Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Depreciation Guild - 10.03.2009 - Webster Hall :: NYC

Dave Cromwell gets insightful while covering the Brooklyn based Depreciation Guild. With blaring guitars and a wall of sound the band are captivating audiences with a thump to the chest. After the performance the ensemble's ringleader Kurt Feldman sat down for a few minutes to talk recording, free music, vinyl and life on the open road.

When multiple sources you've come to respect urge you to give something a listen, because they are sure you will like it, it would be foolish to put it off. Trusting their advice, I soon found The Depreciation Guild's debut album "In Her Gentle Jaws" to be one of the most satisfying music experiences I've encountered this year.

When multiple sources you've come to respect urge you to give something a listen, because they are sure you will like it, it would be foolish to put it off. Trusting their advice, I soon found The Depreciation Guild's debut album "In Her Gentle Jaws" to be one of the most satisfying music experiences I've encountered this year.

Having caught one of their live shows in a small club setting a month earlier, I was most excited to see how their show would play on the big stage at Webster Hall on October 3rd, touring in support of this years break-out act The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Opening the show with "Sky Ghosts," the mood was immediately set. Looking most impressive on that huge stage, the massive crowd packed in tight at the front, and spilled all the way to the back bar. "Sky Ghosts" contains elements from more than a few sources and influences. The so-called "shoegaze" style is obvious, but underneath there is a soulfulness to the rhythm, chord changes and textures that bring to mind late 60's songs by urban groups like The Delphonics.

Following with the magnificent "Darklooming" the band was now fully in its stride. As their signature 8-bit Famicom provided a programmed digital undercurrent, the three musicians developed the sound even more confidently over top of it all. Drummer Anton Hochheim in particular sounded loose, organic and downright "jammy" throughout. Kurt Feldman (principal songwriter, guitarist and vocalist) and Christoph Hochheim's (Anton's twin brother) guitars pounded downward on the bridge section with controlled force. Kurt's gently sung vocals again evoked a certain soulfulness. At times the guitars sound slightly warped and twisted, - as if they had been developed in Kevin Shield's recording studio during the "Loveless" sessions.

The lighting at Webster Hall is always impressive, and on this night the slick, big concert level professionalism was in full effect. With the three band members spread out across the huge stage, Christoph was bathed in a yellow spotlight to the far left, Anton dead center up on a drum riser and Kurt to the far right, in a shimmering amber hue.

The band proceeded to work their way through the set, playing "Crucify You," "Blue Lily," and "Trace" - all perfectly executed under a variety of lighting enhancements. In addition to the more traditional concert lighting, the band brings their own unique imagery that is projected on the big screen behind them. A 9 panel display whereby colors change and textures pulse, this video game bit-theme is reflected in their t-shirt designs as well.

Up next was the incredible "Butterfly Kisses" which is a standout track on the debut album. Here the Famicom is prominently featured, as it creates a magical, percolating undercurrent for what the band does on top. A speedy song that always makes me think of running through the woods as fast as you can (or perhaps navigating some video game underworld) the boys run roughshod over top with a dual guitar assault and throttling live drums. Kurt's breathy vocals only add to its appeal as the verses build to the chorus. And what a chorus it is. A chill inducing, blissed-out highpoint that showcases the best this band has to offer.

They then played a new song called "November" that will be on their next album, and it was a most convincing jam where you could see the interplay between the three musicians evolving. For their finale, they played the magnificent "Dream About Me."

Frontman Feldman was talkative after the show, providing some insights into where they've just been, and what's in store for the immediate future.

"In the beginning of August I did a West Coast tour playing in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart." (Kurt has the unique situation of being that bands drummer, while at the same time fronting his own band as it's principal songwriter and guitarist) "We toured with a band called Girls which was really awesome. Then in the last month we started this tour combining The Pains, Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eats Guitars," Kurt stated.

