Trauma victims often report a disturbance in their perception of time—even in memory their ordeal crawls by in terrible slow motion. Khanate’s excruciating antimusic is like doom metal afflicted by that same sort of temporal dilation, each song drawn out into an irregular 10- or 20-minute series of isolated impacts—four seconds apart, five seconds, fifty—so that it’s almost always impossible to brace yourself for the next concussion, the next rumbling blast wave, the next hateful, terrified shriek. There are sometimes riffs, but they unfold so slowly that the best way to identify one is to skim through a track with a CD player’s search button. Bassist James Plotkin has also played in Scorn and Atomsmasher, and guitarist Stephen O’Malley cofounded both Sunn O))) and Burning Witch—and the most important lesson these old hands have learned is that restraint can be as devastating as skull-softening noise. “Release,” the second half of the new Capture & Release (Hydra Head), begins with more than three minutes of gently tolling bass, flickering cymbals, almost inaudibly distant screams, and the methodical ticking and creaking of a guitar that’s turned up horrifyingly loud and barely being touched—when the first full-band blammo drops in out of nowhere, it’s like getting jolted out of a bad dream by a garbage truck crashing through your living-room wall. Plotkin and O’Malley let their instruments ring interminably after each strike, luxuriating in serpentine, slowly decaying low-end feedback, and vocalist Alan Dubin adds a menacing, unhinged whisper or a nightmarish cluster of processed scrapes and flutters. (Plotkin handles the electronics, both live and in the studio.) Of course, the creepy quiet stuff is just to soften you up and lower your pain threshold—O’Malley says the band’s amps put out 130 decibels. This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival; see page 30 for a complete schedule. Four Tet headlines, Khanate plays third, Hot Chip plays second, and Phill Niblock opens. Sun 9/25, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susanna Majuri.