By Emily Votaw
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Slasher Flicks is the intricately thought-out side project of Animal Collective founding member David Portner. The band is complete with perfectly placed allusions to the particular campiness of relatively modern horror movies, a theme that runs throughout just about everything concerning the project outside of the actual music the band makes. The band’s music is another animal entirely – optimistic, confident, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor, something that can’t necessarily be said for the films that the band pulls so much of its image from.
Maybe the T-shirts at the merch table had a horror graphic that could have been lifted from a 2002 direct-to-video slasher movie, but the band itself just sounded like the perfectly drone-y 2013 counterpart to Pavement.
Slasher Flicks played at Ace of Cups, an intimate but well-maintained space in Columbus, on a rainy night in late April. Ace of Cups nothing but hip, maintaining and ratio of equal parts arty and friendly, a combination that can’t truly be questioned. Something about the smallness and inherent darkness of the space at the venue only enhanced the bizarre but beautiful layout of the band’s set. Sometimes set design really sets a particular show apart, and Slasher Flicks’ stage managed to fit in perfectly with the rest of the imagery the band maintains. Among the amplifiers and mic stands hung a multitude of large plastic skulls that looked like they had been grabbed from the dumpster behind a Halloween City in 2006. Draped throughout the set were a series of perfectly late ’80s rubber masks, enough to make anyone shiver.
Dustin Wong opened for the band, a small man making himself at home on the edge of the stage with a series of guitar pedals and looping equipment. It would be easy to point out the heavy Philip Glass influence in Wong’s music – the intricate, slow buildup, the careful ear to melody and rhythm – yet there is more to Wong’s compositions. They feel breathtakingly modern, fully individual, and although the listener has to draw reference from Glass, it never feels or sounds like Wong is completely ripping off music that has already been recorded.
By the time that Portner, Angel Deradoorian and Jeremy Hyman walked out on stage, the small but closely packed group of fans had completely surrounded the stage, giving up the relatively loose formation they had taken on throughout Wong’s performance. Portner isn’t a large person, but his voice has yelping capabilities that change almost every recording he takes part in. Immediately the band burst into “Catchy (Was Contagious),” a song whose first 30 seconds play the part of the most attention-grabbing section of “Enter the Slasher House.” The song’s psychedelic freakout that follows those well-maintained first 30 seconds was more at home in a live setting than it is on the album.
If there is anything that these three musicians excel at, it has to be intricate and entertaining jamming – Hyman, the drummer, coming from art rockers Ponytail, Deradoorian coming from a background with the Dirty Projectors and Portner maintaining a career with psychedelic freak rocker giants Animal Collective. Throughout the night the band played the entirety of their debut album, just mixing up the order for their flannel-and-Ray Ban-saturated audience. Every song, with the exception of “Little Fang,” was accompanied by a copious amount of jamming, something that Portner fans not only enjoy but look forward to.
“Little Fang” was a bright testament to the band’s pop sensibility, although the live rendition admittedly deviated little from the recording. Portner is not only an interesting art rock yelper, he’s a great straightforward rock vocalist as well, something that the live version only emphasized. Deradoorian adds a fascinating counterpart to Portner’s vocals, beefing them up when needed and fleshing out the band’s sound with perfectly pounding bass.
“The Outlaw,” whilst not immediately the most accessible track of “Enter the Slasher House,” was perhaps the most concise live example of how the band can jam on a riff for a very long time without falling into complete monotony. The rhythm of the song twisted and turned and mutated into a simplified but interesting odd sibling of the weak album track.
The band closed out the show with “Strange Colores,” attacking the last couple of songs in their setlist with the fury of an encore – already aware of the encore the audience would plead for as soon as they set down their instruments.
Slasher Flicks may or may not release another full-length album. Whether the band is a one-off experiment on the part of everyone involved or a more detailed side project that will lead to numerous releases is something that the band members have yet to comment on. Regardless, Slasher Flicks is a fun venture for all involved – because who couldn’t love a live set that features horrifying rubber masks?