Horse Lords @ the Hideout: Tattoos For Your Ears

I first stumbled onto Horse Lords at a fourth-floor loft space in Lakeview a couple years ago. The dual drummers were hypnotizing and the saxophone bursts reminded me of all the no-wave favorites that have found a resurgence lately. Since then, I make sure never to miss their performance. The band’s best weapon is repetition, changing between phrases of songs so subtlety until you don’t realize how you got from the beginning of a track to the end, sometimes descending into chaos, sometimes sharply cutting into nothingness.

Influences of Krautrock, free jazz, and minimalist compositions are all evident in the music of Horse Lords, without owing too much to just one genre. The Baltimore-based band’s most recent release is Mixtape IV, which reassembles works by the composer Julius Eastman and features two pieces that each clock in over twenty minutes. They’ve found a perfect home at Northern Spy records who released the album Interventions last year, which built on the strong foundation laid by 2014’s Hidden Cities; both albums featured prominently into their set last Saturday at the Hideout. Andrew Bernstein alternated between saxophone and percussion, complimenting Sam Haberman’s work behind the kit. The dual drum breakdowns were crowd favorites, especially when the cowbells kick in.

While the Hideout is a legit venue, the energy in the room felt like being back in that sweaty DIY space again. People were loose. People were dancing. It wasn’t uptight, despite how anxious and ominous some of their movements can be. Movements as in song structures but movements in the crowd too.I think about how this music is like getting tattooed, like a buzzing drill repeatedly jabbing you on your skin. It leaves a permanent mark in your ears. Some of these movements, like “Macaw” off Hidden Cities, feel like they’ll last forever, almost venturing into jam territory, before the guitar, bass, sax, and drums all abruptly…stop.

Before their show last Saturday, Horse Lords have played here with Ono, Liturgy, Rob Mazurek + Emmett Kelly, which is a diverse cast of contemporaries. And while they pair well with all these bands, they aren’t necessarily a good RIYL indicator. Horse Lords are nothing if not hard to pin down. Next time their in town, you’ll be wondering how such seemingly simple but undoubtedly complex music can be so infectious.

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