"We recorded most of our first album at the end of 2006, and released it in December of 2007," said Kurt. "It actually started out as a bedroom project for myself in 2005. I wrote a bunch of songs which I recorded myself with help from my friend Eric. We were all absolute beginners at that point. I had been in a number of bands before that, but had never really done anything with electronics. Eric had never really recorded any bands, but he was going to NYU in the engineering program. So we were both really inexperienced with the whole thing and did it flying by the seat of our pants," he stated.

"I attempted to mix the full length by myself at one point. What ended up happening was when we got our manager, John - he heard the songs and thought they were good, but realized the mix could be improved. So he pitched the project to an electronic artist that he really loved who hadn't previously heard of us. A great guy named Josh Eustis who himself plays in a band called Telefon Tel Aviv. So he remixed the whole thing and then the album was released a year after we recorded it."

"'In Her Gentle Jaws' came out just this month on vinyl. Prior to that we had made it available as a free download for nearly 2 years. Everything has now been remastered for the vinyl and it definitely sounds richer and fuller. Less high end. It works way better as a vinyl record, than we had anticipated. We had gotten used to hearing it one way, and this new version is breathing new life into it.

"We finished recording the new album and it's about halfway mixed at this point. We did the record entirely with Josh Eustis. He engineered and co-produced it with us at his studio in Chicago this past August. Half recorded at Josh's house, and half at Hefty Studio's, which is John Hughes Jr.'s recording studio. The son of the filmmaker has a label called Hefty. They have top notch mic's and amps there, and it's where we tracked the drums. This record has more of an organic feel. Our signature digital sound is still there, but now there are more synths, and more live bass, more acoustic drums in addition to the drum machines. We didn't actually stray from our initial sound, but just that our live sound is now more fully represented."

The Depreciation Guild are currently on tour supporting The School of Seven Bells, and will return to New York for a number of CMJ showcase shows, later on this month.

Addtional photos and videos are included here.

Christoph, Anton and Kurt playing to a packed Webster Hall
"Blue Lily"


Christoph and Anton drive the rhythm and textures
"Butterfly Kisses"
"Dream About Me"

Photos from September 3, 2009 show at Bowery Electric, NYC
Kurt gets gazey

Blue lights for a Blue Lily

The hand is quicker than the shutter
"Dream About Me" at Bowery Electric

Significant links:


Anonymous said...

"blaring guitars and a wall of sound " this is what we we like . I know you're tall Dave,but the photos would suggest that a/ you've had a growth spurt, or b/ the gig took place in Liliput...I can think of no other explanations ;)

Good work as ever

Mr Smork said...

won't be talking much about dave's writing style.
the article was - good. nicely wrote - not to hard to read.
and i quiet like the band. couldn't quiet get the words from given videos, but i like the music the band was playing. according the names of the songs i assume the text are cool as well.
haven't heard the records of this band but i like how they play live - sounds great. especially i like the drummer - plays nice and steady like metronome. :)
well done both - dave and the band. :)

Anonymous said...

groovy review Dave :)

ViewFromSpookysDoghouse said...

First, I'd like to congratulate Dave on avoiding the bass trap at Webster Hall. And my, I knew you were tall, but those videos were taken upon the shoulder of a giant!

Next, I'd like to extend compliments to their keyboard player. But alas, there is none.

I'm getting used to the idea that shoegaze music equals difficult-to-hear vocals, but after struggling with Dave's YouTubes, I ventured over to The Depreciation Guild's Myspace page, and found that Kurt's voice, though lyrically hard to hear, was, after all, pleasing in a Curt Smith kind of way-- soothing. They have more of a pulsing soundscape vibe than a storytelling one at first listen. Perhaps time devoted to further listening will reveal other complexities.

x said...

Now that's the band that I'm really gonna pay attention to from now on. A beautiful sound, lots of space in the music, intelligent compositions, class, artistic maturity. This is fantastic.

I really enjoyed reading the article, it's a good start for me to learn about this unusual band. Thanks for this opportunity and introducing me this stuff, Dave. Videos and pics add a spice to it all.