Waveforms Night Three: Splynter, RBTS WIN, Blue Sky Black Death, and Aligning Minds
Last weekend’s Waveforms was the highest point so far in an incredible series of performances that began in early October. Each week has brought a new vibe to the Asheville Music Hall, and shows have pulled in a combination of local talent and international acts. This week, co-headliners Blue Sky Black Death of Seattle played alongside local groups Aligning Minds, RBTS WIN, and Splynter, who started things off with an energetic, dark set that established the tone of the evening.
Splynter was a surprise addition to the schedule, and I particularly enjoyed this unexpected set. Graham Tolbert, one half of Splynter along with Carter Magee, brought a blend of sounds that mixed lighter, percussive elements with deep bass grooves. Splynter has the ability to mix the experimental with the rhythmic, evidenced through the regular pairing of danceable beats with other contrasting sounds that ran the gamut from yawning, apocalyptic background noise to samples of hip hop, elephants and, at one point, “Eleanor Rigby.” I felt the influence of science fiction strongly during the set, particularly when distorted, atmospheric chords and noises joined lilting sounds that would fit well on a paradisical alternate world. Songs transported me between envisioning the dystopian cityscapes of Blade Runner and the spiritual experiences of transcendence. The set was characterized by organic movement between time signatures and rhythms, sometimes within the same song, where layered textures brought out new and innovative musical combinations. While the performance felt like it came together in the best way, each song was different and the sound of Splynter overall defied categorization in terms of musical style. Splynter’s EP, Fabric, is available on Bandcamp.
The next act, local favorite RBTS WIN, drew a big crowd to the venue and brought additional energy to the space. RBTS WIN’s frontman, Brien Worsham, is always a charismatic performer who makes an effort to connect with his audience. Because of this combined with Worsham’s deeply personal, lyrically poetic wordcrafting, performances always feel intimate. This sense was enhanced by the instrumentation, with Javier Francisco Bolado on synthesizer and Josh Chassner on guitar. RBTS WIN is successful for a number of reasons. While their charisma and energy certainly pulls people in, it’s the music that keeps them around. Bolado and Chassner complete a picture of a band that is truly talented and that has grown through innovation and risk-taking while simultaneously staying true to the soulfulness that keeps them real and present. Special attention should be paid to the guitar skills of Chassner, who has a unique sound rooted in classic hard rock and is pretty much virtuosic. RBTS WIN played songs from their past albums that had everyone singing along, and they also dropped some tantalizing new stuff from their forthcoming LP. RBTS WIN has been very busy in the studio lately, and it was awesome to see a little bit of what they’ve been up to.
Blue Sky Black Death followed RBTS WIN and played an atmospheric, dreamy set that included provocative video and a subtle but effective light show that employed fog machines and lasers. The combination of visuals and sounds created a dissonance at some points, heightening the enigmatic feel of BSBD’s songs. Video clips moved between fish to languorous, vampiric women and finally faded out until only the light show illuminated Kingston and Young God. BSBD brought the energy to an even more expansive level, bringing the audience into an engulfing experience of smooth, sensuous waves grounded in bass-heavy, hip hop-infused beats. This grounded quality was matched beautifully by a corresponding efflorescence in songs’ higher registers, where vocal and instrumental samples inflect. BSBD has developed a characteristic sound over the course of their career, evolving organically into the sweeping, dreamlike songs they’re currently creating. Despite BSBD’s base in electronic music, there’s an orchestral element to the sounds they create. There’s also a sense that their songs could be your own personal soundtrack as you journey through stages of unfolding, opening, and growth in your own life. BSBD’s songs take flight but remain rooted energetically, which makes them ideal if you’re looking to get lost in the beat.
Aligning Minds was joined this time around by another virtuosic musician, drummer Matthias Sayour. The variety Aligning Minds manages to incorporate into their sound and visuals week after week continues to impress me. Last week brought the sounds of Aligning Minds together with the vocals of Robert Manos and the tribal belly dance of Kristi Wrolstad. This time around, the addition of live drums to the music added even more earthiness to the set. Sayour’s drumming was exceptional and struck a delicate balance, never overwhelming the songs but instead building upon them to add a new, rich element. The combination of the live instrumentation and the music added a sense of presentness to the performance that unified the musicians and the audience energetically, and Sayour brought the volume and the energy up through his drumming. His superb control over the drums allowed the music to go in new directions while still keeping its evocative, expansive feel–the hallmark of Aligning Minds’ sound. Even though some of the tunes sounded familiar from weeks past, the set felt totally new. Mike Folk clearly has a deep awareness of how to incorporate new elements into performances to keep things really fresh week after week. While the sounds of Aligning Minds–whether new or old favorites–are always an experience, their superlative grasp of performance sets them above other electronic artists.
Waveforms takes a break this week but will be back in action on Halloween for the Artikal Records Tour, where Aligning Minds will perform alongisde J: Kenzo, EshOne, Thelem, and Sleeper. Stay tuned for news about next week’s installment of this amazing series.