Austin Psych Fest Live (Friday): Aqua Nebula Oscillator

Dancing with the devil – en Français!

A brief stocktaking of Aqua Nebula Oscillator’s Friday inventory: two table drapes, one cheetah patterned, one velvet. A bongo, tambourine, and sampler pad, two guitars, bass, drums, and a lap steel. An Indian party dress, two spiritual offerings they’d prepared, and enough hair to keep Locks of Love effectively running all summer.

The French quintet also had a smoke machine, which filled up the Levitation Tent like a much sought after water bong not 30 seconds into their set. “We’re going to try to levitate,” organist Andreas Carrere decreed shortly before the smokescreen. For the next 45 minutes, they barely broke to come back down.

Photo by John Anderson

After an offering of a shrunken skull to both the audience and the proverbial Aqua Nebula Oscillator, the fivepiece was off, spiraling from one Gothic psych movement to another. Beneath Carrere and multi-instrumentalist Abdelwaheb Didi’s commotion – carried out largely via lap steel, though he had that sampling pad that would, the sound guy confided, “just buzz for five minutes straight” – the Tee Pee Records freaks built crescendo after droning crescendo, distinguished from jam only in shaky spats of slurred Français.

Lost on uni-lingual ears, singer David Sphaér’os’ hurried stanzas dissolved mostly into the larger aura, which appeared hellbent on providing an eeriness and clamoring precariousness that didn’t get across completely in the setting. A whitewashed tent mid-afternoon in Texas? Not much to work with there.

Gimme some cathedral out in Nantes. Or a cave somewhere, at least after nightfall. No use dancing with the devil when you’re doing it in the daytime.

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Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Andreas Carrere, Abdelwaheb Didi, David Sphaér’os, Tee Pee Records, Satan, Austin Psych Fest 2014

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