Evidence for the Prosecution of Rock
Austin’s Graffiti Trials releases a garage-flavored chunk of awesome
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
10:00AM, Wed. Oct. 12, 2016
1. Adreon Henry, smiling like a wily motherfucker with a sweet and nasty secret, hands me a blisterpak that contains a small cassette player. The player’s a device of heavy transparent plastic, some off-brand Walkman from the days before everyone had the world’s media on tap in their nearest pocket.
There’s a single cassette case taped to the outside of the blisterpak. A thin white label spikes the case’s polychrome cover with two words: GRAFFITI TRIALS.
There are two AA batteries, also attached with tape, bookending that cassette case. Odds are they’ll fit into, and provide working power for, the transparent player.
What the hell are you up to, Adreon Henry?
2. Reviewers’ shorthand is where something is described as a combination of two or more other things. “Oh yeah, Predator,” a friend explained back in 1988, “it’s like Alien crossed with Platoon.” Or, just a few weeks ago at some vinyl-pimping afterparty, “Okay, the Velvet Underground jamming with Hawkwind as remixed by the Cocteau Twins – that’s kind of what Radiohead sounds like, sometimes, maybe. But also Thom Yorke.”
The more benighted among us might still say that one thing is like something else on acid. Or will try to escape the typical by getting downright baroque with similes: “That music video of yours, man – like it was directed by the bastard child of David Lynch and Jane Campion after Takashi Miike got the scenic designer high on Bolivian tarantula venom and kept, like, dry-humping that designer’s left leg while chain-smoking the Parliament Lights that his PA had removed the filters from. In the rain.”
All those cliches, those tropes as old and tired as Abe Vigoda’s body was before that celebrated geezer took to bed for the last time. We’re probably not going to resurrect the late actor in our lifetime, not in any fleshly manner. But – fair warning, citizen – we’ll be working that ol’ shorthand way too soon.
3. Adreon Henry. We’ve told you about this guy before: He’s an artist. But sometimes people call rock stars or rap stars “musical artists,” and that cassette in the transparent player is filled with music. So let’s make sure you remember that this Henry is better known as a visual artist.
[Note: The Albuquerque Film Festival awarded him a residency to create 15 paintings inspired by Dean Stockwell’s acting career.]
Also, he’s a damn good visual artist, working glory into screenprinting & vinyl-strip weaving & tasty color-palette combinations, and – if you want to know more than that, please read this review from a while back.
But Henry’s a musician, too. Which we were kind of aware of from a visit, a few West Austin Studio Tours ago, to the man’s home-based audio/visual epicenter, the studio/workshop/artgallery he shares with his wife Jennifer. But we were focused on visual stuff at the time, blindered by journo shades and rapacious deadlines, and we … we just didn’t know. We didn’t know about the band formerly called Videoing.
4. Makes perfect sense that Graffiti Trials is on cassette – because they sound so goddamn retro. Well, they sound retro and simultaneously like they're from the future, maybe some future that the original members of The Ventures might’ve dreamed up after a gang of robots beat the shit out of them with a telecaster.
Oh, hell – do you feel it? Do you feel that Reviewers’ Shorthand thing creeping up like the Zodiac Killer?
Listen: Adreon Henry works keyboards, Jen Henry tangles with the drums, the two of them vocalize elusive lyrics into the roiling lo-fi mix – “now he is walking on the edge of a wicked place” – and Brendan Reilly rocks more keyboards and that arcane guitar. And what they’ve created together is like more than 30 minutes of, uh, goddamnit, it’s like Man or Astro-man? collaborating with Portishead in an abandoned tape factory ruled by Lord Glitchy & His Army of Sentient Fuzzboxes.
It’s music to filter reality through, to make that reality less stupid and less saccharine and more like you perceive it to be following a post-hangover cup of coffee and a Parliament Light that Takashi Miike’s PA has removed the filter from. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining or not, citizen: The inside of your head’s not coming out of this experience other than moist and buzzing, in a really really good way.
So here's Graffiti Trials' first album No Dancing, yeah: On cassette tape … and live, Thursday night, at Sidewinder, with Casual Strangers and Xander Harris … or right here in your internets.
5. Did we say “recommended” yet? Do we have to say “recommended” every fucking time, as if your reading comprehension is on par with that of a ganglia-compromised banana slug? Duh.