WASHINGTON -- Singer Kazu Makino of the art-rock trio Blonde
Redhead had removed her guitar to make way for her voluntary convulsions.
Screech-singing the lyrics of "In Expression of the Inexpressible," she faced
guitarist and vocalist Amedeo Pace, her small frame jerking in quick, seizure-
like motions. Amedeo and his twin brother, Simone, braced her vocals with
guitar-and-drum droning and grooving.
But there was melody in the mayhem, sense about the chaos.
It was the set-closer of Blonde Redhead's appearance at the Black Cat last
Friday, and there couldn't have been a more appropriate finale.
The phrase "In Expression of the Inexpressible" -- which is also the title of the
trio's upcoming album (slated for a September release on Touch and Go
Records) -- perfectly captures the beyond-description quality of Redhead's
erratic, edgy performance style.
"I don't really know how it works between us," Makino, 29, said after the show.
"I'd rather be with them than other people. I think we're really good
Audience members seemed to agree. "For a band that I've heard a lot about but
never seen, it's probably one of the best shows I've ever seen," said
Jacob McMurray, 25.
With a sound that at times recalls Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead work within a
temperamental landscape of noisy guitar feedback and riffs, throbbing
rhythms and cunning melodies. Makino and Amedeo, whose high vocals fall
within close range of each other, tend to split up lead vocals from song to song.
"We try not to mind anyone else's business," Makino said. "Your part is your
Formed after Makino and Amedeo met in a restaurant in New York in 1990,
Blonde Redhead are an international alliance -- Makino is Japanese, while the
Pace brothers are Italian. Deriving its name from a song by DNA, a band from
New York's early '80s underground no-wave scene, the group was originally a
foursome until bassist Maki Takahashi departed in 1996 -- a personnel
change caused by "relationship things," as Makino put it. Though the remaining
members brought in a guest bassist for their last album, 1997's Fake Can Be
Just as Good, the minimalists have proceeded officially as a trio since
"There's more space; there's much more space," Makino said of In
Expression of the Inexpressible, making horizontal motions with her hands
as though she were stretching out a large rubber band. "We feel pretty good
about it. I think we were always very melodic, but now we're more into doing
Sitting on a dressing-room couch in the Black Cat's backstage area, Makino
spoke slowly and softly in careful English that bore little relationship to her
fragmented lyrics. "I write in English, that's probably why there's some limit
to my lyrics," she said.
As the singer spoke, friends drifted in and out to say goodnight and tell her
they enjoyed the show -- but you didn't have to be a pal to share that
sentiment, as many fans made clear. Matthew Green, 22, was so impressed by
Blonde Redhead's live presentation that he feared future letdown. "I'm reluctant
to buy the record because I'm afraid it won't compare," he said.
Blonde Redhead are playing only a few dates before the release of In
Expression of the Inexpressible. "We're kind-of holding back right now,"
Makino said. "We want us to be excited when it comes out. If we play too much,
we would be bored by then. But we'll tour pretty hard once it's out."