James Ross Kiefer
Being a minimalist when it comes to creating music has taken on new meaning. Recently I had the good fortune to see Psychic Twin on the Durham stop of their tour. They were accompanied by NC natives Must Be the Holy Ghost at the Pinhook in Durham, and I was treated to an immersive sonic experience. There I witnessed how two small ensemble oriented artists can create an encapsulating soundscape.
For context, what each of these bands lacked in members was extensively made up for by technology. Must Be the Holy Ghost (MBTHG) had three massive pedal boards, each with an array of distortion, delays, octavers and other interesting devices that one can only gawk at in wonder. Psychic Twin had a little less in terms of things to stomp on, but featured an electronic drum set with a hub of synthesizers. They also partnered this with keyboards and computer generated tones.
Must Be the Holy Ghost opened the show with a brilliant paired auditory and visual performance. The Winston-Salem based group is composed of Jared Draughon on guitar and vocals, while projectionist Evan Hawkins uses food-colorings and water to create a vibrant and constantly active backdrops. Jared constructed each song around either a single guitar motif, or beat created by drum machine, that would swell in size and transform into a raging moment of beauty.
The song “Melt Down“ is a prime example of Droaughon’s ability to weave each guitar part together. It begins rather calmly, but soon explodes with a heavily distorted guitar riff as Jared pensively sings about breaking down. In “Immoral Support” Jared loops shimmering guitar licks over an industrial drumbeat that feeds back while stacking his yells over each other.
“Drained” featured a hectic guitar line and some of the most intense singing of the night, while “ Might Crack” was much more relaxed, and was accented by the sound of guitar sounds being played in reverse.
After MBTHG, Psychic Twin took the stage. Fronted by singer, keyboardist and songwriter Erin Fein, and assisted by Rosana Caban, the duo made capable use of synthesizers and electronic percussion. The group is currently touring to promote their latest album “Strange Diary,” which was released back in early September. It’s also worth mentioning that they had on jet-black body suits with elaborate plastic corsets, which were totally the height of indie electronic fashion.
“Strange Diary” is a project that took Fein four years to complete. Following her throughout the realization of a failing marriage, divorce and relocating from Illinois to New York, the album has an alluring temperament to it that permeates each track.
Early on in the set “Unlock Yr Heart” set the pace for the show. With its bouncy synth beat and simple drum work, the song focuses mainly captures revolves around the growing polyphony in stacked vocal harmonies. The lyrics depict a relationship deteriorating and the struggles of the singer trying to remain hopeful.
“Lose Myself” got things a little more upbeat. This song follows the singer post break up and how and examines the importance of distancing herself from her ex. Towards the end of the song there are some harsh sounding keyboard hits that add nicely to the feeling of a breakup. “Running in the Dark” follows in the same vein of this. Chunky synth sounds and soaring vocals accompanied by lyrics of separation highlight the song, although this track sounds like instant dance party.
Psychic Twin closed out their set with “Strangers.” Pretty much the unofficial single of the album, this song has a certain 80’s chic to it. With an opening that would perk up any Stranger Things fan, this track has elegantly honest vocals with a pumping bass line, each synth hit was lush and all the melody breaks fit perfectly.
After the show I got to talk with Rosana. She was happy with her performance and simply stated “It just feels great to play and I’m happy to be here.” I’m fairly sure the audience agreed.