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This Little Underground: Orlando music from Obliterati to Sales 

: Live reviews from the Obliterati reunion, Sales


After this many years on the beat, I’ve learned that discovery of our city’s music history can happen backward as well as forward, I was around when Obliterati was active in the late ’90s, but I was young and into other things in other alleys of the local underground scene. However, as a reanimated piece of Orlando history with their first show in 15 years, the buzz surrounding their reunion (Aug. 17, Will’s Pub) registered pretty big on the local Richter scale.

Between insider intel and the things drummer Nadeem Khan told me (that they played and recorded with the Silver Apples’ Simeon as well as released on his label), Obliterati is clearly a pretty big deal in Orlando’s art-rock canon. That basic and vague idea was really the only thing I knew of them walking in, besides hearing from most accounts both written and verbal that live was really supposed to be where their truth was, so I went to meet it.

This seven-piece avant-garde motion machine gives no detectable shit about abiding any convenient stylistic boxes. With a rock arrangement edged by keys, strings and sax, their sound is stitched with wild hairs of free jazz, freak gypsy and other strands that, on paper, seem disparate. But with the anchoring pulse of a reliable groove, the unifying force is the urge to move. At its core, this is free dance music that’s organic, pre-electronic and left-field. To meet the occasion, it was driven with lots of energy. I don’t know what Obliterati sounded like back in the day, but they sounded good this night. Music has moved a good ways since they hung it up, but their spirit of experimentation endures.

Fun with five fingers: Photos from the Obliterati Reunion

Opening was Billy Taylor’s Horses on the Moon, a one-man project by a former member of experimental Athens group Melted Men. As highly conceptual work, noise projects are often interesting but not always intelligible. This was that rare beast that was both. Employing tape players, gadgets and novel trickery using simple electronic devices but no computers, his performance was very active and live. The only thing up there that was smart was the artist. For the ears, the most important thing about his performance was what it wasn’t: an unpunctuated racket. Instead, it was primitive, post-apocalyptic rhythm music with an absurdist sense of humor.

They’re not frequent, but I love that these history-lesson events happen in this city. Even better, I love that they happen in different and interesting genres. Collectively, they show the age and depth of Orlando’s heritage and reveal the longevity of our creative spirit (something that will surprise many of you). Tune in and they connect our past, present and future. I just wish there was more interest from the younger classes. It would make our scene deeper and more continuous.

The Beat

Looking to the future, Sales is a young Orlando band that’s showing all the signs of heavy buzz potential. The duo’s been catching some early national attention on the Internet via some blog love and inclusion on some high-profile mixtapes, despite limited street presence. Well, at last, I’ve seen them live at their own headlining show (Aug. 23, Will’s Pub).

They work pop minimalism like the xx’s little sister. But, coming from more of an indie-pop angle than an R&B one, they’re more sighing breeze than smoldering sex. With the easy charm and personality of Lauren Morgan’s vocals as their engine, their songs come on naturally with hints of possible melodic greatness. The core of their sweet but bare sound is simplicity, but simplicity is hard to do right. The more pieces you take away, the greater and more purposeful the ones you leave must be. Whether Sales blossoms into an act that can truly master that feat is still TBD.

In the cloud noise surrounding them, there’s definitely a little hype-machine puppy love and overblow happening (on the Internet, I know, crazy). Here on the ground, the picture’s a little different since they’re young and still developing. But considering the melody and aesthetic they’ve shown so far, they could definitely be something. With some refinement and conviction, that something could be big.

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