It’s always good to see it live, just to make sure. I’ve been diggin’ on and recommending Dustin Wong since I discovered his music a couple years ago, but didn’t get a chance to see him perform in concert until this past week. Wong plays solo guitar compositions, building up loops and samples, occasionally adding in a little drum machine or lyric-less vocals to create gorgeous, life-affirming sonic sculptures. Yes, there are other people who do similar things with similar techniques, but there is something special about Wong’s musical point of view, the way he takes the simple and makes it complicated and takes the complicated and makes it simple. His last few albums are a treat, true pieces of art: inspiring things of beauty.
It’s entirely possible that the music might lose something in the live setting, away from the confined structure of the studio. Watching him play this past Monday night, I was even more in awe. Here sat an unassuming dude, ripped cardigan, shirt half-untucked, looking like your I’m-stuck-with-this-guy!? freshman roommate and the music coming out of his guitar was, as I tweeted, 100% soul fertilizer. The crowd was as rapt as I was, following the different layers and levels of sound like butterflies fluttering around the room. It’s rare you see an opening act get the kind of love Wong got, but it always signifies a special musician. I did feel bad for the band that had to follow him. Pick up the albums and go see him play live.
Here’s an extended video from a few months ago in D.C.
If Dustin Wong’s music is a graceful ballet or three-dimensional sculpture, then Cloud Becomes Your Hand plays the musical equivalent of interpretative dance… or maybe a puppet show? I believe I read that their band name references puppets that perhaps were once part of their act? Their debut album is chock full of weird, but delightfully so. Sounds go in and out of sync, and really what are those sounds – guitars and drums are there, but so are all sorts of other bits of music and sounds. The thing about these guys is that as out-there as they go, the songs retain their hooks and their groove and never feel in danger of unraveling altogether.
I had a chance to catch these guys a month or so ago at one of the many DIY rooms in Brooklyn. With the cinder-block, spontaneous-party-in-the-basement feel, it was a perfect setting for CBYH. In the live setting, of course, it’s easy to discern where all the sound is coming from: guitar, keys and drums, but also violin and an electrified, muted-by-gauze vibraphone (or is it a glockenspiel?) putting out a range of blips, bleeps and, occasionally, musical notes. Their slightly-off outfits, weirdo stage design and whacked-out music combine into a singular experience…you can choose how seriously you want to take it. The fact is, the music is great and seems to get better the longer you listen. What was I saying about interpretative dance? The show ended in characteristically bizarre fashion, with the entire band hopping into the crowd and going through a choreographed “dance,” possibly partially improvised that went on a lot longer than you might have expected. It was whimsical and weird and, honestly, pretty fun, just like the band. I guess it’s a regular part of their live show, you can see what I’m talking about in the video. Get off the beaten path and check ‘em out!
Written By: Aaron Stein