INDIAN JEWELRY with the CREEPING NOBODIES and BROKEN TREE FORTat the Boat (158 Augusta), tonight (Thursday, November 3). $8. 416-859-0921. Rating: NNNNN
When The Wire Magazine published a cover story on what it termed "the New Weird America," it sparked a newfound interest in post-millennial psychedelic, noise and folk artists rumbling south of the border. Limited-run cassettes and lathe-cut 7-inches were rescued from the grave of the doubly archaic. Marginalized formats that once played home to twee K Records would-bes now host the vast outpouring of the post-Napster generation, for whom everything is up for grabs.
In an environment where you can't afford not to be into everything, genre commingling has become the rule. Balinese gamelan and minimalism meet droning gothedelia and AmRep-style dirge. The atmosphere is one that the remote-yet-urbane primitivism of Indian Jewelry fits into quite tidily.
Or does it?
"Groupings like the New Weird America are more for marketing purposes," argues Tex Kerschen, one of the band's two permanent members (along with multi-instrumentalist Erika Thrasher). "Where we're coming from, we were more like an island."
That would be Texas (though they recently moved to L.A.), where despite their self-proclaimed island status, their melding of Suicide drones with minimalist, bombastic percussion (sprinkled with hints of gothitude) is not without antecedent. After all, they share geographical coordinates with the Red Krayola, the Butthole Surfers and Jandek.
I always suspected the existence of a uniquely Texan weirdness floating around in the ether, infecting all those within its borders. When I press for confirmation of this hunch, Kerschen seems unsure. "There might be something to it. I'm not good at sociology."
Kerschen is largely unfamiliar with the "new weird" umbrella term. It's much like the Irwin Chusid-coined "outsider music," which proved good for headline-grabbing but not so good for the artists who found themselves on compilation albums on which they were unable to find common ground.
Says Kerschen, "I don't know really what 'New Weird America' means. There's always been a weird undercurrent in some music. That's not new or particularly American. 'Weird' can have pejorative connotations."
The band has always taken a more organic route aesthetically, and their frequent name and personnel changes mirror this river-like flow. They've been known as NTX+Electric, Swarm of Angels and Japanic, among other monikers. Membership at any given time depends entirely on who's available. (This tour sees them bringing along percussionist Rodney Rodriguez and guitarist Jimi Hey.)
In the past year or so they've shifted toward a more primal and stripped-down percussive attack, making overt the band's latent trance-like qualities. The results can prove hypnotic, especially when coupled with their otherworldly live presentation.
This is precisely what Kerschen and co. are after. He says hypnotic music clears away a lot of mental traps and ordinary, conscious thinking, bringing out a simpler mindset, a good alternative to pop format's limitations.
"Pop," he says, "doesn't provide experience. It provides sensation."
And Indian Jewelry are heavy on experience.
So what, then, would the band be in an ideal world, where all members were always available, and time, space and money didn't matter?
"It would be something akin to Africa 70. We'd have a compound. It would be a cross between David Koresh and Fela Kuti, with open hours to the public when we'd play music non-stop while conjuring up something revolutionary."
Has anyone ever lost his or her mind at an Indian Jewelry show?
"It's certainly possible," says Kerschen, "but no one has yet gotten naked."