Somebody’s Range Rover had broken down in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, so the traffic getting across to the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn was a cruelty. The Patient Mrs. had business elsewhere in the borough as well, so we carpooled and sat for about an hour, waiting, inching forward, honking, being honked at, staring at the billboards for Soylent Orange or whatever it was, waiting. Waiting. Mostly it was waiting.
I was still early to the show, though, which was the live debut of the supergroup (they need to come up with a new tag for “band made up of people known for being in other bands”) Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker — permanently linked to the largely unmatched crush of Buried at Sea in my mind — acting as warden behind a podium with the band’s logo draped on the front, his laptop, sampler, drum machine adding to the experimental edge and providing the rhythmic base of the material.
The concept for the show was pretty complex. Two bands were opening: noise trio York Factory Complaint and blackened noisemakers Theologian, both NY-native. After them, each of the members of Corrections House would come up for a brief 10-15 minutes of solo work, then, once they were pieced together on the stage, a Corrections House set would close out the night. It was a cool theory, and it felt even better to know that St. Vitus bar was the first time they were trying it out, but I guess my concern going into it was how they’d actually make it happen with each member doing something different, what the order would be and how many songs Corrections House, as a band, could possibly have.
Answer? Three or four songs. But it was a long road to get there. York Factory Complaint went on at about 10PM, so I knew right away it was going to be a pretty late night. All the gear was backlined behind and around the outfit — which lists itself as a four-piece so perhaps someone was missing — who sat and knelt on the floor of the stage in front of their vintage-looking manipulators, Moogs and whathaveyous. Their noise was, well, noise. As advertised. Screaming vocals gave some inkling of structure, but there wasn’t really a verse as such, just lines spit over harsh audio.
I guess that’s going to happen from time to time, and for what it was, I thought the presentation was cool and the ambience creative. I always wanted to start a noise project with equipment hooked up to giant walls with knobs on them that I could dress as a mad scientist in a labcoat and run from side of the stage to side of the stage turning like a fool. Of course, with neither the money for equipment nor a knack for working with oversized knobs, it’s resided in the pile of band ideas next to my one-man black metal band with no music because nothing sounds kvlt enough and my doom project with lyrics based solely on the themes of Final Fantasy games.
York Factory Complaint was much simpler in their approach, and Theologian likewise, though the Leech-led live trio — which included Fade Kainer of Batillus on, you guessed it, synth and noise — were a little more grounded, relatively speaking, and had a projector going behind and over them while they played. That didn’t do much to make the sounds any friendlier or more accessible, but the point was the experiment, and their complex wash of synth, effects-laden vocals and array of abrasive screeches felt all the more purposed for its bleakness of mood. A couple toms on the side of the stage manned by Matt Slagle provided human-driven thud when called upon, and Leech‘s voice became as much a part of the wash as anything else. I wondered how they’d serve as a lead-in for Corrections House, but with Sanford Parker up first crafting a noise barrage of his own, it made more sense than one might have expected.
Dressed as all the members of the band would be in a black button-down with Corrections House logo patches sown on the arms and a larger logo on the back, Parker set quickly to work laying a bed of industrial-style beats and noisy flourishes. Samples came and went muddled by the surrounding swell as Parker, lost in the rhythm, continued to construct the sound one element at a time, even picking up a mic and manipulating feedback from it. After a while, Lamont joined him on stage, picking up his baritone sax and running it through a pedal board of his own, soon doing the same with some vocalizations and even scratches on the microphone that ran along the border between experimental and obnoxious. It can be a fine line sometimes.
Williams appeared unceremoniously on the side of the stage, holding a notebook, and gradually, Parker and Lamont brought the noise down to a steady drone. This actually worked really well, because in his reading — Williams in addition to fronting Eyehategod has done spoken word for a while now and has a book of poems called Cancer as a Social Activity — he gripped the mic, yelled and often had space to pause for the sound behind him filling what would otherwise have been silence tempting people in the crowd to talk over him. I’ve been to that kind of gig before and it’s excruciating, but whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s charismatic like few others I’ve seen on a stage. Like a magnet for eyeballs.
His poems/writings ran through a litany of post-beat disaffection, navigating a gamut of vague imagery and all-too-specific chemically-added grit. It’s hard to critique a written work by hearing a reading, but his delivery could change in a line from tragic and solipsistic to engaging with smiled charm, and not without interrupting the flow of a piece, and that’s worthy of commending. As he read, Kelly made his way to the front and took up position at the side of the stage, fresh off two rare East Coast Neurosis gigs, in Philly and at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple for a weekender preceding the launch of this tour. Lamont and Parker were still up there as well, the former kneeling in front of his pedal board in attentive semi-meditation and the latter tucked away behind his podium.
Closing out his portion with an extended poem that was a series of purposefully ridiculous claims ended by the refrain “That’s what the obituary said,” and finally ending it with what he seemed to make his own concerning his many-storied history of drug abuse — there was some mention of “finally kicking the habit” — Williams then made way for Kelly to run through a couple songs. This turned out to be something of a side-step, since each of the preceding additions of personnel to the stage had added to the atmosphere of what would become Corrections House, whereas Kelly‘s material is more straightforward and more definitively solo. Even “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul,” which featured a second guitar on last year’s The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here), was wholly Kelly‘s own despite complementing ethereal backing vocals from Lamont. I’m not about to complain for getting to watch Scott Kelly play his solo material — that can only make a good night better — but it was a turn from the process of building Corrections House on the stage, since what he was playing as part of the band turned out to be heavier, darker and more fitting to the rhythmic pulsations of Parker‘s drum machine.
Once they were all there, again, Corrections House only had three, maybe four songs to play. The difference was it had already been about an hour, so it was more like an extended encore than a full set. I wasn’t about to complain. Aside from Kelly playing angrier and with more distortion, there wasn’t much about Corrections House that hadn’t already been revealed. A digital “leak” of their “Hoax the System” video had given some idea of what to expect, and the other material they played followed suit, once more leaning on the line between organic darkened heavy and industrial coldness. Williams spat fury with his characteristic nihilism, Lamont kept up with Parker in laying the foundation of noise, be it with his sax or mic or both, and where once there wasn’t one, an increasing swirl of chaos ensued. It was all I could do to realize how far we’d already come by the time Corrections House were into their second offering.
They wrapped with an extended take on “Hoax the System,” its insistent rhythm playing out steady as the final tide of feedback rolled over it and just about everything else, Williams seeming to hold on against the rush with repetitions of his last lyrics urging the title. It was nearly 1AM by the time they were done, and I knew The Patient Mrs. was waiting, so I was quick out the door of the St. Vitus bar and back down the block to where she’d parked and was waiting for me to drive back to Jersey. Fortunately, whoever’s Range Rover it was had been towed by then. Small favors.
Pretty much the whole way through, this show wasn’t what I’d expected or planned on. From the traffic getting there to Williams taking the frontman spot then relinquishing for Kelly only to resume it shortly thereafter, to Lamont‘s mic-scratching, to the clear-road record time I made to the valley afterwards, the vast majority of my preconceived notions of what Corrections House would be had turned out to be in need of — forgive me — correcting. That’s what they got, anyhow. Rumor has it a 7″ is in the works, after that, who knows. But whatever might come next for these guys in this collaborative form, at least now I know why I’m anticipating it.
Extra pics after the jump.