Review: Sian Alice Group at Bobo

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Apparently I messed up big time by departing before Detroit's Human Eye had their way with Cafe Bourbon Street. (El Jesus de Magico drummer Mikey O said the jaw-dropping set was "like playing a Stooges record over a Can record.") But I was plenty amazed by what I did see last night at Bobo.

The night began with Jam Division, whose sound I've been hyping in print lately despite minimal exposure in the live setting. (I think they played Carabar one night when I was there and I wasn't paying super close attention.) Now that I've had the chance to delve deep into their music, I was pleased to discover their live show is a revelation of repetition. The recordings from CDR didn't really do these guys justice; in person, their skittering slow grooves are even more entrancing than on disc.

I had to dip out partway through their set, but I returned to the bar just in time for Sian Alice Group, a British band best described as like Portishead but with more balls. Their music is disarmingly patient but surprisingly direct, building from simple, whispered segments into masterfully massive climaxes. Sian Ahern's voice is among the most beautiful I've heard in my life, a siren dragging me into the sharp, rocky coast her bandmates manifested. Even the noise interlude was expertly performed.

I wrapped up with my first El Jesus de Magico set in many months. (Jon Witzky might not have even had that impressive beard last time I saw them.) These guys have managed to sneak pop into their music without compromising their previously established weird world in the slightest. As the show-closing instrumental freakout showed, they're still in the business of gnarly noise explorations, but their songs these days usually throw casual listeners a bone with some friendly harmonic textures. And while Tony Allman's keyboard still steals the show, it seems like they've come to a place where everyone's personal playing style is crucial to the El Jesus sound. More than ever, they're a well-oiled unit.