Monday, September 6, 2010

Seven Saturdays and Helen Stellar at Bootleg Theatre - Sept. 1, 2010

I thought I'd usher in September by going out to a show on Wednesday, the 1st. Helen Stellar were opening for a band I wanted to check out called Seven Saturdays at Bootleg and I just felt like going out. Arriving around 10, it was only a short wait till Helen Stellar were set up and ready to go. Photo at right by Laurie Scavo.

Once again they lifted me off the ground and kept me airborne for the duration of their set. Even without the trippy light show, they still manage to move your head to a different space by the sheer beauty of the music and the powerful, spot on vocals of Jim Evens, who manages this without any of the histrionic fuss and strain that usually accompanies power singers. Layering the two guitars, Jim and Eli Lhymn, adding the anchoring bass of Dustin Robles with the pace-setting drumming of Clif Clehouse and the whole towering and ethereal sound they achieve can be overwhelming. It was very nice getting to chat with them a bit after their set, and though this was the third time I've seen them, it was the first time I've met Jim Evens.

Based on the recommendation of Kevin Bronson, who was present, I had looked into the music of Seven Saturdays online and liked what I heard, so I was anticipating a set of elegant instrumentals of an almost cinematic beauty, and that's what I got. Backed by an hallucinatory black and white kaleidoscopic light show that blended so perfectly with the music that the sense of sight and sound got all mixed up, and one spilled over into the other. In a similar concept to Learning Music, music composer, Jonathan D. Haskell, plays with a rotating collection of musicians, and I imagine he adapts his Seven Saturdays musical program to whoever is playing with him at any particular time. It's a musical idea, and a genre, that I find both stimulating and exciting.

The sweeping and at times purely experimental music reminded me of Jerry Goldsmith's Logan's Run score, or Michel Legrand's piano in the McQueen/Dunaway The Thomas Crown Affair soundtrack, and of course, Vangelis' Blade Runner music. (Is there any area of popular culture that Blade Runner has not influenced?)

Beginning with a composition entitled "Early Morning Fog Bank", a deep, dark, lulling sound drifts in like a...well, fog, which swamps you and sends your brain into a private reverie. Inducing instant hypnosis, which was interrupted by a dialog sound sample of a woman's voice speaking in an offhand monotone. Like something pulled in from a different world, like you hear in The Books. As the dark and light forms pulsed and throbbed, shrinking and growing, splitting and congealing on the wall behind them the three musicians accompanied us on a journey to another world. I had a good time there.

The next song introduced a more conventional drum beat and I was suddenly struck by their resemblance to another band exploring this lush instrumental territory, The Album Leaf, but Seven Saturdays are even more ambient and obtuse, so there's room for both. Besides, no band could knock The Album Leaf off the pedestal I put them on.

Jonathan (above at right) even sang some vocals to one song which added a nice human element, just when needed. I was totally captivated from beginning to end and picked up their CD on the way out, which is a startlingly close approximation of their live show. I'm grateful to have learned about Seven Saturdays and meeting Jonathan afterward, I let him know I'll be back for more. There is an upcoming date scheduled for November 5 at Echo Curio.


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