Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Peter Kember at Chop SueyIt never fails to sadden me when I attend the concert of a well-established artist and the venue is nearly empty.

Peter Kember, aka Sonic Boom/Spectrum/Experimental Audio Research (EAR) stepped onto the stage at Chop Suey on Thursday night, and if my estimate was high, there were maybe one hundred people in attendance.

Kember was one of the founding members of the brilliant Spacemen 3, a group that combined garage rock and drugged out trippy auras like none other.  The other core member of the band, Jason Pierce, went on to form the highly successful Spiritualized, while Kember’s later efforts have remained obscure at best. This said, the shockingly under-attended Spectrum show was incredible, with a sound remaining true to Spacemen 3’s original vision. Spectrum’s ever challenging music continues to impress, making the often bloated Spiritualized sound like the Kingston Trio.

Spectrum performed a fairly short set, but they represented twenty years of music and each song was consistently excellent. 2008’s epic “The Lonesome Death of Johnny Ace” was the opening track. The song describes poor Johnny who “blew his brains out on xmas day,” and is accompanied by a fantastic ensemble of trance-like bass, theremin, and subtle percussion. Kember’s first solo single, “How You Satisfy Me,” was also included in the set. The narcotic, 1960s sounding pop song sounded outstanding live and blended in perfectly with the other selections.

The Spacemen 3 material that was dusted off was stellar, as anticipated. They performed the fiery noise classic, “Revolution” and also “Suicide” from 1989’s Playing with Fire. The latter featured its characteristic throbbing, hypnotic bass line augmented by a siren of searing electric guitars. “When Tomorrow Hits” was another highlight of the evening. Originally by Mudhoney, the track was recorded by Spacemen 3 and included on their swansong, Recurring, in 1991.

From the opener to the single encore composition, which was a five minute instrumental noise improvisation, Kember’s heart and soul were sincerely immersed in the music that was emanating from the speakers. I can’t figure out why the attendance was as poor as it was, because I would have gladly paid twice as much money to see Spectrum's performance, but as the maxim goes, the less mainstream the artist, the more esoteric they will remain. One thing is for certain: I am sure that Kember prefers it this way.

The Lonesome Death of Johnny Ace
Lord I Don't Even Know My Name
How You Satisfy Me
When Tomorrow Hits
Undo the Taboo
(Instrumental Improvisation)

Photograph by Kevin Linder