Over the past few years, only a few-yet-strong crew has been able to penetrate the Memphis music scene, then make it out of the city on a name of their own.
Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT, Cities Aviv, Jay Reatard, and Amy Lavere have all knocked down the walls of fixed geography to expand their audiences to all corners of the earth. The most interesting part of this equation is diversity, in that Memphis isn’t an “indie rock,” “gangster rap,” or “electronic dance” town. No, using its inhabitants as extensions, Memphis can only claim to be a “music” town.
Noting another ambitious Memphis act, The Magic Kids have been well able to make a name for themselves more than just in the 901 area code. Though they all have their own worthy hobbies and side projects, I was lucky enough to see Magic Kids’ drummer Ben Bauermeister’s solo set at The Lamplighter Lounge Sunday night. Although he didn’t employ his traditional crew, the night was still easily categorized as “magical.”
Just because this guy is known for being part of a group of sugar-coated candy indie pop doesn’t mean that his sound, or even his image, is limited to such a thing. Coining the name A55 Conducta for his solo efforts, he’s showing his stripes and individuality with a natural ease in the sort of “I was born to do this” manner he effortlessly carries from project to project. I was quickly able to discover this sense of self when I arrived at the Lamplighter Lounge. I walked into the historic stop for pop and, well, couldn’t see a thing.
A55 Conducta had set up a little fog machine to help create and maintain an atmosphere, and it clouded the smaller-sized venue like dungeons deep in Skyrim that hold only the most exquisite Nord treasures. Luckily, I’ve been skilled in the art of finding gold in seemingly desolate places, so I happily greeted the fog at the door as some sort of “this is gonna be good” omen. Clearing the door, the music became apparent, and the groove, unmistakable. The sound projecting from the A55 Conducta control deck was one of IDM.
No, not intellectual dance music a la Aphex Twin or Autechre. No, the speakers were blaring undeniably catchy indie dance music somewhere between older Justice, MGMT, and car commercials that always play the most memorable loops only for the source to be impossibly hard to discover. But this night was much more forgiving than indifferent advertisements, and I was able to get full songs rather than snippets satiating my aural pallet. His 4 on the floor beats of dancey chord progressions backed by spacial effects and wispy samples rounded out his under-the-radar sound.
After playing through over half a dozen tracks and catering to a variety of different dance arrangements and styles, Bauermeister was joined by his lovely and very talented vocalist (and girlfriend) Ashley Gerst. The two of them together work like hot water and tea when you’re sick and tea is the only thing that’s worth drinking. Soothing and airy vocals drifted atop thick beats as they played into a sort of “icing-on-the-cake” roles at the tail end of the set. Sounding somewhat like a more euro-dance inspired Phantogram, the A55 Conducta show really took its time to shine during Gerst’s appearance.
There are and have been many acts that gladly consider themselves amongst the mass that is the Memphis music scene, and while A55 Conducta fills the requirements of calling this place home base—something tells me his sound is going to see more than just what the Bluff City has to offer.