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Gypsum At Zebulon Cafe, Wednesday October 13th 2021

Gypsum
Gypsum

Last night, Los Angeles band Gypsum, a female post-punk quartet, celebrated their debut self-titled album, released via Sonic Ritual, with a show at Zebulon café. Their harmonies and layered guitars sounded quite unique, it’s always refreshing to discover new artists with an original approach to music, and you could tell they were truly appreciated by the crowd.

Julie, a very young trio, opened the night and made a strong impression on everyone with their mix of doom shoegaze, dynamic tempos, and grungy accelerations. They were not afraid of distortion and lugubrious tones, and Sonic Youth honestly came to my mind a few times during their set. Their palette was definitively experimental and quite dark with a large dose of noise rock, and if the melody was often lost in their crushing sound – they seemed to be much more interested in atmospheric impressions – some pop hooks nevertheless emerged here and there, from their dense and fuzzy noisescape. The trio, which consists of Alex Brady, Keyan Zand, and Dillon Lee, have released an EP, ‘Pushing Daisies.’

Potty Mouth was next with a more straightforward melodic pop-rock sound. The lineup of the trio has changed over the years: after moving to LA, the Massachusetts band separated because of a conflict with their label but reformed with still Abby Weems on lead vocals and guitar and Ally Einbinder on bass while Victoria Mandanas is now playing drums. They released an album in 2019– ‘SNAFU’, or a ‘Situation Normal All Fucked Up’ – while staying loyal to their sound and direction. They had a punchy pop-punk sound with upbeat energy made of explosive drums, aggressive guitars, monochord vocals, and some irresistible hooks. Ally was moving quite a bit with her bass during the show and had to stop at one point because she felt sick, blaming the French fries she had eaten before the show. However, she soldiered on and continued playing as if nothing had happened.

Gypsum took the stage and played their new album in the order of the songs, from ‘Follow Me’ to ‘Disappear,’ with plenty of subtle touches and creative detours. The style of these women was quite uncommon, drawing inspiration and influences from places as diverse as punk, prog, jazz, and psychedelia. If their songs had complex and lush textures, perfectly served by Sapphire Jewell and Anna Arboles’ impressive guitar skills, there were touches of math-rock mixed with jazz chords, wrapped by psychedelic soundscapes. Their riff-driven songs were complemented by Jessy Reed’s polyrhythmic drumming, while a fourth woman was playing bass. Everyone was admirative of their perfect synergy: if a band often revolves around a front person, it wasn’t the case here. It was rather a collective exercise, and, without a frontwoman or a lead singer, their respective voices were blending over guitar interplay, melancholic textures, and luminous notes, like during ‘Gull Lake.’

Gypsum’s set was quite eclectic and never got predictable. From the dynamic jazzy energy of ‘Give It’ and its complicated arrangements executed in quick succession to the slow-paced and mysterious ‘Snow White’ (one of my favorites) and its majestic dark vocal harmonies, it was an impressive sonic ride.

In 40 minutes, the quartet built and explored a series of fascinating atmospheres, and each song navigated between ethereal beauty, guitar prowess, and rhythmic techniques. ‘Kaleidoscope’ was a powerhouse with an all-voices chorus synergizing with guitars and drums so perfectly the music could have been able to move the ceiling of the venue. At one point, they had to restart a song after a false start, ‘This song is difficult to play,’ Sapphire said as an apology. To me, this could have applied to any of the numbers they did.

The band left us with the dreamy, whimsical-soundingDisappear,’ and its catchy and rewarding chorus, but I am certain that their haunting sound, their rich tonalities and guitar dexterity combined with their unique vocal harmonies made a long-lasting impression on the crowd.

The band got its name after the mineral of the same name, during a field trip to the L.A. Natural History Museum, and the choice could simply be explained by the fact that gypsum can form elegant desert rose crystals or be used to make chalk and drywalls. Gypsum combines functionality and beauty while opening a large range of possibilities, at the image of an art-meets-science experiment.

 

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