Between the heat, the close quarters, and the necessity of ramming your friends in the ribs to catch just a glimpse of the people who were playing, the “You Are Here” maze at Death by Audio in Brooklyn last year was kind of my definition of concert-going hell. There were a lot of great bands there that summer, but my nights there invariably ended sitting alone in some dead-end alcove with a tall boy in hand, listening to the music through the walls and trying to imagine I was somewhere else altogether. I was ready to jet out of there right away after seeing John Fell Ryan’s SETH play there one night, but Brooklyn’s Up Died Sound — a band I had never even heard of before — sounded so golden from the opening note that I decided to stay on for another hour.
If you ever took music lessons as a child, Up Died Sound will take you back to the moment when you played your first harmonic minor scale and marveled as an entire universe of “otherness” opened up before you, the uncharted and exotically perfumed unknown that Westerners once ignorantly referred to as the “Orient.” Only instead of riding on memories from Aladdin and the “It’s a Small World” theme ride, the four members of Up Died Sound are all grown up now and ready to dig into the limitless archive of ’60s East Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern psychedelia that labels like Sublime Frequencies and Normal Records have put at our fingertips, not to mention a secondary excavation of ’70s Ethiopian Jazz.
In Up Died Sound’s music, psychedelic guitar rock comes face to face with its geographical and historical reverse image, a non-Western fantasy of its very Western self. Power riffs cohered in extravagant architectures, rising above our heads like a ceiling at Alhambra. “There is a definite dance between all the elements, which are always on the verge of feeding back,” says guitarist Nicky Mao. When I listen to “Dust,” a song off their forthcoming self-released LP, I feel like the same could be said for the here and the there, the past and the present — though I’m probably just a sucker for a well-turned pop dirge. These guys seem to have plenty of those, and they are powerful as all hell.
Up Died Sound, “Dust”
Words: Emilie Friedlander
Up Died Sound are Tyler Nolan on a Gibson SG, Nicky Mao on a Gibson semi-hollow body, Jonathan Leland on drums, and Jordi Wheeler on bass, though the latter is currently residing in a bunker on a hill in Aranjuez, Espana. Their first vinyl LP, which was recorded with Nicholas Emmett (of Nymph) and co-mixed by Emmett and Ben Greenberg (of Zs and Pygmy Shrews), will drop sometime late this summer or early in the fall.