on the grass along the water
Long Island City
32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11106
Take the N or Q train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River) to the intersection of Vernon Boulevard.
|7:00pm||Live music by Arturo En El Barco|
|8:30pm||Live Music By Dustin Wong|
"The output of guitarist Dustin Wong has gradually shifted from chaotic to crystalline. His early work with Ecstatic Sunshine veered toward shaggy guitar rock, while Ponytail was like an unhinged version of Deerhoof with odd hooks and wordless vocals. Wong's solo work, though obviously springing from the same headspace, consolidates and unifies his aesthetic.
Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads follows 2010's solo debut Infinite Love, a conceptual album based in part on a psychedelic experience. It featured the same material-- repetitive, layered guitar lines and a tiny dose of drum machine-- presented in two similar renditions across two discs. Dreams Say has a similarly out-there origin, with a title inspired in part by his dreams. But the album's actual construction is more compact and solid than its predecessor. Wong has explained his creative process-- the way he uses a guitar and a series of pedals-- in terms of a textile factory. The pedals that change the guitar's tone add texture, delay pedals weave a pattern, a loop pedal replicates the sounds, and an envelope filter colors them. It's a powerful explanatory tool for thinking about Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, but after receiving piles and piles of such exquisitely crafted sonic fabrics, I'm left with the question of what to do with them.
The answer to that challenge is surprisingly broad. On the one hand, it seems as though Wong's music is naturally introspective. It lacks the rock immediacy of Ecstatic Sunshine, and there aren't Ponytail frontwoman Molly Siegel's pre-verbal vocal yelps to divert from all the intricacies. Some songs, such as "Space Tunnel Graffiti", sound like basalt blocks being dropped around your head. Alternately, "Feet Prints on Flower Dreads" starts with an urgent guitar figure and builds slowly into an industrious, vaguely conventional pop song with chorus-drenched chords and competing lead lines that cut sharply across the audible spectrum. None of the songs are simple, and they mostly all build to surprising and surprisingly weird heights.
A twin strength/weakness of these songs is that they generally start discretely, as simple guitar figures onto which Wong piles more loops and lines. The album's strong sense of pacing leads to moments where, as each song crests, you tend to think, This, right here, is the highlight. Then it ends, and the next song starts from point zero. Which is good and bad. "Toe Tore Oh", something of a centerpiece, builds slowly and doesn't hit a groove until about four minutes in. Two minutes later, it stops abruptly, and the listener's given a new fabric to examine.
In a way, each song's pattern is like an aural Rorschach test. (Wong's textile analogy is apt.) You hear the music, sure, but only the parts your brain latches onto. Even on good headphones, it's difficult to catch everything that's going on. Your mind wanders along one guitar path, and then you realize you've necessarily missed five or six branching paths. That's not a huge knock, though, since the album does reward repeat listens. In fact, it requires them. One go around might emphasize the Motown-style bassline in "Purple Slipped Right", and on another you'll notice the ghostly harmonic artifacts popping up among the pizzicato muted string rhythm. Wong uses the loop pedal like a factory machine stamping out parts, and the little imperfections and accidents that get captured and preserved only add to each layer's complexity." Pitchfork