Last Night: The Black Angels And Black Mountain At Warehouse Live

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Photos by Marc Brubaker
See more photos from Wednesday's fever dream in our slideshow.
The Black Angels, Black Mountain
Warehouse Live
November 17, 2010

Some music is so evocative and overwhelming it can cause you to flash back to before you were even born. Not all of it - when a Mozart symphony comes on the radio, you're not suddenly rubbing shoulders with Emperor Joseph II in 18th-century Vienna, and hearing Stephen Foster's "Swanee River" probably doesn't trigger an impulse to take cover from the flying cannonballs at Chickamauga.

But Wednesday night at Warehouse Live, you could practically smell the Napalm. As the Black Angels let fly one necromantic, woozy tone poem after another, Aftermath kept expecting Oliver Stone to ask the Studio crowd to step aside so his cameras could get a better shot.

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Bad things are afoot in the Angels' music, amid the knotty and sprawling guitars, echo-chamber vocals and primally pulsating bass and drums. The feeling of foreboding is as thick as a San Francisco fog, and it never stops moving - imagine being chased through a strobe-lit hall of mirrors with Jim Morrison beckoning on one side and Ian Curtis on the other and you're close.

The Angels' Wednesday-night seance of overheated blues and twisted pop, punctuated by Pete Townshend-esque power chords, turned garage-rock into morgue-rock, chasing the ghosts of "Bloodhounds on My Trail," "Bad Vibrations" and "Vietnam" with a weather machine full of effects and a keen ear for melody that canceled out some of the nightmares around the corner. "Black Grease," from the Angels' 2006 debut Passover, came as a curtain of dread, but "Telephone," from new album Phosphene Dream, is a worthy successor to the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night."

For all its minor-key darkness (with the odd major chord here and there) and overwhelming drone, the Angels' catalog is custom-built for dancing. It moves. Not in the Shindig! sense, though - during "Yellow Elevator No. 2" and "Better Off Alone," the people Aftermath spied gyrating to the music, and there were several, seemed more like they were possessed.

It was closer to Poe's The Masque of the Red Death filtered through both Nuggets box sets: A grand ball of the macabre that moved quickly enough to keep the reaper at bay. Or maybe we just had too much to dream last night.

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