CMJ ’08: Matteah Baim, Lichens, & High Places @ Less Artists More Condos

Less Artists More Condos is a loft space down around the West 4th stop, a section of Manhattan you generally want to avoid unless you’re a tourist wearing a lot of hairspray or cologne. Once inside, though, it makes for a good venue: A smaller room to see the bands, a larger room to buy merchandise, drink beer, and talk to people when not watching the bands. This wasn’t actually a CMJ-sanctioned show, but it paired area favorite High Places with recent NYC transplant Matteah Baim and a pair of Chicagoans, Lichens and Pit Er Pat.

Baim, who was one half of Metallic Falcons and performed as part of Antony’s “Another World” chorus at the Clock Tower gallery a couple weeks ago, has often sounded like Nico performing darkest Joni Mitchell to me. But it makes as much sense that she lists Gordon Matta-Clark, Goethe’s The Sorrows Of Young Werther, and spirit medium Rosemary Brown as influences at her MySpace because there’s something deeply architectural/spacial (Matta-Clark) and tragically romantic/literary (Goethe/Werther) about her work. Also, her songs are sometimes fragmentary (like a vignette) or meandering (like a river). She creates incantation via repetition. There isn’t a need for a central hook. It feels like storytelling, or she’s tapping into how to honestly evoke a certain memory, directing moves with a Ouija board (Brown), not standard folk or rock structures. On Friday, she was accompanied by violinist Leyna Papach for her short, haunting set.

I’d seen Lichens provided a soundtrack for Doug Aitken’s Migration with Arp and White Rainbow at 303 Gallery a couple nights earlier, but wanted to catch Rob Lowe do his thing without someone else’s projections: His vocal drone piece are amazing to watch because of the expressions on his face, the way he curls his fingers, and how he somehow manages to disconnect himself from the room around him, while pouring so much of himself into it. Last night he sat on the floor opposite Baim and Papach so the two sets were able to blend seamlessly: As Baim played the last few notes of her “River” he started making bird sounds with his mic and delay pedal, before adding layers and turning the room into a teeming flock of chirps and upper-register falsetto howls — a moving one-man symphony.

I always enjoy High Places — Friday’s set wasn’t any different. Well, it was in some ways: The sound was ricocheting in wierdly, but it added a thicker feel to the beats and clatter that move around Mary Pearson’s pristine vocals. R&M did some older stuff (“Head Spins,” “New Grace,” etc.), newer work from their great self-titled full-length (“The Storm,” “Namer,” “Vision’s the First…,” etc.), ending with said record’s closer “From Stardust to Sentience.” Highlight: A “dude” dressed in business casual down to the tucked-in Oxford “bopping” to the percussion. He stayed after his friends left so he could get down all the way to the finale. Respect. You’d like to think he was genuinely moved, not just drunk. I think it was the spirit. At least that’s how I’m spinning it.

[Full disclosure: I take horrible photos.]