Midnight Movies: Elegant Surrealists

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During the day, the modern world and its straight lines prevail–money and machines, time and technology, order and organization... but after dark, the winds of the imagination come into play. In the middle of the night, strange creatures appear, unusual events occur, familiar objects take on new aspects, the real becomes the ethereal.

Like a story told in the late hours, the music on Midnight Movies' self-titled debut conjures these dreamlike images–autumn mists at twilight, hazy, multi-shaded tableaus, psychedelic colors and shapes. Their name comes from a book about '60s-era underground films, and it fits perfectly with their spacey, kaleidoscopic sound. Far from presenting some sort of contrived image, however, the band's style comes simply from a natural ease between its members. Having met through musicians' wanted ads, they originally got together as a group of six, but quickly whittled themselves down to three whose visions and aesthetics aligned effortlessly.

Midnight Movies is a first for two of its members–drummer/singer Gena Olivier and keyboardist/guitarist Jason Hammons had never been in serious bands before, having both previously been involved in electronic projects. Their prior experience makes itself plain on the album, as Hammons' pulsating synth tones and lush keyboard landscapes blend seamlessly with Olivier's vocals and Larry Schemel's reverberating guitars. The result? A moving, hauntingly ethereal cult thriller soundtrack that is as palpably vibrant on record as it is on stage.

Their conspicuous live presence has helped contribute to the buzz surrounding the band–Hammons plays with a laptop but, preferring to keep the human element as tangible as possible, uses almost no sequences. Schemel tackles his instrument like a man on a mission, and the sight of Olivier crooning in her eerie tone while briskly pounding her kit is both electrifying and exhilarating.

Though the music itself is otherworldly, the process by which it comes about is surprisingly natural. The band members, in their own words, don't "try" to write music, they simply allow the songs to come into being. Schemel says the songs can come from anything: "...other music, dreams, art–we'll all write parts and kind of flesh out the idea. It's like we're creating this little creature."