Slumberland 20th anniversary: Live last night
By Mark Jenkins
Slumberland Records, which celebrated its 20th birthday Friday at the Black Cat, was founded in Maryland and is now based in California. But its musical inspirations have always been primarily British, as was demonstrated by the seven Slumberland acts that performed at the anniversary show. The evening included bands new, old and in-between, but all showed debts to strummy, noisy U.K. indie-pop.
(A low-key evening with plenty of feedback, sustain and reverb, after the jump.)
When the label began, major influences included such distortion-heavy trance-rock groups as Stereolab (who released an early-singles collection on Slumberland) and My Bloody Valentine. Not all the bands who performed Friday are in that tradition: D.C.'s Ropers (playing for the first time in 10 years) dialed back the distortion on their sleek folk-rock; and Philadelphia's Brown Recluse, with its clean, light sound and trumpet solos, was closer to Belle and Sebastian, a later-vintage Brit cult act. But the gig still featured plenty of feedback, sustain and reverb, from Frankie and the Outs's massively echoed vocals to Crystal Stilts's room-filling organ.
Both those bands hail from Brooklyn, a contemporary alt-pop hub and home of other current Slumberland acts. But the highlight was one of the label's original mainstays, D.C.'s Lorelei, which reunited in 2006 after a long layoff. Frantic strumming was only part of the band's music, which also made deft use of rhythmic shifts and open space.
The low-key gala, which also featured Boston's jangly Pants Yell! and Baltimore's droney Nord Express, concluded with a few remarks by label owner Mike Shulman, who was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. He had made his point more articulately hours earlier, slapping a tambourine with Brown Recluse.
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