Housed in an unmarked old retail space, the Art Hospital has established itself over the last couple of years as Bloomington’s most reliable venue for experimental, avant-garde or otherwise unconventional music. A show Thursday, June 19 was a good example of why.
The unspoken theme of the night was dense, complex instrumental music. Northern California’s Planets, a bass-drums duo in the mold of Ruins and Lightning Bolt, were technically impressive enough, but their aesthetic owes a little too much to its obvious influences: the aforementioned bands as well as Hella and, visually at least, the Locust. Asheville, N.C.’s Aleuchatistas, which played before Planets, were harder to pin down. Their guitar-bass-drum workouts were at once intricate and fluid, prog-tinged and punk-minded.
The highlight, however, was the opening set by locals Basilica, who premiered a massive 20-or-so-minute piece for a lucky 20-or-so-person audience. Basilica belong in the select category of bands like the Flying Luttenbachers, Kayo Dot and death metal savants Gorguts, who successfully incorporate 20th century classical influences into a legitimately heavy sound. Basilica played this show down one violinist from their usual two, but that was scarcely noticeable amid the dissonant howl-and-pummel of their music.
In an odd (but perhaps practical) move, the sheet music for their piece was projected high onto the opposite wall of the venue, and the band played the entire set looking up in that direction, as did about half of the audience. At first, it seemed a little gimmicky, but as the piece unfolded, you realized why it was necessary: It would take about five years to memorize this music. Likewise, it would take a dozen listens to start digesting all of the detail, but their set still had an immediate, physical effect (which included sending a few dazed listeners to the exits). Glib tags like “Meshuggah meets Anton Webern” or “Suffocation meets Penderecki” don’t really tell the story, but they give some idea of what this band is getting at.