Relapse Records shows brave new face with Wrong and Nothing, Aesop Rock proves his sway never went away 

click to enlarge Nothing

Pjoto by Jen Cray


When you see so many valiant efforts to defy the norm go unmet in reception, it's especially heartening to see some good things stick.


In uniting some of today's best rising rock talent and daring to do it with bold variety, leading-edge metal label Relapse Records showed some extraordinary vision with a recent tour package topped by its young thoroughbreds Nothing and Wrong (July 3, Backbooth).

Everyone at some point wishes they could rewrite history a bit – you know, go a little Eternal Sunshine on some shit. Imagine for a second if Helmet never released anything after Meantime, went off the grid with some noise-rockers and re-emerged with their original virility not just intact, but reloaded with more hair and fangs. That would be a beautiful dream. Well, new Miami band Wrong is essentially that fan fantasy come to life. And after a series of increasingly ravaging performances here since last year, they return as made men with a savage new self-titled album that certifies them as one of the absolute best bands roaring up from the shady underside of the Sunshine State right now.

When a band's intro is a wall of static, their shoegaze bona fides are in the bag. And so it was for new-school tower of sound Nothing. The Philadelphia band are also touring on a new album, Tired of Tomorrow, a sophomore LP that's a more supple yet not better turn for them. Thankfully, those soft new shades either gain new heft from – or just simply get overrun by – their live gust.

More terrestrial than their vaporous and impressionistic peers, Nothing's slant on shoegaze brings melody, structure and humanity back up front to more clearly frame the sonic haze. The result is a punctuated and balanced attack where every considered aspect is heard without sacrificing size or effect. Live, it's a stately crush, a sonic marvel that envelops like an ocean of gorgeous wool.

Now, I'm not at all sure why a crowd would start stage-diving to Nothing of all the bands on this bill but, hey, all right. Interesting bill, interesting results, I guess. But when you jump into a group of gaze heads whose action readiness level is usually set to deep inward swooning and not punk-show alertness, you are kind of taking your life into your own hands, as evidenced by some close calls. A pit even broke out. I officially have no idea what is going on any more.

That business would've made much more sense during the rousing opening set of San Francisco's Culture Abuse, who rip party-punk with a feral hardcore bite. It's a fairly simple attack. But, at three guitars tall, their live sound is a total juggernaut.

Indie-rap paragon Aesop Rock is a figure who, in proving that left turns could be viable, paved the way for a whole millennial generation of daring hip-hop artists. This decade, however, he's been a little less present than last. But, as his new album (The Impossible Kid, his first one in four years and only second this decade) and latest Orlando performance (July 5, the Social) prove, the man's retained all his edge and intellect.

For the show, he brought his Hail Mary Mallon bandmate Rob Sonic to fill things out. With both players on the same stage, they naturally couldn't resist the ripe opportunity to drop some of that material. But Sonic was wingman this time, and the focus was clear. Aesop Rock still runs it like a damn boss with fervor, technique and cred.

By now, Aesop Rock has become a stalwart model of classic alternative rap with his compressed but fluid lyrical architecture and subterranean musical slants. Most telling of his mark is how strong his grip remains on a crowd. Concert-goers here could barely all fit in the venue yet rested squarely in the palm of his hand. With fans who respond to his art-minded frequency with hard-core zeal, not even flinching at the swelter of Central Florida's best Hell impression, Aesop Rock is as notable an indie success story as they come.


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