HEALTH is a noise rock band hailing from Los Angeles who put more emphasis on “noise” than their fellow noise group contemporaries. Staples at the famed LA venue The Smell, HEALTH has gotten quite a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what music is while still roping in droves of listeners. Unfortunately, most people are aware of HEALTH solely from the remix Crystal Castles did of their song “Crimewave” – digitizing the vocals and pretty much gutting the rest of the song. Although I won’t disagree that the remix sounds good, it is not a fair representation of what the band truly is about.
During my time in Denmark, I caught a couple of minutes of an unexpected HEALTH show. I went to a Man Man concert in the modern day hippie colony smack down in the middle of Copenhagen (otherwise known as Christiania) where, to my surprise, HEALTH was also listed as being on the bill. Due to an unexpected cancellation of their show in Finland, the group decided to change course and play in Denmark, unbeknownst to pretty much everyone in attendance. Unfortunately, they were scheduled as the closing act which most people going to a Man Man show didn’t care to stick around and see. People (including myself – I was with a group) filtered out after a couple of songs which left the whole venue sadly bare.
I was able to catch three songs of theirs before leaving and feel like between that and the countless other videos I’ve watched online, I have a fair understanding on how their live act is. Certainly not meant for the unadventurous concert go-er, seeing HEALTH live shows them doing what they do best: make a lot of racket by twisting and turning distortion knobs, slamming guitar strings, and using the exotic Zoothorn which links the microphone with guitar pedals. It’s not all audio muck though as a lot of songs begin with a fair amount of direction mostly due to the driving drum beats courtesy of BJ Miller. Take the aforementioned “Crimewave” – one would never know from the Crystal Castles mix that such precise and insanely complex drumbeats are present throughout the original song.
The best example that epitomizes this feeling of “quasi-song” has to be “Triceratops”. Starting off with an echoed choppy guitar and symbol bangs on, AGHAST!, downbeats, the song abruptly morphs into a din of experimental sounds that, when seen live, had the group hitting the floor to tinker with effect dials and knobs. However, just as quickly as the song slips into chaos, it comes round full circle and closes with the same guitar and drums as it started with.
Now to say all songs have some sort of structure is grossly inaccurate. Pretty much every third song on their LP You Will Love Each Other finds the band just messing around and experimenting with a wide array of sounds. “Girl Attorney” is a mind-melting sub one-minute song that I could imagine being the soundtrack to insanity. “Perfect Skin “ has the group experimenting with tempo, dragging out each phrase uncomfortably long, while I have no idea what the hell is going on with “Lost Time”.
So if you feel adventurous this SXSW season, you can catch HEALTH at Mohawk Patio at midnight on March 21. So far that is the only scheduled date, but more will likely be added soon.