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They can play melancholy, baby

September 09, 2004|Kevin Bronson

Hard to imagine any Midnight Movies show qualifying as a "celebration" -- the L.A. trio's music, after all, is a little dark to be busting out the party hats.

But you'll permit guitarist Larry Schemel and bandmates Jason Hammons and Gena Olivier a little latitude Saturday night at the Troubadour, when they toast the release of their debut album on Emperor Norton/Ryko.

"We feel like we're having a baby or something," Schemel says giddily.

Drinks all around. And wear black. Less than three years after the threesome began cutting their teeth on the Silver Lake scene, Midnight Movies has made an album with the texture and resonance that could earn it notoriety beyond the distinction that it is the band with the frontwoman who plays drums.

"Midnight Movies" simmers with songs built on leaden synth lines and measured, reverb-heavy guitars, which commingle ominously until Olivier's ethereal voice cuts through the morass like a beacon. The effect is dreamy and undeniably cinematic, as if Portishead were art-rockers.

Just don't call it sad music, Schemel says.

"Yes, it's a bit melancholy. There's a dark element," he says, "but if you listen to Gena's voice and lyrics, there is hope. It's not all black. It's not all depression. Everything is gonna be OK."

*

Midnight Movies, Giant Drag and Layton, the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Saturday. $10. (310) 276-6168.

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