Complex Songs Simple for Menomena

Written by Mike Duffy, Photos by Chrissy Mauck

According to what’s been reported, it took Menomena three years to record their sophomore follow up to the critically acclaimed Friend and Foe, and judging by Sunday’s show at Coachella, you can understand why.

The Portland-based band layers sound upon sound to come up with dreamy experimental rock. As with their previous recordings, Menomena made their newest offering, Mines, using a Digital Looping Recorder program created by the band.

One would think the complex arrangements would be difficult to reproduce on stage, but Menomena makes it work expertly. Each member played multiple instruments during the course of the eight-song set.

Danny Seim held down drums and other percussion. Justin Harris was on the baritone saxophone, recorder, guitar  and Fender Precision bass.

Joe Haege used a variety of guitars including a Fender Stratocaster and Guild Acoustic, while Paul Alcott played keys and guitar.

The multi-instrumentalism really showed on “Five Little Rooms,” which was driven by a dirging beat from the keyboard accentuated by a regular drop-out note from the sax, and “Queen Black Acid,” a slow-building snowball that culminates in a flurry of guitar feedback, bells and a thumping bass line.

Menomena saved what might be their most rock-radio-ready offering for last, as the 60s vibe of “Taos” drew large cheers and drew the most dancing out of the audience.

But don’t think that just because those in attendance weren’t jamming hard doesn’t mean they weren’t into it. Considering Menomena began at their scheduled 1:20 p.m., the sparse crowd was small but solid.

And to really appreciate Menomena, one really needs to focus on the nuances of the band and the music, because it is definitely complex. That’s not a negative for this band, because for Menomena, complex works.


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