Saturday, May 17, 2014

Great first impressions - Nostalghia at New Music Revolution

Occasionally a band makes such an impression that you always remember the first time you heard them. I remember listening to Jane’s Addiction’s "Nothing’s Shocking" in the dark on the living room carpet on Christmas night the year my parents divorced. I’d put it on my Christmas list based on "Rolling Stone’s" four star review (I was an odd 13-year-old).

The first time I heard new rock trio Nostalghia's song "Sunshiny Milk" I was driving home from the Y. As delicate classical strings swelled to the primal industrial attack of the chorus, I got chills. This doesn't happen. Or at least I don't remember the last time it did. Almost simultaneously scenes from my current favorite TV show BBCA's "Orphan Black" popped into my head. What a perfect pairing these two post-punk entities would make, I thought. 

Nostalghia did it to me again Thursday night opening WEND 106.5 The End's fourth New Music Revolution showcase at The Fillmore. The trio of Roy Gnan on drums/samples/keys, cellist Adele Stein, and singer Ciscandra Nostalghia opened with "Sunshiny Milk" and as soon as the chorus kicked in goosebumps sprang up on my arms. 

It doesn't hurt that Ciscandra Nostalghia is a dominating presence. She wore a white satin slip dress, dark makeup with mascara running, and hair reaching well past her waist. She's no girl next door. There's an exotic quality to her look (her Last FM page mentions a Persian mother and Russian/Irish father who spoke French and that she was raised in California and Iran) and her vocals, which swell from whispers to operatic wails to screams, are often sung with an indeterminable accent. 

There is so much about Nostalghia (the band) that reminds me of some of my favorite female artists of all time. Her pronunciation and quirkiness recalls Bjork. The operatic vocals and the goth imagery reminds me of my beloved Siouxsie and the Banshees as well as Kate Bush; the cello of cello-rock trio Rasputina; and the industrial element of `90s Brit band Curve. But all of those elements weave together to create something new and unique in its own right, which is exactly what it needs to be to wake people up. 

The crowd at The Fillmore was rapt. They seemed stunned as Nostalghia screeched during the seemingly gentle "Cool for Chaos." That track alone was inspiring. I realized that this is one of the records I'll be listening to while writing my next two books during grad school. And I think that really says a lot about Nostalghia too - it's inspirational. Art begats art, even if said art is not what intellectuals deem high art. A brilliant rock band, a BBCA TV show, and my as-yet-unpublished vampire and horror novels - not high art, but I'm so excited these other things exist to inspire me. I feel like music is on an upswing, but hearing something truly different is what music geeks really crave.

Or you can just consider what the guy behind me uttered to his girlfriend as Nostalghia left the stage: "It was weird, but it was cool." 

Well said, dude.