Wearing a pair of pants that looked like 8-bit Army camouflage and wielding a headless guitar, Baltimore's Shawn Phase of Temp Sound Solutions unleashed a one-man torrent of shrieking declensions and screaming computer-assisted leads, his pixilated metal imagining a world where Judas Priest records for hip Viennese glitch labels. New York's the Sheath, on the other hand, with its silly put-on Germanic accents and rudimentary drum-machine beats, was the kind of winky-winky "Sprockets" foolishness that continues to make rock fans want to kick electronic music's ass after school. A private joke gone too far, perhaps? Leave that shit in Brooklyn where it belongs.

On a screen strung between two painted pine trees--perhaps stolen from the basement of a preschool--Sand Cats' Roby Newton projected strange and intimate and organic colors. All she seemed to be doing was inserting slides into a wooden box, but the fleshy screen pulsed and throbbed like a vulva kaleidoscope. Her partner, Rjyan Kidwell, scuttled insectlike rhythms across his mixing desk--rap beats made by giant cicadas? As the screen glowed red, the music became more volcanic, a hot lava drone left rhythm far behind. Sand Cats made the most subdued, and beguiling, noise of the evening.

Not much subdued about Californian techno duo Eats Tapes, which kicked off its set by leading the audience in a mass rock paper scissors contest. (The winner got some merch of choice.) With all the lights shut off, Eats Tapes smacked down beats like a game of Whac-A-Mole, a steady-pounding 4/4 stream of onomatopoeic snerts, zaps, and bloorts. The audience frugged in near-darkness like Charlie Brown and friends, proving that even at this late date there's little better for activating the chimp brain than good ol' inhuman techno.

After a few hours of beats and pieces, Ponytail's trad punk rock four-piece setup felt downright refreshing, like scouring your brain with a pumice stone. Chaos threatened at every zinging riff and bashed cymbal, but the tension came from the stop-on-a-dime precision with which the band beat the shit out of its instruments. Vocalist Molly Siegel--singer isn't the right word--is no bigger than a thimble and has one of those big-little voices that bug you out from the moment she ambles onstage. Mostly unintelligible, she swooped down for lower-register groans only to spit a flurry of piercing mewls and squeals like a hungry baby bird, her face a rictus of joyful possession and a swirl of hair during each miniature thrash explosion and dazed all-smiles in the lulls before the band ignited the next one. Guitarist Dustin Wong says there's an album coming--at some point, anyway--on the Creative Capitalism label, and the sooner the better. Loud, sweaty, spazzy, and yet as tight as a shrunken sweater, Ponytail is one of the best young rock bands in Baltimore.

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