Bill Horist and Degenerate Art Ensemble at Chop Suey

At Chop Suey last Monday, July 25, Bill Horist was doing his sit-down guitar thing, which is different than his stand-up guitar thing. Seated, Horist is less sound sculptor than a one-man orchestra as he worries the strings on the neck of his guitar (which sits flat on his lap) with a slide in one hand and picks out the prettiest and most obscene notes he can find with the other. It occurred to me that I'd like to hear Horist cover Brian Eno's 1974 album Here Come the Warm Jets in its entirety, not because it would be any better than what he does on the fly, but because I think he could, all by himself.

By the looks of the decent-sized crowd (extra gnarly dreadlocks, headbanging), you'd guess that they were most turned on when Horist spiraled out of the Eno-like intricacies and into his noisy machinations. Because he always managed to cut switchbacks into the snarl and return to the melodic timbres, however, it was easy to pretend that Horist favors the gentle stuff, too. Easy, that is, until Ruins singer/drummer Tatsuya Yoshida and vocal, um, artist (?) Brad Mowen joined him onstage after his solo set.

There was nothing gentle about the trio's outré improv metal. Mowen's voice approximated Slayer—not simply Slayer's lyrics or guitar but the sum of all their parts—and Yoshida answered him in his most bizarre little-girl whisper/scream. It hurt to listen, and that felt good. I wanted it to stop, which made me hope that it wouldn't. Eventually, it did.

When the Degenerate Art Ensemble took the stage, they appeared to be spoofing the rock show. Haruko Nishimura appeared, expertly miked so that she seemed like an apparition in one of her customarily gorgeous and unreal outfits (Björk has nothing on her), and slipped into the crowd. Babbling gorgeously, she evoked Mothra, Marlene Dietrich, and a live-action cartoon character. The club's sound system was dead on; DAE played wonderfully creepy carnival cabaret, and Nishimura, captivating and surreal, proved that she's one of Seattle's most gifted performers. Who better to follow her than Japan's most gifted drummer?

Ruins—aka Yoshida, accompanied only by recorded bass samples that he controlled with a foot pedal—rolled through every imaginable drum style and then some, fabulously long-winded and unexpectedly groovy. You want death metal? Free jazz? Led Zeppelin? King Crimson? Can? Check, check, check, check, and check. Yoshida even bests Can vocalist Damo Suzuki; his effete vocals were ambience only until those moments when you thought you heard him speaking coherently, in plain English, directly to you. Eventually, his monster jams became a series of two-minute ideas about this style or that, which is how, without looking at your watch, you knew it was time to go.

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