Late in their career, dream-pop icons the Cocteau Twins gave the world a very tragic take on a decaying relationship in their entirely crushing song, “Half-Gifts.” The band refers to it as an “old game”:
When you can’t have me, you want me
because you know you aren’t risking anything.
I’m very hard-pressed to ever declare a single band as the “best,” even though we make quite a habit of that around here. But Layer Cake is the best new band I’ve heard in the area in quite some time, and I can say that without wavering. But maybe it’s like the Cocteaus expressed above; it’s just a copout because they are likely playing their last show for a very long time on Saturday. Therefore it makes it easier to declare such a thing. The band has stated on the event flier that it could be their last show, period. Bassist and vocalist, Mary Stratton is moving to Seattle next week, thus bringing this promising new act to a screeching halt. These things happen all the time in art and music, and yes, the scarcity does tend to plunge emotions to their truest depth. But it’s not that simple.
Perhaps replacing a bassist is no huge deal and musicians do it all the time. That may be true, but what Stratton contributes to the band is an enormous part of what makes them so great in the first place. She is joined by drummer, Isabella Vasquez, keyboardist Geena Sisomphou, and lead singer and guitarist, Jena Pyle. All of the members sing and I can’t overstate that fact. To lose a quarter of the often-complex harmonies seems unthinkable.
The clean and gently clanging lines sometimes remind me of another great local act, Bedhead, combined with the beautifully melodic dourness of The Organ. They may have never heard either band’s music for all I know. They do one cover and it’s by Metronomy. I once heard the original piping out of Neiman Marcus downtown, blaring out to a mostly empty street on a Sunday.
This is very much an opinion, but I contend that much of the timeless music in the world has a sort of carelessness to it, whether intentional or not. Those little intangibles are what separates the truly special act from the standard band just pounding away to sound like everyone else, silently hoping nobody notices them for who they really are. But for Layer Cake, it’s the opposite. Every drum hit, harmony, and Omnichord sound is extremely calculated. The band is never rushing through a set; they take as much time as the music demands. Nervous new bands often tear through performances as to make their own music practically unrecognizable. Not so here. Such labor does not always come off with such grace.
At a recent show in Denton, I stood next to Shiny Around the Edges’ founding member, Jenny Seman during the band’s performance. She seemed to be enjoying it but I didn’t want to make assumptions. “It was like a sleepover!,” Seman said as the band packed up their equipment. Then she clarified. “There are not enough women in Denton playing music.”
The band released a video earlier this week, for the track “Nothing West.” The clip was directed by Eric Michener, otherwise known as Fishboy. The cartoonish visuals are classic Fishboy as much as anything else. The band is depicted as an evil version of themselves called Slayer Cake, and Michener has touched on these light-and-dark themes in his previous work. He once played a show where his pop act attempted to do battle with the Undoing of David Wright, an effectively frightening band that used drum machines and makeup to heighten their dark and dramatic music. The two very different groups traded off songs while the crowd chose sides. The idea here is the same, but instead Layer Cake is attempting to battle itself:
The video is as slick and well-made as is the standard for Michener. And while it’s definitely an appealing way to draw new fans, Layer Cake appears more serious in a live setting. The band will release its first EP at the show on Saturday, and you should attempt to see them as they are. Like every wonderful discovery in this life, leaving so soon.
Layer Cake performs at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios on Saturday, July 26. The supporting acts are Bethan, Mink Coats, and Dripping Wet.
The Other Weekend Concerts:
“Black Fridays” with Keith P | Oliver Sheppard | Anthony Stanford (RBC): I had no idea that this 80s-themed night was back. It’s a new monthly that will take place on the last Friday of every month. A resurrected night at a resurrected club.
“The Problem” with 7evenThirty | Gensudean | D.O.E.C.I.G.A.P.O.M | Lyrikill (The Crown and Harp): I was tipped off by our in-the-know music writer, Vanessa Quilantan, that this event will showcase some of the unrecognized but very worthwhile talent in the area. Come see for yourself.
Vulgar Fashion | Def Rain (Texas Theatre): For more info, go here.
Celestial Death | Errant | Ugly Children | The Water Templars | I am Warbird | Cerulean Giallo | Couchweed (Congress House): Note—this will be the last show at this popular Denton location. See the last paragraph of the story above.
Duell | Fogg | Spacebeach| Mountain of Smoke (Sunshine Bar, located at 902 W Division St. in Arlington): Both Mountain of Smoke and Spacebeach will have new releases at this show, and I’m particularly interested in the latter.
“Vinyl Fantasy” (Crown and Harp): Featuring DJs Handsome Reward and Emptycylinder.