Over the weekend: The Siren Project at the Church
The Siren Project
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Better Than: The Project has been in a long time.
Having a show at the Church is a bit of a losing proposition not because it's not that a cool place to have a show -- although it's a beautiful building inside and out and the sound system is excellent, the regular crowd seems more into pre-recorded, comfort music. The DJs played a great mixture of songs familiar to anyone who was ever into darker music (Goth, post-punk, downtempo, darkwave etc.) as well as crossover alternative rock, which filled the dance floor. As soon as the DJ announced a live band would be playing, though, most of the dancers cleared out. Obviously there's no cut and dry reason why people going to a dance night don't want to see a live band, even this particular act, but it sure seemed like yet another example of a whole lot of people with their heads in the past.
Regardless, the fickle crowd seemed to have no impact on the Siren Project as it took the impromptu stage. Malgorzata Wacht cut a commanding and mysterious figure with her pink and white gossamer shroud and a colorful outfit straight out of an E.R. Eddison novel -- part Eastern potentate, part mystic. This was the new line-up of the band with Arbon Reimer on a full drum kit adding much-needed texture to the electronic atmospherics, longtime member Alex Seminara on synths, samples and backing vocals, and NoEl Johannes, formerly of Project 12:01, adding further keyboard treatments. For the past few years it's been mostly just Seminara and Wacht, but this new configuration made for a more robust sound and allowed for dynamic nuances and soundscaping impossible before now.
The set opened with Wacht engaging in her signature soaring vocals done entirely in Polish, accompanied by tasteful percussive accents provided by Reimer and minimal synth backing from Johannes. It sounded like a new song and recalled something that could be the soundtrack to a new movie version of Arabian Nights. But more importantly, it sounded like a new direction for a band that has always been compelling but which has been in something of a state of limbo for far too long.
Siren performed old favorites like "Shelter" and "Justify" with a newfound verve, and the new version of "The Wheel" was like hearing a new song, re-worked as more of downtempo worldbeat song. Also pleasantly surprising was a cover of "Carolyn's Fingers" by Cocteau Twins, done without using a guitar but making the requisite sound anyway. The Project closed with a feisty rendition of "I Condemn," during which Wacht came off stage and interacted and danced with the crowd. This band has always been interesting but this show was confident proof of why it still matters.
Personal Bias: Longtime fan of The Siren Project.
Random Detail: Kelly Baczkowski of Black Crown Entertainment helped put the show together.
By the Way: I found the staff at The Church to be cordial and relaxed.