Live Review

Nurses, Mercury Lounge, NY

Haunting voice, check. Electronics, check. Plucked guitar strings, check.

Before Nurses take to the stage, I’ve never heard a note of their music. As their longhaired and mustachioed drummer sets up his kit, a beardy man drags a folding table to the forefront of the stage. The table is dirty white plastic - the kind that hides under checked tablecloths at family reunion barbeques - but the top of this table is bejeweled with a veritable treasure trove of electronics, pedals, and effects. Turning from the table, the bearded man sets to work assembling a vintage Rhodes electric piano with the third member of the band, a dirty blonde in a faded grey hooded sweatshirt.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Snarly electronics? Beards? This is going to be a foray into the extended abrasive soundscapes of certain Black Dice devotees. Yet, from the moment the band begin to play, I can tell this is something else.

Still, Nurses do craft soundscapes. Live, John Bowers (the beardy man) hops between piano and table, sometimes dragging pieces of equipment atop the Rhodes to cue samples where appropriate, constructing an atmospheric augmentation of the band’s songs. What strikes me most about Nurses is their songs, which seem to hang somewhere between the western tinged tunes of Neil Young and the aforementioned Black Dice’s more pop-inflected moments.

Lead vocalist Aaron Chapman (the blonde) manages to keep his Young-ish voice both eerie and catchy, and I find myself fighting the urge to sing along despite my ignorance of any lyrics. With Chapman holding down the vocals and staccato guitar work, Bowers drenches the songs in a combination of effects, resulting in a flourish of piano driven psychedelia. Yet, having no previous knowledge of the band to rest on, these elements begin to feel slightly formulaic toward the middle of their set. Haunting voice, check. Electronics, check. Plucked guitar strings, check.

My fear of formula is expertly dashed when Chapman sets down his guitar for their last song and begins to layer different vocal loops, creating the foundation for the devilish earworm, ‘Caterpillar’. With the single catchiest whistle and perfect piano trill split by synthesized sounds, the band far surpass their recording of the song. Chapman and Bower are both subject to the song, rocking themselves to the heavy toms of their drummer and Chapman’s vocal loops. The song gathers momentum like a steamroller pushed down a mountain, erupting, with Chapman’s prolonged entreaty, “Come to the party with me,” before crashing into the end of their set.

Tags: Nurses, Features

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