Austin Psych Fest Live (Saturday): Wall of Death
Texans love to hear complaints about the heat from European bands playing our music festivals. It swells our sun-scorched bosoms with a fleeting sense of heartiness. When Wall of Death keyboardist Brice Borredon innocently asked, “Is anybody hot?” on an altogether mild-by-local-standards April afternoon, one could only chuckle.
Regardless of doubts about their fitness for the dog days, Wall of Death’s performance provided full redemption and then some. Drawing upon a foundation of psychedelia and prog-rock, augmented by gothic and spaghetti western flourishes, the Parisian trio’s special du jour was slow, swaying grooves that shifted into explosive, flanged-out climaxes. Though best taken under cover of darkness, tunes like “Thundersky” translated just fine in daylight.
Alternating between an electric 12-string and a resonator guitar, Gabriel Matringe drew upon an appetizingly wide range of tones. His tasteful, non-overplayed solos provided distinction, while Borredon’s Manzarek-style double duty on keyboards and synth bass provided drive. Whether he was incanting the fire-apple organ swirls of Brian Auger or the proto-electronic oscillations of Roger Limb, Borredon found the right feel for every song. Although drummer Adam Ghoubali didn’t say a word, his anxious tribal thunder brought animation to the band’s otherwise understated stage presence.
As the set progressed, Wall of Death’s crowd gradually expanded with curiosity seekers. Even if their vacillations between Black Angels immolation and dark-hued high desert grit weren’t perfectly congruent, their unwillingness to be boxed in by subgenres hinted at bigger tent potential. Let’s hope for a return visit in any month other than August.