The re­cline of South­west­ern civ­i­liza­tion

Pasatiempo - - Soundwaves - — Rob DeWalt rde­walt@sfnewmex­i­can.com www.twit­ter.com/flash­pan

Co­razón’s (401 S. Guadalupe St., 983-4559) first-ever SXSF Tran­sit Mu­sic Fes­ti­val con­tin­ues through Mon­day March 15 and the ros­ter of par­tic­i­pat­ing lo­cal and tour­ing bands is amaz­ing. Aside from a Fri­day March 12 set by elec­tro soul­ster Daedelus (see story, Page 22) and Satur­day March 13 sets by L.A. alt-rock­ers Abe Vigoda and UK post­punk out­fit Lovvers, I’m also thrilled about a per­for­mance at 8 p.m. on Sun­day, March 14, by newly lo­cal nois­e­rock/post-punk duo Low on High. The band’s show at Co­razón is its first South­west gig ever, and LOH spoke to Sound Waves by phone re­cently about the band’s his­tory and its self-ti­tled al­bum, which was self-re­leased in Santa Fe ear­lier this year.

“I dis­cov­ered in the ’80s that mu­sic was a good an­ti­dote to mak­ing movies,” said Jon Morit­sugu (www.jon­morit­sugu.com), an ac­claimed un­der­ground film­maker ( Scum­rock, Fame Whore) and vo­cal­ist/drum­mer/gui­tarist for LOH. “Un­like film­mak­ing, you can fash­ion a song that has kick-ass punk at­ti­tude in 20 sec­onds and then im­me­di­ately lay it down. When I started mak­ing films,” he con­tin­ued, “there wasn’t re­ally a grass­roots way to dis­trib­ute them the same way that punk mu­sic was be­ing dis­sem­i­nated.” In­spired by films like 1981’s punk-doc mas­ter­piece The De­cline of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion and Derek Jar­man’s Ju­bilee, Morit­sugu molded his film pro­duc­tion com­pany to op­er­ate by punk’s DIY stan­dards, and Morit­sugu — along with his wife, fre­quent film col­lab­o­ra­tor and LOH band mate, writer, and ac­com­plished il­lus­tra­tor Amy Davis — still work and live the DIY way.

Morit­sugu and Davis moved here last year. (He had trav­eled to Santa Fe in the ’80s, and they came as a cou­ple again in the ’90s.) The pair had been ex­posed to tight-knit punk-rock com­mu­ni­ties in places like Seat­tle and San Fran­cisco, and Morit­sugu fondly re­mem­bers the punk scene in Honolulu, where “there’s like a small group of re­ally tight-knit punks — and the skin­head con­tin­gent is a pa­thetic army of one.”

Davis, who serves as LOH’s bassist, per­cus­sion­ist, and vo­cal­ist, comes from a mu­si­cal fam­ily. Her fa­ther — jazz mu­si­cian Mel Davis — recorded with Bil­lie Hol­i­day, played lead trum­pet for Benny Good­man’s band in the ’50s, and sat in tele­vi­sion or­ches­tras in­clud­ing those led by Perry Como and Doc Sev­erin­sen.

Davis’ mu­si­cal path was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from her fa­ther’s, but back in her early teens, she wasn’t quite a punk-rock girl yet. “When I was like 14 or 15,” she said, “I was a Long Is­land über nerd. Neil Sedaka? Yeah, he had it goin’ on! He was my boy!” Amy’s fa­ther wasn’t ex­actly thrilled with her sub­se­quent choices in mu­si­cal per­for­mance, but be­fore he passed away in 2005, he told her, “I’m not go­ing to say I like what you do, but I will def­i­nitely say you have a unique sound.”

I’m just go­ing to put it out there: dad didn’t lie about the band’s sig­na­ture sound. And I love it. Blend­ing the crunchy-scratchy gui­tar at­mos­phere of a good Bikini Kill vinyl al­bum with el­e­ments of ’80s hard­core punk, New Wave (Amy loves OMD and Depeche Mode; Morit­sugu said he has learned to live with it and even likes some of it), Siouxsie Sioux, Cibo Matto, Joy Divi­sion, and The Breed­ers, LOH is the mu­si­cal equiv­a­lent of a hy­per­ac­tive child born to post­mod­ernist au­thor Kathy Acker and film­maker Gregg Araki ( Doom Gen­er­a­tion, Smi­ley Face) — but raised in the Ho­tel Chelsea by Romeo Void and The Melvins.

Morit­sugu is cur­rently work­ing on a new punk-hor­ror film project in Santa Fe, which Davis will, of course, ap­pear in. Al­though the project has no def­i­nite ti­tle, “Pig Death Ma­chine” has been kicked around. Davis con­tin­ues to write and il­lus­trate (www.amy­davis.com), and the cou­ple have more than enough ma­te­rial to pos­si­bly put out an­other al­bum within the next year or so. Check out their gig at Co­razón, where LOH shares a bill with lo­cal no-wave post-punkers Venus Bog­a­r­dus; ethe­real rock­ers Bro­ken Wa­ter from Olympia, Washin­gon; and Cal­i­for­nia psy­cho-elec­tro-world duo Rain­bow Ara­bia. Cover is a measly $5.

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