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Unsane's insanely musical moves

Noise-metal stalwarts of the '90s bring out a big sound and rhythmic cohesion even though they only number three.

June 09, 2007|Greg Burk | Special to The Times

Behind his drums, Vincent Signorelli stared at the ceiling as if praying for divine intervention. Chris Spencer did the same while pulling ungodly emanations from his old Stratocaster, sweat beginning to pop from his craggy face, under a backward Yankees cap. Dave Curran fixated on rejiggering his newly taped-together bass rig as he strived to get himself back into the mix.

Already delayed, New York's Unsane was having an unsane tech episode Thursday at Spaceland. But the group pulled the cat out of the burning asylum. If Unsane could survive an overdosed bassist (1992) and the gang beating of its leader (1998), a few crossed wires weren't going to disable these stalwarts of the '90s noise-metal scene.

Promoting the current "Visqueen" album was a mission worth the perspiration. Produced by Adam Schneider, the record marries a huge, evil studio sound to Spencer's 19 years' experience, welding Unsane into a corroded bulldozer of power.

Live, Spencer provided the direction with his tangled low-end figures, aggravating the essential dyspepsia with layers of distortion and echo, and occasionally torturing chords by yanking his guitar neck or straining the strings near the tuning pegs. His unintelligible, raw vocals, alternating with Curran's, added inchoate rage to instrumental injury, but the sonics alone would have sent the message.

The group's rhythmic cohesion dominated. Signorelli belied his frivolous chin tuft with a deeply grounded yet flexible drum drive, gritting his teeth and interlocking with Curran's bass for a counterpoint that made the three sound like six.

During the bass meltdown, Spencer told no jokes, saying he didn't know how. Instead, with a psychotic gleam in his eye, he charged into an impromptu rendition of some defiant Irish battle hymn.

Once the bass was back in the mix, Spencer made a point of introducing one bashing new number. "This," he announced, "is called 'Only Pain.' " Unsane left the thinned-out but chanting 1 a.m. crowd in a welter of bass feedback.

Preceding, the uniformed robo-corps of 400 Blows returned home with a riff-heavy selection of Wire-meets-Sabbath post-punk, revving their audience with the dense syncopated groove of "Electric Wilderness."

Ohio's synth-plus-guitar quartet Mouth of the Architect opened with an impressive onslaught of deliberate, Isis-influenced modern prog.

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