Bruxism is a free bi-monthly concert series presented by Close/Far Recordings held at the Schlafly Tap Room on the last Thursday of the month. Bruxism #26 doubled as the release of Rhizomatic St. Louis Vol. 5, which was handed out for free at the door. The project is described as, “A survey of regional experimental music featuring: sound art, free improvisation, avant-garde jazz, ambient, and electronic music from artists currently living in the St. Louis area.” Volume 5 was compiled, produced, and designed by Nathan N. Cook and features cover art by local artist Jeremy “Ghost Ice” Kannapell. Bruxism #26 included performances by Catholic Guilt, ICE (who is featured on the cassette), and Beauty Pageant. Throughout each performance MaxCorp Communications provided his dazzling and ethereal projections across the stage.
First up was Catholic Guilt, a South City noise band composed of Sean Burk aka Swan Gone, Joe Stein, and Nick Zengerling aka Zeng. Burk also contributes to the local music scene with his KDHX show, Freaker’s Ball. While the band has taken many forms over the years, their Bruxism performance included all three on guitar and effects, as well as Ben Salyers on drums for the first time in years. Catholic Guilt was first formed in 2007 and has since been named the River Front Time’s “Best Noise Band” in 2011. Their music is chaotic and sensory while maintaining a constant ambient drone throughout. Salyers’ performance on the drums was the most structured element of set. His punk-rock based drum rhythms, which could easily fit in a more traditional setting, created a core pulse for the wild but focused improvisations of the rest of the band.
Guitars are used in whichever way possible to create the sonic landscape of their music. Burk often would slam his guitar against the stage producing feedback from a nearby amp to create unique and guttural sounds. Catholic Guilt is a band that is hard to pin unless you have seen them live, making them a truly unique asset of the St. Louis scene. The set was the perfect opener to wake people up and get them ready for the experimental trip that is Bruxism.
Next up was ICE, who you may formerly have seen performing as Black James. ICE hails from Knoxville but has spent her years in St. Louis building a strong following from not only her musical endeavors, but her visual art as well. She has won RFT’s best Electronic/Dance category on three occasions, including the 2016 poll. ICE is more than just a producer. Her chill-wave lounge-y sound and melodic vocalizations completely captivated the audience, leaving them grooving along the entire set. She has an heir of cool and mystique that was enhanced by her low-key entrance.
Unlike a lot of artists who begin with a bang, ICE eased us into her jams. Her set journeyed through low tempo ambient moments with sounds of birds intermixed, to high tempo dance beats that are reminiscent of artists like MIA. ICE is like a sorceress of sound always switching it up at the right time to vibe with the crowd. The energy built up as her performance went on, and by the end the crowd was whipping their hair and hollering “Give us what we need! ICE! ICE!” She ended with Jason Aldean’s song Burning It Down as she tore down her set, grooving along with the song as she went. ICE/Black James has been evolving her sound for years and has definitely reached a prime stage of her evolution. Her recent album ICY2K, released September 2016, is available on her Bandcamp. You can also catch her playing April 25th at the William A. Kerr Foundation along with Timeghost and Pod Blotz.
Beauty Pageant gave the final set of the night with their psychedelic harsh noise. Founded in 2012, Beauty Pageant is a collective of St. Louis artists who come together to make a symphonic cacophony of sound. This event technically functioned as a 5th anniversary for the founding members of the group. They are not a band that likes to practice before their shows, making each one a new, unique, and purely improvisational exploration of their instruments. Despite their self-proclaimed ability to clear a room faster than any other band in St. Louis, Beauty Pageant has been mentioned by the River Front Times on multiple occasions and was even listed as one of the “13 Best St. Louis Noise/Experimental Bands in 2013”.
Each member has their own creative entity outside of the project. Mister Ben, Blyre and Dada Vid are the founding members of the ensemble. Mister Ben (Guitar) has a long standing small press publication/art zine Freezerburn, as well as DJ’ing and curating noise events across the city. SAMANTHRAX (Vocals/Microbrute), Ben’s partner in crime and 2014 addition to the band, performs as BitchFit along with Dada Vid (Keys), and also produces two zines (Shit! and Toxic Shock Syndrome). Blyre Cpanx (Vocals) is known around the city for her visual art and burlesque performances as well as her annual celebration of arts and culture, City of Night. Finally, WiggPaw (Percussion) has performed for years with legendary St. Louis group SkareKrau Radio.
While the normal crowd would disperse after the first few minutes, the Bruxism crowd was here for the chaos that is Beauty Pageant. Ben and Dada Vid are the driving force in the group with Ben’s string busting guitar playing and Dada Vid’s solid base of intentional chaos. Blyre glitters her moans and vocalizations throughout, sprawling across the front of the stage in her sequined get-up. The addition of SAMANTHRAX on the Microbrute adds an extra bit of dimension to the already multilayered and atonal performance. An extra layer of dissonance is added as well by WiggPaw’s clashing and banging of non-conventional percussion instruments. If it is makes a sound, he’ll bang it. A set with Beauty Pageant is like a trip down the rabbit hole, leaving you feeling a peaceful sense of discord by the end.
Check out a little bit of Beauty Pageant’s performance below: