Arts & Culture

The Edison of Managed Minutiae

By Anand Balasubrahmanyan April 1, 2010


Art by Ilan Schraer


Big Spider's Back is bringing chillwave—Internet shorthand for psychedelic bedroom pop filled with samples, retro synths and hazy nostalgia—to the Conor Byrne Pub this Thursday. The band draws from the same trippy influences as the nascent genre's leading lights, channeling Animal Collective's dance and new age signifiers. They also fall into chillwave's biggest pit, same-ness, as they are casually indistinct from Seattle's other chillwave heavy hitter, USF (not to mention the OG chillwave of Washed Out and Toro y Moi).

So why do I really like it?

It's in the details. Like Garage Rock or Shoegaze, most chillwave songs sound exactly the same unless you are enamored with the genre's micro innovations. And Big Spider's Back is practically the Edison of managed minutiae. Check the drum sequencing on “Mind Grapes,” each hit landing just slightly off-beat, while squishy synths perform mod wheel gymnastics. It's not groundbreaking, but it adorns pre-broken ground with elegance, highlighting fissures you never noticed before.

“Perfect Machine” is a great song. Chiming guitars invert and hypnotize, coasting on huge piano chords. “I got a perfect a machine/ she does tricks for me,” sings Yair Rubinstein. Big Spider's Back is the John Edwards of chillwave; sure, he lacks the emotional connection of Neon Indian (chillwave's Obama) or the muted determination of Washed Out (chillwave's John Kerry) but you suspect Big Spider's Back is at least having the craziest sex.

At its best, Big Spider's Back creates sounds to get lost in. “Warped,” an easygoing ditty based on a 60s shag-rock sample, ambles along. It's a song that seems to be slowly dissolving, with Rubenstein's Animal Collective-ity drowned and eventually consumed by reverb. The beat reverses and dissipates until only glockenspiels remain. Big Spider's Back rides off into the sunset—a clichéd gesture, yes, but totally enjoyable.

Big Spider's Back plays the Benefit for Alternative Healthcare Access , which provides alternative medicine to homeless Seattle residents, at Conor Byrne Pub (5140 Ballard Ave NW) tonight at 9 pm. Suggested donation $8.


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