With so much great new talent each year at The Culture Collide Music Festival in Echo Park, one can easily expect to come away with a few new gems to add to their weekly playlist. For me, it was Cloud Nothings, Delta Riggs, and this band: Torches, a trio from Pasadena comprised of Azad Cheikosman (guitars, vocals), Eric Fabbro (drums, vocals) and Adrian Acosta (bass, vocals). They arrived at one of the more unique stages at Culture Collide – The United Methodist Church - with some significant momentum from a recent residency at The Echo and an enthusiastic support from KROQ. For some, the UMC is an ideal setting, with high ceilings that perfectly echo the music. For me, it was finally a good reason to go to church.
It’s a night of kicks. Up on stage, the lead singer grips the microphone as he kicks its stand out from under it and, in the same fluid motion, kicks the stand back up straight into his other hand. Leaning off the edge of the stage toward the gathering crowd, he finishes the song with a cathartic, raw, primal scream of “revolution!”
The pulse of Scott Walker’s work has pumped the black blood of his twisted vision for decades now. The bright-eyed days of his youth have long since been replaced with eyes that comfortably and skillfully maneuver their way through the dark. His new album “Soused” is no exception and with the help of Sunn O))), Walker creates another bleak soundscape where the fragility of life is exposed and extinguished at his will.
Red and blue lights illuminate in purple a dark-haired girl in floor-length black lace on the alter of a church. Her voice pierces the vast space above her. She dances with her eyes to the rafters, inviting you to enjoy the moment with her, drawing you into the sound. She is Sorcha Brennan, and along with Keith Byrne and Wayne Fahy, who are playing synthesizers, drum pads, and guitar alongside her on stage, they are Sleep Thieves, a Dublin three-piece that bring a human touch to digital sound and who just released their self-recorded second album, You Want the Night.
Their music consists of multi-layered love songs to getting lost. A mixture of analogue and digital audio create a haunting sense of humanity through technology, taking the medium’s capabilities but leaving out its cold perfection, its freneticism and narrowness, and making it remarkably complex. Their recordings feel like a floating ball of sound that starts in front of you and then slowly expands to surround you, enveloping you from all sides. Here, during their Culture Collide set at a quiet church in Echo park, that sound spreads from the stage up to the highest points of the vaulted ceiling.
Next up was the building frenzy of Taymir (pronounced tie-meer), a group of indie rockers from Amsterdam whose set starts out promising to be rather demure, with babyfaced lead singer Bas Prins in a button-up shirt tucked into office slacks fidgeting about the way he’s holding his hands behind his back (one hand holding the opposite arm or both hands clasped together? Let’s try it the other way again…).
The music is rock delivered with the nonchalance and catchiness of pop, and soon everybody in the room is bopping silently in their own little music appreciation bubble. The only element that feels out of place in the room is one dude in the front row. He’s conspicuous not only because he’s wearing an untucked pink button up shirt with two rows of ruffles down the front, but also because he is engaging what would ultimately be the only incidence of bro fist pumping to be witnessed at Culture Collide. It looked out of place, unnatural, here.
Nina Persson took change of The Church stage as though she had been a priestess in a former life, her kimono sleeves like fine vestments for the worship of some divine femininity. “I’m Nina Persson, and these are Nina’s Persons,” she said, nodding toward her band. She performed most of Animal Heart, her first solo album released earlier this year, to a mesmerized house, among them opener “Clip Your Wings” and the single “Animal Heart.” Her powerful voice belted out, reaching toward for the vaulted ceiling. “Come be my man, baby, bail with meee...”