If you've been attuned to the Boston-based portion of the Midriff Records cohort for the last few years, you've likely heard more talk about the band The Spanish Armada than you've actually heard music. The band's debut long-player, prior to its release last week, sat in the can ready to go for quite a while. And then at some point the core duo of Greg Lyon and L. Tiburon Pacifico augmented the collection with a battery of overdubs. The finished product being celebrated with a record-release show Saturday is a mysterious, atmospheric mix of the crystalline and the noisy, and is filled with compositions whose aural topography is remarkably disparate. There is a lot of space, and there is a lot of stuff, and all of it is artfully arranged around Mr. Lyon's murmured, pointedly feel-bad vocals.
And so the biggest question Saturday night was how will The Spanish Armada -- now a quintet with a three-guitar attack, a bass player like Dee Dee Ramone, and an impressively fluid new drummer -- translate all the work in the studio to the stage performance. We spoke briefly with Mr. Pacifico prior to showtime and he said the band had worked hard on re-wiring its dynamic after drummer Dan Parlin moved to guitar and David Kaplan was brought in to command the drum kit. The effort seemed to pay off, as each of the three guitar players (wielding perhaps four times as many noise-shaping guitar pedals) during the six-song set worked in his own space and left no sludge in the palpable wake. Even so, Lyon's dour whispers and mumbles -- clearly presented on The Spanish Armada -- struggled to get atop the room mix, despite occasional support from bassist Logan Hodson.
But on the whole The Spanish Armada's set, which opened with the brilliantly titled new track "Sinking Off The Coast Of Spain," succeeded in charting a Mogwai-ish bearing throughout about 40 minutes. While the songs can get very heavy and occasionally aggressive on the self-titled record, it is interesting that the live unit cast the tracks as some golden mean between Sonic Youth and Neil Young. Perhaps it was just Lyon's flannel shirt. But we think it was more the flavor that this iteration of The Spanish Armada brings to the material. It's little surprise that the highlight of the set was the one-two punch of the strongest songs on The Spanish Armada, "Captain's Gone" and "Start Writing Up The Truce." The live airing of the former didn't include the cool piano denoument of the studio recording, but the swathes of guitar noise in its place were very cool. The act currently has no other live dates booked, but we expect to see more of them on area stages as the promotion for the new set heats up. In the meantime, have a listen to the album opener "On The Giving And Receiving" below.
The Spanish Armada -- "On The Giving And Receiving" -- The Spanish Armada
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[buy The Spanish Armada from Midriff Records right here]
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