Published Sep 12, 2013Alex Zhang Hungtai doesn't put on a show so much as he creates an environment in which he submerges an audience in his barrage of noise, paralyzing them with a sense of distress. This is a highly-recommended experience. Dirty Beaches thrives off of building an intensity reflective of the best David Lynch films, whether it's in the form of a 30-minute ode to rockabilly and nostalgic lo-fi punk on his 2011 debut album, Badlands, or in a drone-filled double LP like his most recent work, Drifters/Love Is the Devil.
Translating much of the material off of his later releases, Hungtai was accompanied by a second multi-instrumentalist onstage to create a feverish performance that was at once both chaotic and meticulously rehearsed. Transitions from track to track were seamless and even though the two musicians onstage weren't doing much to catch the eye — other than Hungtai's vivid body twitching and air punching (he accidentally punched the mic stand without realizing) — Dirty Beaches conjure up enough imagery to form a well-rounded performance.
The nocturnal neon brightness of Dirty Beaches' otherwise pitch-black moodiness shines through the fog of experimental noise rock when Hungtai urgently shouts into the mic and jolts us out of any trance we were under. There's a sense of anxiety that washes over listeners, afraid of what might bubble up around each heavily noise-filled corner, but that nervousness also feeds into the excitement of Hungtai's performance.
Like facing some of your darkest fears in life, enduring almost an hour's worth of a Dirty Beaches performance might be intimidating to start with, but ever-so-rewarding at the end.