CMJ, I’m already tired: QUILT, Light Asylum, and Class Actress (how do you feel about that Oxford comma!?)


Tuesday marked the first (official) night of New York’s CMJ music festival and I went to Public Assembly for a showcase of bands hosted by label Mexican Summer and WFMU and another showcase, happening at the same time, of bands from Car Park and Paw Tracks. I went with the sole intention of seeing my friends QUILT, who were recently mentioned on NPR as one of the bands not to miss this week and was totally blown away by them and quite a few others.

QUILT is a group of three wonderful people who I met in Boston while I was in college. They were mostly at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and I used to listen to the two original members sing in dusty, toxic basements during too-late evenings of partying at the Butcher Shoppe, a DIY venue/art commune/love-hut in Allston, MA. Their sound is so dreamy and ethereal and not at all overproduced. They’re most often singing in three-part harmony and I love that they use two electric guitars and no bass guitar, the music feels like it’s floating, always hovering just above the ground with no low notes to tie it down. They have really catchy guitar riffs that are pleasantly memorable and their beats are slow and sultry. Their straight tone style of singing, with no vibrato, is so perfect for their music and I love their pseudo-retro sound. I hesitate to say retro with no caveat, if the 60’s took a future pill, this is what you would get. This music is definitely going to be on my next airplane playlist, it just feels like flying.

Light Asylum is Bruno Coviello and Shannon Funchess doing things to sound that have never been done on this earth before. With a series of looping machines, synthesizers and Funchess’ unreal contralto voice, this is one of the best and craziest things I have ever seen. They are an unlikely couple; Coviello is thin, white, cute and dresses like a perfect grungy Brooklyn boy while Funchess is curvaceous, black, and wears an astounding array of leather outfits that I envy with every cent in my wallet. The music is synth pop with a gospel twist and, yet, it’s so much more. It is so lushly orchestrated, there’s no room for your brain to even think and the intensity and of the beats is totally overwhelming. While Coviello did not speak at all, Funchess was totally in it with us, the audience; she was talking to us, singing at us, dancing with us, loving us as much as we loved her.

Class Actress is Mark Richardson, Scott Rosenthal and Elizabeth Harper…a native of L.A.! Maybe that’s got something to do with why I like this so much? This is music for driving around L.A. all night long, as Harper even mentions in an interview with CMJ. Her voice is so high and effortless and I love the carefree quality of it juxtaposed with the rich synth sounds, deep drum beats and sometimes intense lyrics (I don’t mean the chorus to the song Weekend which goes, “So bring it on, bring on the weeekend.”) This music sounds like it’s been influenced by all the best pop from the 80s, Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Madonna, you name it, and it all really comes together in a unique and wonderful way. It’s great music for a dance party, a rooftop hangout or a drive to the coast.

I, of course, have seen much more music than this the past two days but, I’m only writing up bands about which I’m super stoked. If there’s anything you think I should see in the next 3 days please, by all means, let me know!


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