Gowns meld droning noise with quiet folk-pop | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Gowns meld droning noise with quiet folk-pop

When describing a band from a scene-historical perspective, it's difficult not to sound somewhat biblical: First there was this band, then there was that, then begat and begat and this is where we're at now. Is it helpful? Sometimes.

As a for-instance: Here's this band Gowns. The genealogy of Gowns goes something like this: In the beginning, there was Don Buchla, synth mogul. Don Buchla begat Ezra Buchla, who, upon coming of age, helped found The Mae Shi, that art-dance-annoyo-punk band from L.A. In the same land, there was also Amps for Christ, that noise-folk-acoustic-kinda Christian band founded by Henry Barnes of Man Is The Bastard. About the only thing these two had in common was a place on the 5RC roster.

Then it came to pass that Ezra Buchla and Mae Shi drummer Corey Fogel were united with sometimes-Amps for Christ collaborator Erika Anderson. And the result was Gowns.

Making the Bay Area their home, Gowns unite disparate things as a matter of habit: Anderson's South Dakota upbringing with Buchla's L.A. pedigree; droning noise with quiet folk-pop (not completely unlike the aforementioned Amps for Christ); soothing laments of longing and loving with a fixation on haunting and being haunted.

But similarities to The Mae Shi are few and far between -- where that band is tight, loud and beat-driven, Gowns float. Some Gowns songs eschew percussion altogether, while others utilize it as quietly and sparingly as punctuation. Anderson and Buchla split vocal duties, and neither often ventures beyond a whisper.

Red State, Gowns' newest record, was created, appropriately, in South Dakota; in a written account of the experience, Anderson recalls the profound difference of recording in the center of the country as opposed to their then-home of Los Angeles. In the far reaches of the Midwest, even on a recording, "we sound just a little downright scared," she posits.

Gowns, like much of the psychedelia the band resembles, often exhibit a spiritual feel that pervades even when the content of the songs strays toward the mundane. In "White Like Heaven," the feeling that a Catholic hymn might be merging with a Velvet Underground drone and perhaps a Spectrum tune could drive you to overlook the fact that, at one point, Anderson is singing about macaroni and cheese.

Recently, the Anderson-Buchla combo lost Fogel and picked up two new members: drummer Jacob Felix Heule (of Bay Area improv outfit Ettrick) and Aaron Davis, who picks up bass duties and additional electronics.

And thus the begats continue.

Gowns with Zing! and Cold Reading Trio. 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 19. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $6. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

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