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Concert Review: Hologram City in Hackensack, NJ, 6/14/14

by Joey DeGroot   Jun 15, 2014 12:24 PM EDT

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Continuing the long line of New Jersey basement venues with awesome names is Hologram City in Hackensack. Though most basement shows I've been to take place in the middle of quiet residential neighborhoods, complete with disgruntled neighbors who love calling the cops, Hologram City sits right at the corner of a busy intersection and even has its own (small) parking lot, which makes it a great location for a venue. The show I attended there last night was titled "Basement Maneuvers - An Electronic Evening," and as that name suggests, it was an evening of performances by electronic artists. Though I've been to plenty of shows featuring electronic artists, and have even played with some myself, I'd never been to an entirely electronic show before, so the atmosphere and flow of the evening was very new to me.

The first act of the night was Jeff Busko, who performs under the name Grey Keeper. Although he was listed as being from Arizona on the event page, he has a New Jersey tag on his Bandcamp page, so I don't know where he's actually from. Though on the surface Grey Keeper comes off as a noise artist, with its relentless electronic fuzz, the music never actually rises to the point of abrasiveness and sonic violence associated with noise music. Instead, Grey Keeper has more in common with ambient music, or even an electronic take on shoegaze. It's truly beautiful stuff, and the most pleasant music I heard all night.

Up next was Mailgirls, which despite the pluralized name, is the solo project of Chris Yaple. While he opened his set up with a noisy, abstract piece similar to Grey Keeper, he followed it up with some more accessible synth-pop songs with a sinister gothic edge, like a cross between Joy Division and Dirty Beaches, but without any guitars. Though I love listening to noise and ambient music, Mailgirls is the kind of stuff I'd find myself returning to most often.

After Mailgirls was Luther Alexander from Brooklyn, bringing the evening back to experimental music. This was definitely the darkest and eeriest music of the entire night, sounding like instrumental versions of Nine Inch Nails or Portishead songs (mostly instrumental, anyway, since he occasionally screamed into a microphone). This set was so perfectly arranged and unpredictable that someone in the audience started laughing hysterically in the middle of it all, shouting, "What the f**k?!!" Some people were even singing the songs to themselves after the set was finished, despite the fact that there were no words to actually sing along to.

The fourth act of the night was a duo named GOVT (originally billed as "HeiDawn," a combination of their names Heidi and Dawn), and though they normally perform composed music together on guitar and bass (occasionally with a drummer), tonight they played an improvised set on guitar and synth instead. Though there were some technical difficulties, an improvised set of noise music is definitely the best time to experience these problems. They performed a brief yet engaging off-kilter piece of music filled with ethereal guitar drones and crackling synth loops that sounded as if they were going to catch fire at any moment.

Though all of the other acts at this show played dark, experimental music, the evening's final act was Radar Noon, the solo project of Steve Sandler, who played a kind of blindingly upbeat and brilliantly euphoric dance-pop similar in tone to Daft Punk's Discovery, occasionally accompanied by guitar. This thirty-minute set in a cramped Hackensack basement is probably the closest I'll ever come to an EDM rave, though Sandler is far more technically talented than a typical EDM DJ.

Check out all of the acts below! Support underground music!

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